On Friday we finally finished our pre-service training and swore in as official Peace Corps Ethiopia Volunteers! After 10 weeks of language, technical, medical, cultural and safety training I can safely say that I am both prepared to go to site and also completely overwhelmed by my lack of knowledge. They say that by the end of training you will know what you do not know, which is a big step from Day 1 when I didn’t even know what I didn’t yet know. Following?
The more I learn about this country, its people, its history, its (87!) languages, the more I have come to realize that I have only chipped away enough of the iceberg to make a couple ice cubes for my St. George’s draft beer.
But lucky for me I have two more years here to attempt to figure it out, forge some relationships, make a lot of mistakes, and hopefully leave a small mark of change for the better. Since swearing in I have gotten a (very) early flight to Bahar Dar in the Northwest of Amhara Region, driven across the country and back to get my things from Desie, and finally arrived in Gonder, my site, one week later.
Reflecting on training I came up with a list of things I now know, and things I need to learn.
What I Know:
- how to order a beer
- how to order other food (less important than beer)
- how to say “my favorite colour is purple”
- how to say “I don’t like kitfo because it will give me worms” (compound sentence!)
- a basic understanding of the health services in Ethiopia
- how to brew traditional coffee
- that time is very different here, both literally and figuratively
- how much I need to learn
What I need to learn:
- more Amharic
- better bargaining skills
- how to figure out when the water/electricity will come back on and when to stockpile barrels
- how to make a tortilla
- the layout of my city
- the fair price for things
- and a lot lot more
And so begins the actual Peace Corps adventure. Two years starts now, these past few months have just been a warm-up for the marathon. And considering this country produces some of the best runners in the world, I’d say that’s a pretty apt analogy.