Here is an overview of my first week and a half in Ethiopia! I had written this initially to be a newsletter, but it was taking me so long getting the internet situation worked out that it became outdated. Nevertheless, I figured I would share it here on my blog.
It took a couple of days to get my phone completely sorted. I had the ability to call and text nearly right away, but it was going to cost a fortune so you can now find me on WhatsApp (I am happy to provide my new phone number for those interested) for easier communication.
I am set up in my room now, in a house that I share with six others. I live with a man and a woman from Uganda, and four women from Kenya.
My first full day here, myself and another new teacher had to get a few logistics sorted and, along with a teacher who has been here for five months, walked a couple miles to take care of it all. After that, we returned to our house at which point I decided to wander by myself for a few hours. In Ethiopia. In the summer. Right above the equator. Without sunscreen.
If you’ve known me for very long at all, then you know that even in the mildest of climates I have managed to get burned quite badly by that great big ball of fire in the sky. (If your skin fries during Scotland’s annual two days of summer, good luck in Ethiopia).
My favorite question I had that day came later in the evening when a housemate asked me with apparent confusion, “Why did your skin change colors?” and then having another explain to her that it’s because I have no melanin so now I might have cancer. I did my best to clarify that that is not how it works.
I attended the local International Evangelical Church on Sunday with some of my housemates, but am hoping to get in touch again with the local pastor who has a church here within the same denomination I attend in Washington. While the international church was nice, and very much what I expected, I was left with an intense pang for my home church, which had grown to be so much a part of my life over the past year of attending. The church here will be all in Amharic, so I won’t understand much, but I have quite a few sermons downloaded that I brought prior to leaving the U.S. Sadly, I do not have internet at my house here, so I can’t connect to my home church’s website to listen in once messages are posted.
I came during a perfect week for starting my teaching job. Monday and Tuesday were spent observing, as it is the end of the quarter here. I was able to see how Ethiopian teachers interact with students and how completely different it is to America! I remember kindergarten being all about ‘inside voices’ and coloring to waste time. Here, students are encouraged to be as loud as possible, particularly for the purpose of encouraging them to be confident with their English. When you have three sections of ten side-by-side classes filled with thirty kindergartners and open windows, you can imagine how loud it is! Most of the children initially had one of two responses upon seeing me the first time. One was wide eyed fear and the other fits of laughter.
Wednesday and Thursday were staff development days, so it has been a lot of training and getting to know the school! We had a four day weekend for Easter which was great for finishing my preparation for my first classes this week and continuing to get settled.
I have grown to dearly love my coworkers. It has been interesting learning more about them and the difference between their version of Ethiopia and the one I experienced last year when I visited.
Friday morning I was able to have coffee with Zelalem, one of the World Orphans staff members that I met while here last May/June. I have also heard from Mikey and we are likely to be meeting up soon. It was good to see a familiar face and hear from Zele’s perspective in terms of many questions that I had. I didn’t have anything overly insightful to say, but I’m hoping I will be able to contribute in any way needed over time and I have begun putting together some worksheets for business development that I hope will be of use. It was exciting to hear that this coming week they will be launching the second round of micro-loans to twenty more single parents as the first round was so successful and many people are now able to sustain themselves.
Saturday came around again and it was time to party! My Ugandan housemates invited me to join them for a party at the Ugandan ambassador’s home. It was actually pretty crazy and super fun! I learned that there is no such thing as an introvert when you are with East Africans and I was totally pushed out of my comfort zone, but by the end of the night, I was dancing and hugging like I was one of them. I ended up exchanging numbers with quite a few new friends and I will see many of them again next Saturday at an expo at the African Union.
From a more spiritual perspective, I continually find myself treating God with suspicion as opposed to gratitude. I expected to come here and face immense challenges, immediately isolate and feel depressed, and gradually come out of my shell and learn to live in this place so far removed from what I am used to.
But I haven’t felt that. And I keep waiting for it to happen, for culture shock to take hold, for the ache of everything I left behind, for the frustration of the language barrier and the lack of ease, not knowing where to buy a lamp for my dim room, having to walk three miles each way in a high altitude in the beating sun just to get some variety in my food.
And I keep holding God at bay with questions of, “Okay, when’s it going to happen? You’re tricking me, right? All this was just a joke and tomorrow I’ll wake up and find out that everything is miserable? It can’t be this easy.”
It’s true, I’ve only been here a week. And as time goes on, as I have time to rest up and settle in, the longing to see my friends and family and church will become overwhelming and I’ll realize this isn’t a vacation or a short-term gig keeping me from everyone I love back home. This is for real.
But so far, I have nothing but joy. I am at peace and it already feels like home (a very different home, but a good home). I stick out like a very red, peeling thumb, and I don’t speak more than a handful of words in the local language, but I feel like I belong here.
It is moments of realization of that fact that my suspicion gives way to that gratitude due to a God who didn’t have to give me this gift of living here, of fulfilling this dream that I’ve thought about for years and talked about from the seedling desire.
So I suppose now that I’m here, all I can do is look to Him and say, “You’re right, it is good.”
Thank you for reading this excessively long overview of my first week!
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