The RPCV Life


Wake up, read the Bible, followed by Encouragement for Today (a daily devotional), check my email and finally my Facebook feed. So goes the life of this Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Of course there is more to my day than those activities I mentioned, but this is my new routine I’ve established stateside in the absence of my routine in Merawi, Ethiopia.

Two months after that infamous day of my gong-out ceremony – marking the moment where I completed my service – I’m sitting in the US, thinking about my work, the people and my town that I called “home” for the last two years. Well, honestly it didn’t start feeling like “home” until maybe a year, year and a half being there, but eventually I felt that way. I knew that I would miss being in Merawi. I just didn’t know what I would miss or reminisce about. Now with 60 days in the rear-view mirror there are several things that stand out. These aren’t listed in any particular order:

  • Being greeted by kids as I walked around my town. I have to say, by the time I left my town, 98% of these interactions were positive. It wasn’t always that way, so I’m grateful for the progress. It is a great feeling to see young kids running down the dirt road OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtowards you, just to shake your hand or say hello. I would also let them hang out in my office at school, working with different teaching aids, so the kids would ask me “Zare, biro?” (direct translation: “Today, office?”). Now I wonder, what is in store for them (some were not even school age yet)? And selfishly I think, will they remember that person who spoke funny Amharic and showed her watch whenever asked – “Sint saat naw?”(“What time is it?”). Did I make a positive, if any, impact on their lives?



  •  Traveling by mini-bus to various towns in my region. Grateful when I could grab a seat with the following criteria:IMG_0706 1) By the window and 2) Not crowded with 3-4 people trying to fit into a 2-person seat ( it doesn’t take much to make me happy). I could enjoy the passing countryside, which was briefly interrupted by towns as the van drove along the road. I watched the people walking on the side of the asphalt, carrying wood and/or water, herding their animals, bringing goods to sell on market day, students going to and from school. With my head leaning against the window I would think-“I am on a bus, in Ethiopia.” A simple, but overwhelming thought.


  • Being fed above and beyond what my stomach capacity could comfortably manage. In Ethiopia, I had a love-hate relationship with food. It was definOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAitely tasty. I enjoyed eating with my host-family and the socializing that occurred in the room. We don’t do this often in America, but sharing a plate of injera and wot with friends brings new meaning to the phrase “sharing is caring”. However, my enjoyment would turn to frustration and a diminished appetite when people forcefully insisted I eat more, while automatically placing more food on my plate in spite of my constant protests. These situations affected when and whose houses I visited. Holidays brought on anxiety as I navigated the delicate process of declining invitations to certain houses. Although, there were some food challenges, I feel some of my best relationships in my town developed over preparing and eating meals, so that in itself makes it all worth it.


  • IT training with my awesome primary and high school teachers! This training was my success story when it came OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAto working with adults in my community. Students were easier; give them some activities or just a chance to talk with you and they were there. Adults on the other hand, well their participation required a larger “carrot”. That carrot turned out to be computer knowledge. Having the opportunity to gain skills which could contribute to obtaining a better job, attracted teachers to the program. I had no idea how popular my class at the primary school had become, but when I received a request from the high school to expand the program there, and the teachers showed up consistently for the entire time, I realized this program would be a highlight of my service.


My transition to American life hasn’t been as challenging as I thought it would be. However, there are little things and situations where I have to remind myself, “Hey, you’ve been out of this country for 27months. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Usually, this happens when I’m looking for my favorite item on a menu, and I can’t find it because 1) the menu offerings have changed over the past two years, or 2) the menu layout has changed. Also, I’m more “at home” in one-room places. I find it easier to function when everything is right around me. But don’t get me wrong, the conveniences of America are what I love and dreamed about while in Ethiopia. I think it’s my perspective that has changed since being abroad. I didn’t have a life-changing epiphany or “find my true self” as a result of my Peace Corps service, but my appreciation for life in America and Ethiopia has grown tremendously. I am even more determined to look at ALL sides of a situation or problem. And I hope this refined perspective will aid me as I embark on the next phase of my life – obtaining the job that has been perfectly prepared for me.

Who am I? Who I am.


So I promise my next post will be short, sweet and not so cerebral. But I hope you’ll bear with me as I get some things off my mind and share some thoughts that have developed since being in Ethiopia.

Only one month remains. It feels strange now that I’m looking at the end of my service. Thinking back I thought this time would never come. Read the rest of this entry

Finish Strong-Send Your Support…Please

Students practicing English vocabulary

Students practicing English vocabulary

First, I would like to say thank you to everyone who has provided support on this crazy roller coaster ride A.K.A – Peace Corps 27 months of service. Whether you posted a comment, emailed, sent a care package, called (via phone or internet), said a prayer or just sent good thoughts my way it has truly made a difference and enabled me to arrive at this important point in my service. Officially, I will be coming back home on September 19, 2015!

Before I leave this country, which has taught me so much, I have several summer programs to complete. My second semester was a whirlwind of IT trainings, making a garden with a compost pile, providing gender focused programs, and just living life in my community in Merawi. I’ve wanted to add another post, since my last one in March but my work has kept me busy every day of the week. I am so grateful for the interest and commitment of my teachers, students and colleagues in Merawi who have supported my programs. This summer, I’ll be participating in three different programs. The first program brings me a lot of happiness because I’ll be able to see and work with my cousins (I still can’t believe they decided to come back!) for a whole week. The other two camps are English camp and finally Camp GLOW…yes again!

English Camp is special to me for several different reasons. First, I’m excited for the students who will be attending from my town. These students have been working with me throughout the year, and I’ve observed their English skills improve, their confidence grow and just enjoyed spending time with them sharing cultures, ideas and laughter. I know their participation in this English intensive camp will just add to their growth. Second, this is a new program for Peace Corps Ethiopia and I enjoy being a part of programs and activities that are being developed from the ground up. Finally, and this is where you come in, we need your financial support to hold this camp. We are currently in the process of raising funds, and although we are very close to our goal, every little bit helps. “Finish Strong” is my motto for this final year in Ethiopia, and your support will help me to do just that while giving a very unique opportunity for the youth of Ethiopia. I am including the link to our funding web page below along with some photos of my recent activities.

Let’s Get Camp English Funded!

Thank You!


Action for Gender Equality Summit – 2015


Ethiopia – Yichalal (It is Possible)


Happy New Year Everyone! 2015 has finally come!

My office at school

My office at school

This is my final year in Ethiopia (well actually less than a year left now), and the beginning of my second year kept me pretty busy for the past four months, but I feel like my daily work activities haven’t received the attention they deserve on this blog. Keep Reading

One Year Ago


I can’t believe how time passes. One year ago, around this time of year I was in the hospital. I didn’t know whether I would be able to stay in Ethiopia, or if I would be packing my bags for America. Looking back on that time, I remember the fear that I felt my first night, alone, in the hospital room. I’d entered the hospital on crutches, and in all honesty, I thought my hospital admittance would cause my situation to become worse, rather than improve. I kept thinking I would end up on one of those T.V. specials Hospitalized Abroad -where people enter a hospital, but never come out. Thankfully, that wasn’t my story. In spite of all my initial fears, I gradually became more comfortable staying in the hospital, catching up on old episodes of Nakita, Car Warriors, and The Mentalist. Eventually, my physical health improved as well, and I did in fact leave the hospital walking on my own. Each step of that nerve racking month, despite the challenges, were also filled with love, support and prayers from friends and family both near and far.

I’ve been experiencing full days at site filled with programs and making connections with people in my community. I couldn’t believe just one year ago all of my future activities had a big question mark hanging over them. This realization came to me out of the blue as I looked over my calendar to review my schedule of programs. So far, the past couple of months have been very productive. I experienced my official one year mark mid-September. Before that time it seemed like it would never come and now I’m in count-down mode for the months that remain.

It’s funny because in some ways my experience from a year ago is being repeated again. I have the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving in Addis Ababa. The first time, was a wonderful blessing and an experience that came just at the right time. For my second Thanksgiving in Ethiopia, I am especially grateful for all of my experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve dealt with it all and I’m still standing.

 Happy Thanksgiving!

Ethiopian Cooking – Charcoal Style


Food has always been on the back burner (pun intended) in my life. According to my mom, when I was a baby she would have to completely unwrap me so that I would wake up and eat. In Ethiopia, food has achieved a higher position of significance in my world. Not because I am eating more (because I definitely live out the saying “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”), but the lack of variety and unique foods in this country make me appreciate, talk about and eat more food whenever I get the opportunity to have really tasty dishes a.k.a going to Addis. Keep Reading

Hakuna Matata!


No, the title isn’t just a line from one of my favorite movies (yes, I have a guilty pleasure of watching Disney films over and over). I actually got to live it during my trip to Tanzania – Hakuna Matata: A no worries vacation. I think it is fitting that my 50th blog post marks a significant moment not only in my Peace Corps service, but also in my life. In all honesty, this trip to Tanzania was supposed to happen 15 years ago. I studied KiSwahili in high school, in fact, the Black Studies-African language curriculum was one of the things that attracted and allowed me to change school districts and complete my high school education at Berkeley High. I believe it was during my junior year that our KiSwahili class started organizing a trip to Tanzania. Why Tanzania? Well first, it was the birthplace of my teacher Bwana Blandesi, so automatically we would have contacts there. Second, it is one of the four countries in East Africa where KiSwahili is the official language. Unfortunately, that trip never came to fruition, but as they say “delay is not denial” and so 15 years later I have the opportunity to share another place with you, and talk about my wonderful time in this beautiful country.

Before I left for Ethiopia I created a personal to-do list for myself while living on the continent of Africa for two years. Near the very top of that list was: Visit another country in Africa. Initially, I wanted to go to South Africa, but due to timing, money and convenience it ended up being Tanzania. Turns out I couldn’t have picked a better vacation place. As I was finalizing my trip plans, I tried to get in contact with my KiSwahili teacher to let him know that I was finally going to his native country. He always said that we would really love being in Tanzania and that it was a beautiful place. Of course in my teenage mind, at that time, I thought he was over selling it. I utilized my internet stalking…I mean researching skills and came upon a photo of my teacher. To my dismay, it was sadly an obituary photo. My teacher passed away only a few months before in May. “Well,” I thought, “That’s that.” But of course when I told my mom, she did what all other moms would do…she went to the church where his service was held to try and meet anyone who may have known him. I tell you, sometimes my mother’s boldness scares me just as much as it impresses me. I’m not sure what my mother told them, but next thing I knew the pastor sent me an email with information about my teacher’s family in Tanzania. Another person that my mom met, sent me phone numbers of people he knew that I could contact while I was there. So finally I was on my way armed with two names and phone numbers, a tentative itinerary, two friends to travel with and a list of things I wanted to do: 1. Eat a lot of seafood; 2. Go on a safari; and 3. Swim with dolphins.

Living in Ethiopia has made me truly appreciate the variety of food we have in America. You want blueberries? Pick up a pack at the farmer’s market. Wait, they’re not in season? Go to the refrigerated section of the store and buy them frozen. Now try that same chain of events in Ethiopia…haha yeah not gonna happen. First, I don’t think I’ve seen blueberries in this country (except in the trail mix I got in a care package). Second, Merawi does not have a refrigerated store section. Oh America, how I miss thee! Anyway, got a little sidetracked, back to Tanzania – The food was amazing and I will say this was one of my best vacations!

It turns out my KiSwahili teacher was right. Tanzania had a lot to offer and I completed everything on my list…well 2.5 out of three things on my list. Every meal that I selected I tried to make sure that it included seafood: shrimp, a variety of fish, the options just made my mouth water. Also, going on the safari was definitely a highlight. I’ve never been that close to wild animals before. As we were driving around the park, I couldn’t get the soundtrack from the Lion King out of my head. We got to see ALL of the animals – Lions, Elephants, Buffalos, Zebras, Wildebeest, Hippos, Crocodiles, Baboons, Eelands, and Impalas. I really enjoyed watching the Impalas and seeing who would outlast who in the staring contest between me and the zebras. We then caught a ferry from Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar; a beautiful island off the coast in the Indian Ocean. I am so glad my friends and I were on the same page and decided to end our trip in Zanzibar. If you are considering a trip to East Africa, and want to also get the tropical island experience, I highly recommend putting Zanzibar on your itinerary. I’m even thinking about going again because I enjoyed it so much. Although I didn’t exactly get the chance to swim with the dolphins (my missing .5 of the 3 item to-do list), I did see them swimming alongside my boat – twice!, which was an amazing experience.

To wrap up our Tanzanian trip, my friends and I had dinner at the house of one of the people whose contact info I had with me. African hospitality is unmatched. The friend opened up her home to us, provided transportation from the ferry to her house, fed us dinner, and even provided a place for us to stay that night. I am grateful for all that Tanzania shared with me: Delicious food, comfortable places to lay our heads, amazing wildlife sightings and just some much needed R&R time.

Take a look at my Tanzania slideshow:

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Service Within Service


Note to Readers: This post should have been uploaded in May, but I was hesitant to include it for my blog, however in the end I wanted these events to be a part of my documentation of this journey.

My Peace Corps journey has been a true roller coaster ride. From the moment I accepted my invitation, to landing in Ethiopia, and then arriving at my site to make a home in Merawi, Ethiopia.  Read the rest of this entry