They don’t think before they speak, they make stupid decisions, they hit on anything with legs… in America we call these “Teenagers.” In Ethiopia, this stage of life has a more colourful label – The Fire Age.
I stumbled across this term the day I had to sit in an auditorium of 500 high school students. Lost in a sea of hormones, I was surrounded by high school boys just wanting to “practice their English,” which of course necessitated my phone number. Describing this phenomenon to my co-worker he said, oh, of course- they are in the fire age.
A broad term, it covers any eye-roll inducing teen behavior between the ages of 13 and 20-something. Community based culture or not, independent streaks abound in youth around the world.
It makes sense. Teenagers are teenagers whether they grew up in Ethiopia, America, Russia, or the Canary Islands. And they’re all crazy.
But that’s what makes them such good people to work with. Youth aren’t jaded. Youth are energetic, and youth don’t see a limit. They like to laugh (a lot at me), and they want to see a better future, because it’s their future.
Working with youth is some of the most rewarding work a Peace Corps volunteer does – if only for the instant gratification of a 15 year old girl telling you you’re cool. And in the next month, we will have a flock of 15 year old girls descending on Gondar for Camp Glow (more on that later). God help us all. At least “fire” produces a significant glow. These girls will be leaders in their communities, and can channel that spark into bright futures, with only a few eye rolls along the way.