“You’re Not in Kansas Anymore”

21 08 2011

Two and a half weeks ago, I completed my 10 weeks of Pre-Service Training for the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. That day seems like forever ago! So much has happened since then.

On Friday, August 5th 2011, 69 Trainees were sworn in as Volunteers at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I am very proud to be a part of the 5th Group of Volunteers to come into Ethiopia since the Peace Corps program was reopened in the country in 2007. I am also a member of the first group, since reopening, to swear in every member that they started training with! ALSO, I am a member of the FIRST group of Education Volunteers to come into Ethiopia in 25 years!

Over the weekend, me and my fellow Volunteers made our way around Addis in search of Western style FOOD and household materials that can only be purchased in the capitol city. Items included non-stick frying pans, spatulas, cotton sheets, stoves, adapters, western style food and much more. I purchased an electric kettle to minimize the time of boiling water, a non-stick frying pan, pot holders (not folded up sheets of computer paper that my host family used as pot holders), and a 3 burner propane stove. We also got a tour of the Peace Corps compound in Addis. We all raided the Volunteer Resource Center in search of good books to borrow.

On Sunday, August 7th, 68 newly sworn in volunteers took off in busses and vans in the direction of the permanent sites. One got left behind in Addis… that one was me. I was pretty bummed about not going to my site with everyone else in my group, but I needed to stay in Addis. 6 weeks ago, I strained a muscle in my back. The muscle swelled up pretty big and was putting pressure on the nerves of my spine causing a shooting pain down the back of my left leg. Since then I had been on medication for the pain and to contain the swelling, but it was not healing properly. So I “got” to spend a week in Addis to attend physical therapy every day.

On Sunday I sulked around the hotel, taking full advantage of the free wireless internet that King’s Hotel in Addis has. On Monday I scheduled a massage at a fancy place in downtown Addis for some pain relief. I navigated Addis by myself and only felt lost once or twice 🙂 the massage was incredible. It was the most professional massage place I’ve ever been to in my life. After the massage I got a glass of lemonade and it was kind of cold! That afternoon I switched hotels to where some Volunteers from Group 2, 3, and 4 were staying for meetings and that is near to the Peace Corps office.

 During my week in Addis I was able to relax in between my everyday trips across Addis to the hospital for physical therapy. The other Volunteers let me tag along on their outings to get ‘ferenji’ food 🙂 We went to a pizza place one night. I had a chicken gyro that was delicious! We went to Paradise Café and I got a BBQ steak Sandwich with fries, again it was delicious. The hotel we were staying at had complimentary breakfast and I took advantage of that, ordering an “American Style Pancake” almost every morning.

On Wednesday evening, I made my way to the Piazza District of Addis and met up with about 12 other Volunteers at a Jazz Bar. I ordered a steak salad and it was to die for. Later in the evening they began to play some awesome jazz music. The saxophone was incredible! The guys on the drums looked like they were having a blast. It was very fun. Later on, a famous Ethiopian singer, Zeritu, came on stage and sang! She sings a very western style of music and even covers some American music, translating it into Amharic. During all of this great music, a message was telephoned down the line of people sitting on my side of the table. The message was to me from Emily, a current Volunteer. She said, “Hey Bailey, You’re Not in Kansas Anymore… I’ve always wanted to say that!” It was as fitting as the original line said by Dorothy to Toto when she wakes up in the Land of Oz.

My week in Addis turned out to be really great. I got to know quite a few Volunteers from other groups, ate some great food, got to know Addis and how to get around it, and I got to RELAX! I watched all of Season 1 of “Community” on my computer, took warm showers, and listened to the wicked thunder of the Ethiopian rainy season.

On Sunday August 14th, I got in a cab and headed for the airport. I made my way to the gate and waited for hours, as my plane to Mekele was delayed. Finally, I boarded and made the hour long flight up to Tigray. My counterpart from Wukro was in Mekele taking summer classes at the University, so he came to the airport to help me make my way to the bus station. Along the way, we stopped so I could buy a phone card. I went into the “suk” and asked the kid for a 25 birr, green mobile card .. all in Tigrigna! He looked very shocked that I was speaking his language. He rattled off something to my counterpart. “I admire her!” my counterpart later translated to me. It was nice to finally get to speak the language that I had been studying for the past two months! I met my friends, Brittany and Diane, at the bus station and had a short reunion with them before I took the front seat of the minibus in route to Wukro!

When I got to Wukro, I was met by Kevin, the other PCV in my town, and the principal of the main school I will be working at. We took off to my house, I was soooooo excited to finally see it! When we got there, there were still people living in my room! So we didn’t stick around to really check the place out, I was bummed, but I was able to get in the next day. Look out for my next blog about my first week in Wukro and my new place 🙂

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PST (Pre-Service Training) Photo Timeline: Ethiopia!

7 08 2011

Instead of typing out what I did during PST, I’m going to show you. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!          – Bailey

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