A little update and a lot of rambling.

I was finally able to access the wordpress site to do a new post. Hooray! Of course, now that I’ve been in Ethiopia for a month I have no idea where to begin. The first 9 days or so of the trip were spent traveling around to different cities in Ethiopia, visiting historical sites and seeing some truly incredible, breathtaking places. I’ve uploaded some pictures on Facebook, but the connection I have now is pretty slow and, as I’m sure you all know, patience isn’t my strong suit so I figure I’ll wait until I get back to post the rest. Anyhow, we got to Aksum in mid-June and settled into our apartments. I had a rough few days of having no running water other than a tap outside the door, being insanely ill, and getting swarmed by crazy bugs. We started classes (history, anthropology, and Amharic), which helped – the routine has made it feel a bit more like home. Amharic is crazy hard, though! Not only are we learning a new language, but a new alphabet in symbols, as well. The first week made me want to make a run for it, but I’m actually starting to get it and I’m enjoying it. Needless to say, I’ve had no time to study my French for Peace Corps. Every free moment in August will be devoted to it! Which, for those of you who haven’t heard, my invitation is to Cameroon, departing in mid-September!

Overall the first month was good. There were, and still are, some very challenging moments. The group dynamic is difficult and this program is packed full so we have little free time. I try to steal away a few moments for myself every day to maintain at least a minimal level of sanity. Most days, those moments are merely listening to Other Lives and Death Cab on the bus rides to and from meals and class or drinking a beer at dinner, but it’s better than nothing. We’ve all made friends with the local kids who are there to greet us every morning and evening – they are eager to spend time with us at the cafés to drink sodas and play ping pong. They are our local tour guides and price negotiators. I love having them around.

I’ve actually had a surprisingly hard time adjusting to life here, though. I’d say it’s a safe bet that it wouldn’t be so hard if I knew I was coming back to the US to stay. However, knowing that my departure date for Cameroon is fast approaching and using this time as a bit of a testing time for myself makes it all the more difficult. I’m learning that I’m not as tough as I thought I was, which is fine. Refined by fire, right? I have to step it up at some point. I had also forgotten how much I take for granted the ease of life in the US. I’m not sure that I’m ready to give it up for 27 months, but now is as good of a time as any, I suppose. I know that Cameroon will be a totally different experience than Ethiopia… I will be by myself, for the most part… there will be no big group, no university administrators scheduling my days. There will be more isolation, though, which probably scares me most of all. I will make friends, but I won’t have as much contact with home as I do now. It’s been a tough decision, and I’m still not sure I’ve totally settled on going. You know when you want something so bad and then you get it and you start to question if it’s really what you wanted? Le sigh. I’ve got a few more weeks to be sure. I change my mind at least 4 times a day. Ha! Either way, I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity that has been given to me!

Right now, though, I am sitting in my bungalow and a cow outside my door keeps mooing really loud and scaring the crap out of me. This is the most peaceful I have felt since arriving and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ve got another 4 weeks until returning to Denver and I think we were all a little burned out. We hiked for about 4 hours today, up to a church at the top of a mountain.  It was a really wonderful day.  Despite the challenges, I am so thankful for my time here.  I am really looking forward to this week, too, because we have a whole day off for the 4th of July and a few of us are starting a regular volunteer rotation at the hospital in Aksum. I’ll hopefully be working in the HIV/AIDS clinic which would be an invaluable experience! I suppose I’ll stop the ramblings, now, and get ready for dinner. I love and miss you all!

Loves.

Addis!

We made it to Addis!  After layovers in DC and Frankfurt, we arrived late last night.  I stepped off the plane and the smell of Africa hit me so hard… it felt like home.  I had forgotten how huge my love affair with this continent truly is!  I barely slept on the planes thanks to a gnarly cough that won’t go away, so I crashed pretty hard.  I was still exhausted all day, even after about 5 cups of coffee.  I’m hoping the jetlag subsides after a good nights sleep tonight.  We are staying in Addis until Tuesday morning when we fly to Lalibela.  I think it’s Lalibela anyway… it might be Gondar.  I forgot my travel schedule.  Woot!  The great news is that my voltage converter actually works so I’ve been able to charge my phone and my computer… no fried electronics!  I have had great cell service to text; I’m hoping it’s as good when we get to Aksum.  I purchased internet for 24 hours while we are at the hotel here, but I probably won’t have it again for a while so I thought I’d post a bit of an update (even though we’ve only been here one day!).

We got up early this morning and had breakfast at the hotel before heading out to see St. Mary’s Church and museum.  It is the oldest church in Addis Ababa, built by Emperor Menelik II.  Cameras aren’t allowed in the museum, so I don’t have any pictures.  It is full of cultural artifacts and religious symbols.  We walked around the outside of St. Mary’s Church (there are pictures on facebook).  It was really beautiful… the surrounding area was, too, but it was so foggy the pictures of the landscape didn’t turn out very well.  From there we toured Menelik II’s palace grounds.  It was really surreal standing on the original juniper wood floor that Menelik II himself once stood on.  After St. Mary’s we drove to the National Museum of Ethiopia.  We ate lunch at an attached restaurant called Lucy’s (named for the Australopithecus afarensis fossil, Lucy, who was discovered in Ethiopia and whose replica is housed inside the museum).  The museum was intense… huge and lots of info.  Suffice it to say we saw some incredible artifacts including replicas of Ardi and Lucy, Emperor Sellaisse’s throne, and several amazing works of art.  There was also a modern art exhibit being shown which was rad.  Tonight a small group of us walked up the main road by our hotel and had coffee at a place called Kaldi’s.  It was basically Ethiopian Starbucks… complete with green aprons.  Hilarious.  I love this place already!  I can’t wait to see more of the country over the next 2 weeks before heading to the university in Aksum.

Peace Corps update!  Last week while I was on vacation in New York, I spoke to my placement officer with Peace Corps.  He was an incredibly gracious man who cleared me for service!  He gave me a few more details about my program nomination… he confirmed that it is West Africa and it departs around September 19th.  It is in youth development and the placement will be doing girls’ education and empowerment work.  It sounds like a dream and I am feeling incredibly humbled and blessed at the opportunities before me.  I should be receiving my formal invitation sometime this month which will tell me my country assignment… I cannot wait!  I do have some big decisions to make in the near future, so any good thoughts, prayers, and vibes are so appreciated. 

I’m still exhausted so I think I’m going to call it a night.  I love and miss you all!  I can receive texts for free on my normal number, so send me some hello’s!  I can’t always respond but it’s nice to hear from home, especially when we won’t have internet! 

Love love!  xoxo

Una semana mas.

One week.  Dang.  I leave Denver a week from tomorrow and head to New York to visit my lovelies for one last time before I leave for the Peace Corps this fall.  I haven’t updated in a while again, so here’s the rundown: I’m supposed to have my final phone interview with the Peace Corps next week.  If all goes well, I should get my invitation sometime after that.  Fingers crossed.  My parents came to Denver to pick up my car and my stuff last week.  The dealership where I bought my car offered to buy it back, so of course I jumped at the chance.  Then when my dad took it in, they refused to make an offer.  Needless to say, I’m extremely frustrated.  I’m trying to keep it all in perspective and hope someone will buy it soon!  I completed my pre-departure meetings for the Ethiopia study abroad program today and I’m finishing up my last finals tonight, as well. 

I can’t believe I’ll be on African soil in 3 short weeks… it’s all pretty surreal.  This next week will be filled with final packing and probably a few goodbyes.  Ugh.  I am so not looking forward to the goodbyes.  Denver really has become my home and I’m going to miss it a lot more than I anticipated.  I’ll be back in Denver for a couple of days before I leave for Ethiopia on June 1st.  I have been planning for this time for nearly a year… it couldn’t come fast enough and now the time won’t slow down.  Ethiopia has always been, in my mind, the “buffer zone.”  As long as Ethiopia was still months away, then the Peace Corps was even farther away.  And now it’s upon me and I’m having a lot more mixed emotions that I anticipated.  Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for the incredible opportunities that are in my near future.  But I’m also sad to leave everyone here.  C’est la vie.  Speaking of, I need to work on my French!

Anyway, I’ll be posting as much as I can from Ethiopia, so there’s that to look forward to! 

Loves.  xoxo

It is the quality of the moment, not the number of days, or events, or of actors, that imports. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

This year is off to such a crazy start. I cannot believe it is already March! I feel as though things have both sped up and slowed down lately. I can barely keep up with life, but Peace Corps news has been slow going. I’ll give you all a quick rundown…

Just this week I received my dental clearance! I am really thanking the Lord for not having to get my wisdom teeth removed! Yea! I then got an email from a placement officer of sorts asking me to resubmit a new resume detailing any new experience in language training or volunteering. I started a French language program a few months ago and have a very elementary level of knowledge now. Hey, it’s a start. I am also going to start volunteering at the African Community Center in the health deptartment next week. I interned there last summer and I am so looking forward to being with great friends again! Check it out here: http://acc-den.org/

Anyhow, PC also asked for a clarification of my teaching skills. Granted, there isn’t much there, but I did teach English to refugees at one point. I wasn’t very good at it and I really didn’t enjoy it so I am hoping and praying this doesn’t mean they are considering me for a teaching job! Jesus take the wheel! Ha!

As far as Ethiopia goes, it is fast approaching! We have started to have some get togethers and our training starts soon. I have loved hearing all about the incredible sites we will be visiting and the wonderful things we are going to participate in. I can’t wait to be on the ground! This week I have been reflecting on how truly blessed I am in this experience. It’s incredible to think about this opportunity I have been given and I am trying to be a good steward of it all.

In other news, this is my last month in my apartment! It’s beginning to feel much more real now! I’m moving in with a wonderful friend in April for about 6 weeks until I leave. I’ll be getting rid of a ton of stuff, so if anyone needs a dresser, book shelves, an entertainment center, etc. please let me know!

Xoxo

Ch-ch-changes…

Not much to report lately… I had my appointment with the oral surgeon before the holidays and got the all-clear that he supports my decision to not get my wisdom teeth out!  He is supposed to be submitting a letter to the PC to tell them just that.  I am hoping to hear back soon that I have gotten dental clearance.  Somehow I managed to submit only one of the two fingerprint charts PC sent me, so I have to send in a new one… which is my last step to legal clearance.  Yay! 

Next up – moving/selling my stuff/selling my car… My stellar roomie Lindy is currently on the hunt for a swanky 1-bedroom in Denver.  Upon this discovery, she’ll move and I’ll sell 75% of my belongings and sleep on her living room floor for the next 3-5 months, depending.  Posh, huh?  All of this will happen in the midst of my last semester in the US!  14 credit hours, one student anthropology conference to plan, and lots of prep work to do for the next 3 years will keep me pretty busy.  (Who am I kidding?  2 of my credit hours are a yoga class… I got this!)  I have recently developed a rather time consuming and perhaps not-so-healthy habit… I spend hours on my days off watching YouTube videos that PC volunteers have made of their houses!  I just can’t stop.  I love it.  I love seeing the possibilities, hearing about what they’re doing, etc.  Although, it is taking up a ridiculous amount of my time… (that and daydreaming about the next few years of my life!)  I keep trying to remind myself that a lot has to happen between now and then.  The aforementioned things being of great importance, along with maintaining my stellar GPA :) .  I have one big thing in between.  Ethiopia!  It, sadly, keeps getting overshadowed in my mind.  I am continually reminding myself to push it to the forefront!  I am so excited about it, but it feels like a drop in the bucket in comparison to what’s coming up.  I also have to face the sad reality that I’m missing my best friend’s wedding!  Depressing… so let’s move on.

I have been scouring the internet for “new” gear… things I think I really will need.  I got a great hiking backpack, a new sleeping bag, and a few other things.  Still browsing sites for headlamps, knives, tents, travel mats and pillows, etc… I think I’m successfully narrowing down the prospects!  I am trying to enjoy the present and the journey ahead while still adequately preparing (as best I can, that is) for what is to come.  And but a balance to everything, my dears.  Alright, I think I’m rambling.  Continue to pray for a swift PC invitation and for peace and ease in the challenges and changes coming up (too) quickly!  Love love love.

Selam Ethiopia!

Things have been happening really quickly lately.  Last weekend I found out that I was accepted to study in Ethiopia over the summer!  I am ecstatic.  I cannot wait to finish the spring semester and start traveling!  Our tentative departure date is June 1st, with a return date of August 1st.  There are 15 students going, along with several professors and administrators.  We will be studying at Axum University… I can’t wait to find out more details!

I have also gotten several Peace Corps updates lately… I received medical clearance which is a huge relief!  I didn’t think I wouldn’t get it, I was just told that I wouldn’t be reviewed for several months.  I was really believing that I would get it sooner, but didn’t think it would come only 3 weeks after mailing in my paperwork!  I am still waiting on dental clearance and have another appointment next week with the oral surgeon about my wisdom teeth.  I do not want to get them taken out and the PC isn’t making me, they have just asked for a more up to date exam.  Hopefully after I go next week, dental clearance will be out of the way, also!  I got an email a couple of days ago about my legal clearance.  I have some financial obligations that I have to get taken care of before I can be officially invited.  I have to take care of my car loan and my student loans.  I am confident that I can get all of my loans deferred… the car will be the bigger obstacle.  I am planning on selling it in March or so, but it isn’t in the best condition and is a bit upside down on the loan.  If anyone has any advice on this, I welcome it. :)

All things aside, this process has been much more quick and painless than I was anticipating!  I am in awe of God’s grace and favor through it all.  I am now praying and believing that I will get all my clearances taken care of and get my car sold by March.  It is really crucial that I get my invitation before Ethiopia as I will be out of the loop with phone, internet, etc. all summer.  I appreciate all the good thoughts being sent my way!

Gullah Gullah Island

I guess posting every two weeks isn’t so bad for my first attempt at a blog.  I remember always trying to keep a journal through my teenage years.  I would start out strong and write every day for about a month.. and then it turned into once a week… then once a month… until I quit altogether only to restart the process a year later.  Hopefully I’ll have a little more discipline when it comes to this.  :)

In my own defense, I was out of town all last week and have been working my bootay off on final projects, papers, and exams!  Sheesh.  Last week was incredible, though!  I absolutely loved Georgia and South Carolina.  We had perfect weather, great people, and lots of good times.  I feel like there is so much  to say about the trip that I really don’t even know where to start…

Here’s some highlights:
– We visited 3 different sea islands and got to go to the beach!

Me and Alycia on Sapelo Island

- We got to meet the author of one of our textbooks who is a truly incredible lady… check out God, Dr. Buzzard, and The Bolito Man by Cornelia Walker Bailey

Me and Ms. Walker Bailey

- We got to visit so many beautiful places rich with a history that we don’t really get to learn about in school… true slave history.  We saw churches slaves built, sat on benches that slaves sat on, and visited slave graves.  Moving is such an understatement it’s almost derogatory.

Savannah, Georgia

- We met some amazing members of the Gullah/Geechee community that shared their history with us and welcomed us into their lives for a week

Me and Wilson Moran

- I got to know some amazing new friends

Alycia and Monique on the ferry

- I saw some of the most beautiful landscape in the US… by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in this country

 
I learned so much about this culture and their history and enjoyed every second of it.  I also got to do some soul searching and learn quite a bit about myself in the process.  I was reminded about some things I had forgotten about myself and who I am.  I think there was a lot that the Lord wanted to do in me through this trip and I never cease to be amazed at how He accomplishes what needs to be done.  I am so thankful for this time and it made me even more eager to begin my Peace Corps service.
 
Speaking of the Peace Corps… I got an update last week that they received my medical kit that I just submitted.  However, since my departure is not within the next 4 months, I won’t be under review until the spring.  This was a little disheartening (although not surprising).  I was really hoping to be reviewed sooner rather than later as I will, hopefully, be out of the country next summer.  If my invitation is delayed then I won’t have much time to finalize anything while I am in rural Ethiopia (away from constant internet access!).  I find out in less than 2 weeks if I am accepted to the Ethiopia study abroad program or not.  Basically, I would really love to have my formal invitation before I leave for Ethiopia in June (finding out while I am in Ethiopia will be difficult due to acceptance procedures and paperwork needs).  Because of this, I am praying and believing for an earlier review than what is anticipated!  I’d appreciate any prayers and good thoughts you’d like to send my way!
 
Until next time, neighbors…