After a year and a half in any place you tend to loose the wonder. Normality settles in. Daily life. When I first moved to Ethiopia I had a million blog ideas – the food, the clothes, the music, culture everywhere! But recently I’ve been struggling for topics, thinking I’ve covered a lot of what goes on here. Turns out, I had just stopped noticing.
Having family or friends come to visit is great not just for the vacation, but afterwards. To remember what was exciting and new about a place you have grown comfortable in. Though can I ever really say I’m comfortable in Ethiopia? Probably not. Cue water being out for a week.
I can say that I had stopped looking for new things. Cows in the street? Boring. Women carrying things on their heads? Routine. Kids running after me yelling who knows what? Ignored.
But having my family visit opened my eyes to the things that give this place flavour. The quirks of daily life in Ethiopia may be routine, but they are certainly interesting. My mother kept commenting on the change of clothes. Driving from urban center, through rural villages, back to urban center, there are people along the road the whole way. But in the towns you see jeans and pants and suits. On the road you see traditional dresses, green farmers shorts with buttons and frayed headwraps. Just driving from place to place was an adventure for them, and I had forgotten to look out the window.
My dad could not get over the fact that road construction was all done by hand. And by women. Mixing cement, swinging pick axes to break up the tar, and using wooden stretchers to carry loads of heavy rock, there is no automatic machinery in sight. Most of the heavy labour is done by women… in dresses. They are shipped in from the rural areas as day labourers. In fact, many of these construction workers are at a high risk for exploitation and health issues, but again I had forgotten to see the problems – I was ignoring the catcalls.
My middle brother could skiskista (shoulder dance) with the best of them. My younger brother tried all sorts of new food I never thought he would. I used more Amharic the week they were here than the past month on my own.
Having my family here reminded me that I’m here for more than work. Yes, running projects and supporting local programs is a big part of my job – the biggest really. But just living, interacting, and having conversations about my life and people’s lives is still 2/3 of the Peace Corps goals. I’m on the downhill slope now – past the half way point with less than a year left. But as my programmatic work gets busier I have to remember the other stuff, the daily life, the routine, and the sharing. Sharing with my Ethiopian friends, and sharing with my family and friends across the ocean.
So if there are any topics you want to hear more about – comment below! Remind me what’s weird here, what’s interesting and different because sometimes I forget that having a goat in my bathroom isn’t normal.