My Favorite Things

I know I’ve been a little negative in my past few posts.  That wasn’t my intention; I was just trying to give a realistic picture of life here.  Peace Corps isn’t all sunshine, butterflies, and puppies (more like sunshine, hoards of flies, and rabid dogs).  But, to bring my blog back up here’s a list of some of my favorite things about my life here in Ethiopia (in no specific order):

The Food: I’m an eater, and all I have to say is, thank god I’m doing Peace Corps in Ethiopia.  I’ve talked to PCVs from other countries where the food is just awful.  And don’t get me wrong, there are some foods eaten here than no one should be subjected to eat.  Take dulet, sheep/goat intestines, a dish that my landlords have a penchant for.  I can’t tell you how many dulet meals I have gagged down because I just don’t have the heart to tell them that I think that this might literally be the worst food in the world.  But, for every bad dish there are more good ones.  Bayanat, a vegan variety plate of vegetables and lentils is my favorite (unfortuantly you can only get it on fasting days – Wednesday and Friday).  When I first came to Ethiopia, I could barely stomach injera.  Now, I crave it.  I couldn’t even eat a whole piece of it and I now can destroy meals that seemed impossibly large (even for me).  

Bunna: The coffee.  Oh my god.  I already know I’m going to be a coffee snob when I get back to America because there’s nothing like the coffee here made in the traditional way.  On top of that, coffee ceremonies have become one of my favorite things about Ethiopia.  Sitting for 1-3 hours while fresh coffee is roasted, pounded, roasted, and then made used to seem interminable.  Now, I can’t think of many better ways to spend my afternoon.  On occasion, I have endured some horribly awkward bunna ceremonies.  In one of them, the person that invited me actually left in the middle but informed me I should “stay, and play” with a bunch of people I’ve never met and who don’t speak a work of English.  My landlord recently got injured in what was described to be as a rock-throwing incident.  From the amount of pain this man was in, someone must have thrown a boulder at his leg.  He was bedridden, and screaming/moaning in pain.  However, this did not prevent my landlady from inviting me into his bedroom to have a coffee ceremony with him. 

My students: Now, when I say this I do not mean ALL students.  If we were in America, I think I would be the most bullied kid in the school, even though I’m a teacher.  Some of them chase me around the compound, swarm me in my classroom, and when I lock them out, throw rocks through my window.  But, my students, the ones that come to my English clubs and spend time with me on their off periods, are wonderful kids.  I mean, how many kids email you an audio file of a poem they wrote asking for corrections?  Or show up at your house just to tell you about a dream they had that you were in?

Other PCVs:  I’ve met some wonderful people here in Ethiopia.  We never have to explain ourselves to each other.  We may not all be here for the same reasons, but we all understand why we’re here.  We’re all in the same boat.  No matter how much I tell people at home about my life here, you can’t fully understand unless you actually live it.  There are not many people I can text about a horrible pants shitting incident I had and they respond, “yeah, I shit my pants today too”.   Peace Corps dissolves all normal friendship boundaries you thought existed.  We may be a freakshow when we get together, but we all love each other.

My school: I know I complain about the teachers at my school a lot.  Do they want to go to my trainings? No.  Do I enjoy their company? Yes.  I try to go to school for a little bit each day.  Most of the time I just sit in the teachers’ café, drink tea, and talk with them.  I have never paid for my own tea, they always invite me.  They make me laugh.  Upon returning from Italy, feeling a little hefty after 2 weeks of eating like I was a hibernating bear, they immediately asked me “Courtney, why have you gotten so much fatter!”   Most of you would consider this horribly offensive; I have learned to laugh at these well-intentioned offenses from Ethiopians.  They are also remarkably inquisitive.  While they don’t really accept much teaching methodology information I give them, we often have discussions about American politics and culture.  

My free time: Even on my rare busy week, I still have what seems like endless free time.  I used to wonder if I would survive the boredom.  I would fill my days with activities like feeding gummy bears to monkeys or following ants around my house.  Now, I have grown to love having nothing to do.  I have read more books than I think I had in the 5 years previous to joining the Peace Corps.  I take no shame in watching half a season of a TV show in an afternoon.  If I’m feeling more social I sit in my compound with my landlords “servant” Kasanesh, and watch her do work and practice my Amharic.  Or I go into town a sit at a café, drink coffee, and read.  Usually someone I know strolls in and we talk for a little while.  Even in America I’m slower paced than most people, but I have definitely slowed down even more, and I love it. 

My compound: First of all, I love my house.  Well, my bedroom really.  I have tile floors, a legit ceiling and nice windows, which are all luxuries for PCVs. I live 30 seconds from my school, making my work commute nonexistent.  My landlords are awesome.  I can’t actually speak to them.  They don’t speak a work of English, I don’t even think they know “Hello”.  They also speak way to fast in Amharic for me to understand most things they say.  However, I know they treat me like a daughter.  They feed me, they give me coffee every day, and they invite me to family holidays.  When my town inevitably does not pay my rent on time every three months, they don’t kick me out, they just let me know so I can deal with it.  They are wonderful people. 

The street kids:  I think street kids can haunt a lot of people.  These poor, seemingly (and most likely actually) parentless kids that wander the streets trying to get you to buy their tissues or gum.  They’re dirty, barely clothed, shoeless, and usually can be horribly mean to each other.  In other towns, like Bahir Dar, they drive me nuts.  However, in Woreta, I’ve somehow managed to form a gang of my biggest admirers in the street kids.  When I walk to the center of town I hear my name “Corky, Corky” (my favorite Ethiopian variation of my name) being yelled out.  They greet me; they give me their valuable products for free.  Most importantly, they help me out.  If someone is calling me farenj they tell them, no her name is Corky, don’t call her faranj.   One time I was walking home when it was dark, something I know I shouldn’t be doing alone.  So, two of them held my hands and walked me all the way to my house.   The only qualm I have with these kids is that they have also become a love note delivery system for random strangers.  On two or three occasions one of them has run up to me with a piece of paper saying “I love you” blah blah blah and giving me someone’s phone number.  Funny the first time, after the third, not so much. 

So there you go…some of my favorite things! 




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7 Responses to My Favorite Things

  1. Ellen Silva says:

    Hi Courtney! I loved reading your favorite things!! Your writing is fantastic and gives a true feeling of your life in Woreta….nice to hear some of the good stuff too…thanks so much for sharing! I am continually impressed with the way you have assimilated into your surroundings, and really glad you have acquired a taste for the food there(I do remember you like to eat). Keep on writing, I love reading your stories, my emails are mostly junk so when I see “Courtney in Ethiopia”, I get very excited!!! Take care and many blessings to you!

  2. Hailu says:

    Hi Courtney I am an Ethiopian from the united states I love reading your story. You reflected the true picture of what Ethiopia looks like. I actually came across your story when I am searching for one of my peace corps teacher who was in Ethiopia long ago.

    Nice to hear your story

  3. Sergio Gomez says:

    Hey Corky, I like that, I’m sure it will stick. Had not stopped by but it was nice to read May and July, guess you skipped June, lol. Nice to see you are in good spirits. I’m still in Haiti and though I can relate to some of the things, you are really roughing it in comparison and I would not take anything away from you, you are a tough cookie. Keep it up, can’t wait for August or drop me a line. Enjoy!

  4. Brandi J says:

    Reposted here – I originally posted to a WAY older post of yours. Hi,hope you don’t mind me contacting you. Your blog popped up with I googled “Woreta” which is where one of my “sponsored” children (her name is Timar and today is her 10th birthday!) lives. She attends the Woreta Yehiwot Birhan Church Student Center. Would love any extra info on Woreta, her hometown and also if you know anything about the Compassion programs in that area. If you don’t have time to respond, no worries.I will definitely be following your blog to keep up with and learn more about my Timar’s hometown. Thank you for blogging and also thank you for what you are doing in the Peace Corps!

    • Hi Brandi,
      That’s amazing that you sponsor a child in Woreta! I can’t say that I know anything about the Compassion programs in Woreta. There’s also a chance that she lives in one of the more rural areas that I would not have visited. I also have not heard of that student center, but I will definitely ask around – it would be great to get involved. If you have any questions let me know!

  5. Paul says:

    My son just got the email informing him he is to be posted in Ethiopia working in an aids clinic. We are so blown away by the passion he and so many other folks have for serving. I am glad to have read your posts and look forward to more!

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