17 January 2013

in memoriam: getenesh tesfaye

Late this morning, the Peace Corps Ethiopia world was rippled with the news that a member of our family had passed away. Getenesh Tesfaye, recently promoted to Program Assistant in the Education sector, will be sorely missed. Prior to her promotion, Getenesh served as a Language and Culture Facilitator (LCF); in other words, a teacher for PCVs to-be while in training. It was in her capacity as an LCF that most Volunteers had the pleasure to know Getenesh. While I did not have the opportunity to interact extensively with Getenesh, she was one of the first people to teach me Amharic, back when Ethiopia was new and relatively overwhelming, and also served as one of the guides for my group when we toured Addis and perused the National Museum. Those interactions, and the handful I've been blessed with since, were more than enough to bestow upon me the same impression of Getenesh Tesfaye that was held of her program wide - that of a kind, caring, generous, gentle individual with a passion for helping Americans adapt to life in Ethiopia.

The last time I saw Getenesh in person was in early December, when I was at the Peace Corps headquarters in Addis for my first VAC meeting. I poked my head into the Ed. PA office for a brief chat with Getenesh and Zebib, another fantastic Program Assistant. Getenesh was all smiles, as she was every time we met, which is undoubtedly how I will remember her.

Even had I not been fortunate enough to spend even a small amount of time with Getenesh, I would still have a difficult time digesting the news. The fact is that, in Peace Corps, you really do develop a family mentality with everyone in the program. We all go out of our way to help one another, knowing that we are our best supports. Other Volunteers become brothers and sisters; staff become fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles. We have lost one of our own. And while the work of Getenesh Tesfaye will carry on, with the hope that is her father's name, through the many on which she was able to leave a lasting impact, the Land of 13 Months of Sunshine is a little less bright today.

Getenesh, far left, on our Guided Tour of Addis

That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear,
I falter where I firmly trod,
And falling with my weight of cares
Upon the great world's altar-stairs
That slope thro' darkness up to God,

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