I’ve said this before, but Ethiopia is not always an easy place to live. While I am completely content and happy with my life here, some things are a constant struggle. Work is an uphill battle. I love my school community, but getting things done at my school is always a challenge. For example, I had my first Teacher’s English Club this week. The club was supposed to begin at 2pm, however none of the teachers actually arrived until 3pm. When I started teaching, many of the teachers talked over me and failed to give me the respect that they expect of the students in their classrooms. Frustrating? I think so.
Just walking down the street can be a nightmare. The harassment that comes with being a ferenji female living in a truck-stop town is never-ending. While I used to be able to mindlessly ignore it, I’ve started to get angry with the men who yell at me every time I leave my house, and in some cases, I have started yelling back. At first I thought I was just losing my cool, but I’ve realized that I’m learning how to stand up for myself.
With all this being said, I have learned to cherish the small things in life that make me happy. Some days, that’s all I have. I’m proud of the fact that most of the kids in town know my name (or some weird variation of it). I love my compound and the people who live on it. Every Sunday I drink tela with a bunch of awesome old ladies who hang out at my compound after church. I found a woman who sells spinach in town (a rarity in Woreta). Even though I hate waking up at the crack of dawn, I love watching the sunrise over the mountains in the distance when I go running. The small words of appreciation for doing my job here also help. After an English club, a student said to me “Courtney, we appreciate you. You are a big man”. While gender incorrect, it completely made my day.
Honestly, I have only really had small successes here in Woreta. Things move so slowly, and there is so much against us that the thought of making a huge change is just unrealistic. On the first day of my English club, one of the English teachers told me that the creative writing program was just too hard for the students. Now, some of them are writing wonderful stories on their own. English teachers at my school have finally started approaching me for advice and with questions about the textbooks and language. While this isn’t something I’ve planned, it’s a step in the right direction.
Even on a really bad day, something good happens here. Whether it be students hanging out with me in my classroom or a random street vendor kid giving me a free fakiya (Ethiopian stick toothbrush), there is always a reason to smile.