A Rough Welcome

12 05 2012

There are always mixed emotions about coming ‘home’ after being gone for awhile. The past two weeks I’ve spent traveling. First I went to visit some friends in their site, then I headed to Addis Ababa, the capitol city of Ethiopia, to work on some trainings for a future group of volunteers, then I went down to Hawassa in southern Ethiopia to run a 7k and to hang out with other Peace Corps Volunteers. I had such a great time over the course of the two weeks (except while I was running the 7k, haha, not fun at all). So when I was heading back to my site, I was a little sad that my trip had come to an end. I even stayed the night in Mekele (the big city only an hour away from my town that I fly into), which is something I never do. I don’t know exactly why, but I wasn’t excited to come home. But I sucked it up and got on the bus and headed north to Wukro.

Just a few kilometers from my town, my minibus stopped. I looked out the window to see a huge pile of manure scattered all over the ground. Then I looked further back and saw where it came from. There was a horse cart flipped over and a mangled horse in the ditch. Beside the horse was a lady, screaming in pain, with a clearly visible broken leg… and a teenage boy who was on his hands and knees, blood gushing from his head. People in my bus started panicking, scrambling to get out to see, to help. I felt sick. I turned away from the scene, only to see two minibuses on the other side of the road. One with a crunched front end, the other flipped over on its side down in the ditch. My heart dropped.

I sat there alone in the bus, not knowing what to do or where to go. I started praying that everyone would be alright, even though the scene suggested otherwise. Finally I decided to get out of the bus. I stood on the side of the road feeling helpless. A lady that I recognized walked up to me from the other side of the road. She is a teacher at one of my schools in town. I immediately asked her if she was ok, then if the situation across the road was ok. She said it was fine, and there were a bunch of people standing around the flipped over bus, all looking surprisingly calm. I noticed a man climbing through the shattered front windshield, retrieving plastic bags of passengers’ belongings from inside.

Some women had wrapped their scarves around the head of the boy who was bleeding and walked him to the bus. Then a few men picked up the lady with the broken leg and started to carry her over. They were going to take them to the hospital, which was great! I found the driver and told him to get my large backpack off of the top of the bus but he told me to get in and they would drop me off in town. There was NO WAY I was getting in that bus with those poor injured people, just to take time to drop me off, while they are in the back in pain that I’ve never even imagined. I finally convinced him to get the bag down for me and to grab my purse from the back seat then they took off towards town. But now what?

I looked up at the sky… rain clouds, great. I decided that I was going to walk into town. I started walking, only to get stopped by my teacher friend who told me to wait, that a bus would come to pick us up. I said ok and I waited. She took off towards the crowd of people. A big bus pulled up and people scrambled to get in so they could get a ride back to town, and my teacher friend disappeared into the bus, leaving me alone.

Again, I started walking into town. I was upset, not that I had to walk, but because of what I’d just seen. I’d been so lucky to have missed the actual incident by a minute or two, but would I always be that lucky? What about my friends? As Peace Corps Volunteers, we are always taking the cheapest, most easily available ways to get from place to place, which are probably the most dangerous. There are so many hazards on the roads of Ethiopia. Horse carts, donkeys and cattle, terrible road conditions, mountains and valleys and the busses are all in terrible condition. Ethiopia is number 1 in traffic fatalities in all of the countries of the WORLD. It’s scary! But what can we do about it? I don’t know.

Its taboo to cry in public in Ethiopia, so I put my shades on and tried to think of something else… anything else. As I reached town, it started to sprinkle. I walked faster trying to get as far into town as I could before getting soaked. Finally it was raining, and I ran into my favorite supermarket and was greeted by the shopowner. He was happy to see me after being gone for two weeks. I tried to explain what I had just seen, but he didn’t get it… he kept laughing, and I don’t know why, but it was frustrating.

Finally the rain had cleared and I walked the rest of the way home. I knocked on the gate of my compound and heard someone say ‘who is it?’ in the local language. I said ‘Its me’ then heard lots of people saying “Bailey! Bailey!”. They ran to open the door and I was greeted with lots of hugs, cheek kisses, and smiles. That is always a great feeling. But then I looked to the room on the left, which is where the baby, Isaak, and his parents live(d). It was empty! They moved out while I was away!  😦  I am so sad!

On top of all of that, I walked into my kitchen, only to find lots of rat poop… They’re back. Ugh!


Frustrated with the recent events, I needed something to pick me up. One of my sitemates texted me, letting me know that I had mail and a package at the post office. I figured this would help me to feel better and to get my mind off of things. I let him know I was going to go grab the mail, and he said he was on his way to the post office as well. I met him on the road and we walked over. I got a package I’d been expecting for months now, which was great! Then I picked up lots of letters that he’d collected for me at his house. I brought them back home and had my very own mail opening party. I received a wedding invite, a graduation announcement, a Christmas letter and lots more! It was exactly what I needed to get my mind off of being sad. So thank you!

If there’s one thing that being here has taught me, it’s that I am SO fortunate. I have never lived a bad day in my life. I am so blessed. I’ll never take anything for granted. My health, hygiene, friends, family, experiences, anything that has ever brought me the slightest bit of happiness I will never take for granted.