Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Many reasons for grattitude

I am leaving Uganda refreshed. I have been able to hug and laugh with dozens of friends. I have  slept in (on occasion). I have gotten to know my friends' babies that have grown into delightful toddlers while I've been away. I have caught up a bit on work I was behind on. I have spent hours and hours in gardens listening to birds and enjoying greenery. Not only that, I have two weeks of full time vacation to look forward to. The further I go in this journey, the more and more I realize how much I have to be grateful for. People's hospitality amazes me. I am very blessed, indeed. 

A quick shout out to my last two "homes" in Uganda. Lynda and her son Zeke opened their home to me for several days. I was sad that I missed her daughters, my former students who are now back in Australia, and her husband who is currently in West Africa. However, it was great to get a few days of quality time with my former co-worker and church friend. 

Lucy (left) and Lynda (right)

My 11th guest room of the trip was with my friends Mark and Lucy. It was so nice to reminisce, relax in their pool, and play with their daughter Isla (who was kind enough to share her room with me). Thanks for being such great hosts and friends!

Mark and pups

Monday, December 8, 2014

Familiar Spaces

Last week, I returned to Uganda for some friend time, catch up, and R&R. In some ways, it feels like things haven’t changed. As I sip Tuskers in friends’ yards, watch all my shoes and socks instantly turn the red hue of Ugandan dirt, listen to turacos and weaver birds incessantly chatter in the trees, acquire new mosquito bites by the hour, and laugh with old friends this place still feels familiar. At the same time, new buildings and faces and all my friends’ babies that have transformed from infants to personality brimming toddlers remind me that a lot can change in two and a half years. 

In the last week, I have finally slowed down my pace a little bit. I did not realize how exhausted I was until I arrived at the home of my dear friends Johnny and Amber.  Only as I finally allowed myself to sleep in, catch up on my work, take some time for myself did the realization that for 3 months I had been “on” sink in. It has been so nice to take leisurely mornings and sip my coffee in the garden before catching up on my work. Johnny and his daughter, Malia, have filled my last week with German chatter, laughter, and music. I am so excited for reunions with his wife, Amber, as she returns from the US with their newborn son. I am very grateful that bed# 9 was in such a familiar home with comfortable friendships. Thanks, Johnny for hosting me (and Amber, even if you weren’t in the country yet).

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ciao, Ethiopia!

Alas, it is time already to write about the end of my time in Ethiopia! While I am really excited to get back to one of my “homes” (Uganda) and to have a month to let my brain catch up before collecting more data, I am really quite sad to leave this school community and country.  My favorite thing about my job is that I get to meet many people. In Addis, all of the folks I have met have been incredibly open and welcoming. They’ve included me on countless adventures (whether trying to catch a neighborhood stray to free it of oppressive matted dredlocks, dancing at staff parties, or driving around the city to feed homeless). I have been privileged to step into a range of community projects and am so grateful for the new perspectives that these experiences have offered me. Addis is a really interesting and vibrant city and the school community dynamic and welcoming.   

Continuing with the “where I’ve slept” motif, I have three more locations to catalog:
Bed#6: I’ve met many new friends here, and Kathy is one of them. Kathy is the sort of person who instantly makes you feel at home in a space. When Kathy had to chaperone a grade 5 overnight trip (bless her!) I stayed at her apartment with her thoughtful, kind son. We had a great time playing Wii and discussing literary analysis (a totally normal discussion with an elementary aged kid, right? Love this guy).

Bed #7: For the last two weeks I have been staying with a couple I worked with in Korea that are new to Addis this year. It has been so fun to laugh with Heidi and George and to watch them transition to a new continent and culture. I am so grateful for their hospitality. They have really gone above and beyond hosting expectations and have driven me all over town, kept me well fed, and have taken me on a range of Addis adventures. Heidi and George are such wonderful examples of what Christianity should look like, I am so grateful to have them as friends.

Bed #8: I spent part of my last weekend camping in Menagesha Suba Forest, supposedly the oldest reserve in Africa (mid-1400’s). I headed to the forest with another Korea connection: Ken and Charmaine and their son, Wes. Ken was the camping master and both my tent and air mattress were courtesy of them (bedding courtesy of Chris/Amanda/Heidi/George… it was cold, I needed a lot). I was so glad to step into wilderness for a few days and also reconnect with old friends. We shared a lot of laughter during our short stay and had plenty of adventures (thanks, in part, to the smoker that lured in wildlife with its lovely aroma…. those slow cooked ribs were amazing and worth every hyena howl).

Ameseginaleh, everyone for your incredible hospitality! Until our paths cross again.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bed #5: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I met Chris at a Global Issues Service Summit in Mozambique back in 2011. He was teaching in Nigeria at the time and I was teaching in Uganda. It was at this conference, during a happy hour conversation with Chris and other service-learning folks, that my dissertation research project was first brainstormed. Nearly four years later, it’s fun to be able to swap ideas together again. Chris has been a huge supporter of my research from its inception. 

Chris is married to an awesome woman, Amanda. Amanda, who I met for the first time two weeks ago, is both funny and down to earth. She is incredible with their spunky 2-year-old daughter. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her and am so grateful for her willingness to take in another verbose extrovert.

As my journey continues, I am perpetually struck by how lucky I am to have such great friends around the world.

PS- I haven’t forgotten how to count (yes, I know my last post about hosts described “bed 2”). Bed #3 was a hotel for the triathlon in Watamu, bed #4 was a tent in the Masai Mara.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Initial Impressions

I arrived in Ethiopia on Saturday. While I visited Ethiopia for a week and a half on a whirlwind tourist trip a couple years back, this is the first time I am staying in Addis for any significant length of time. I think I’m really going to like it here!

First of all, I am really enjoying the fact that international school world is so small. I already know a handful of people from my past: two couples from my time in Korea and a service-learning friend from the Global Issues Service Summits. I have a former co-worker from ISU in the city and ran into a second former co-worker at the regional track meet the day I arrived. This morning I even found myself seated besides a student who I taught 4 years ago when she was a 7th grader in Uganda. The world is so small. 

I am also excited for a shift in lifestyle. Life in Addis seems to keep a slower pace. I laughed to myself as I rattled my way from the airport about 10mph in a taxi quite literally held together by duck tape (doors, steering wheel, clutch, mirrors… all duck taped to a rickety metal frame).  Cars actually yield at crosswalks (at least some of the time). The neighborhood I’m staying in is quite safe, and I can easily walk for a coffee (I am slightly obsessed with Ethiopian coffee) or supplies without hassle or fear. People are friendly. The only readily apparent downside to living here is the giant orthodox church with the world’s loudest speakers two blocks from my bed (who doesn’t love 3am, 4am, 5am, 6am, and 7am loudspeaker singing on Saturday nights?). But earplugs and naps can easily remedy that issue.

I also am really enjoying the warm and inviting community here. Folks let me join a pickup soccer game on Sunday. My hosts are being incredibly welcoming and have introduced me to dozens of people already. The school seems really open to my research.

All in all, very positive first impressions. It should be a good month here.  

Living in a Suitcase: Bed #2

You know those friends you have that are so awesome you just want to become them? My dear friends, the Lavenders, fit into that category. They rock at parenting, they thrive at teaching, they pour themselves into service, they live what they believe, and they perpetually open their lives to others… all with warm smiles and seemingly endless enthusiasm. I am so incredibly grateful for the hospitality they have shown as they welcomed me into their home for nearly two months.