The Secret Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer…vol 9: Thank You for the Letters/School is Out Forever!

Dear World,

 

It is that time of year…time to start packing up, time to plan my future post Peace Corps, time to finalize my travel plans to Europe, and sadly time to end my student English club for good.  My kids are starting to understand that Miss. Elle, Ellie, and, my Elle will not be returning the following school year.  Even though this is a difficult time and I have to say goodbye to these students who have become my kids, that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun!

First, I must thank and send a shout out to my good friend Cristy from the real HU…Hampton University) and her students for participating in the pen-pal exchange with my students here in Mekele.  They were so excited to receive your letters…for most of my students this is the first time they have ever received mail.  Not only were they excited but they were so enthusiastic and eager to write you back.  They took their time and asked me to edit and spell check every sentence and every word.  They will forever be grateful and cherish the letters you’ve sent.  So again…THANK YOU!

 

Image

Image

So…last Wednesday was officially the last English club that eventually turned into a photo-shoot.  Needless to say we had too much fun.   I started this memorable event with an awards ceremony.  I passed out certificates of participation and each student was awarded with a copy of our Eager for English book (a book produced by Peace Corps Ethiopia and writers from America who wrote stories in the Ethiopian context), their exercise books (which I never let them take out of my sight until now), a pamphlet that promotes girl empowerment and leadership, and finally and probably their favorite award…candy! This activity was followed by a long long long photo shoot …

Image

ImageImage

Image

Image

IMG_0574

IMG_0586

IMG_0501

 

IMG_0578

I received a few unexpected gifts from some of my students and directors at my school…I tried with all my might to hold back the tears but it’s hard when you see all your hard work reflected back at you in the kindest and most sweet ways.

IMG_0599 IMG_0597

 

IMG_0620

 

Also, I was able to give my school and more specifically my directors a certificate of appreciation…and they returned the love at the daily school opening ceremony.   Funny story…I was showing them the certificates for the students and they were so impressed that they asked if I could make one for myself for them to give to me…only in Ethiopia are you so grateful to receive a certificate you made for yourself.   And I was so happy and thankful for everything and every experience. I was lucky to have a school support my programs in such a positive way.

DSCN1124

DSCN1123

DSCN1126

DSCN1130

Even though it was a long hard road to get here, it was worth every cancelled program, every change in schedule, and every day that I had to bug people to participate…learning English can be fun guys! I hope that is only one thing they remember about me because I will remember and value every moment I have spent at Lekatit 23 Primary School.  So again…THANK YOU!

Amour,

Elle

Advertisements

The Secret Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer…vol 8: My Top 16 Reasons I Know I’ve Integrated as a Peace Corps Volunteer (just a bit)

Dear World,

Two years ago I embarked on a long journey that I am truly grateful to have gotten the opportunity to experience.  It has been a once in a lifetime roller-coaster ride and I’ve experienced many downs but many more ups! I am honored to have served with my fellow G7 volunteers who were crazy enough to join the Peace Corps and board that plan to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia…the place I have called my home, a realization that took some time for me to admit.  With that comes certain changes in behavior and with this blog post my intention is to share with you some of those changes, cultural interactions, and personal norms that I’ve adapted to…willingly or not! So here are the top 15 reasons I know I’ve integrated into my current community…

  1.  You never say no to shay/buna (tea/coffee) break! When I say never I mean never…and this happens so often…there are normally 2 shay/buna breaks a day but for me that can sometimes go up to at least 4 a day.  There is never a shortage on invitations, whether it’s from teachers, my school directors, the district supervisor, my students, my compound family, or other volunteers.

Image

 

(My good friend Zewdi teaching me how to make coffee)

(watching my school director and district supervisor play checkers while we wait for coffee)

 

  1. You shoulder bump everyone you greet….it is culture! You also kiss on the cheeks 3 times…for me this pertains to anyone that I am really close to or other women.

 

  1. When you are surprised or confused your verbal response has become…waah, intay, inday, lamin, indegana (gasp, what, what, why, repeat that).

 

  1. People you don’t know will know you by name, where you live, and what you do…word travels fast when a foreigner is involved.

Image

(my home)

  1. You might get upset if you see a foreigner in your town that you don’t know…Inday! Who are you and where are you go?!

 

  1. You eat with your compound family (if you have one) multiple times a week…which is nice because it saves the time and energy you have to work up to cook.

(my compound family)

  1. You have standing open invitations with everyone you know to come over on holidays and feast on massive quantities of meat dishes…bring on the doro wot (chicken stew) and tagamino!

  1. You have at least one traditional outfit and you have taken pictures in it.

9. You haven’t taken a bucket bath or cold showers in 3 days because of the shortage of water…don’t judge me.

10. You realize that line you think is a tan line is actually dirt…refer to #9.

(At Boston Day Spa in Addis…the place I depend on to scrub off all the dirt!)

11. You rarely pay for a line taxi or bajaj ride because someone you know is always riding with you and it’s against culture for them       to let you pay (so I’ve been told) or the bajaj driver considers you his family and all the drivers know you and yell out where you live     all over the city.

Image

(from top to bottom: Me and Hannah traveling around Mekele in a bajaj; my sook (corner store) owner and Ethiopian brother; his two daughters picking me up from school)

12. When your town runs out of sugar, flour, popcorn, and etc, your sook (corner store) owner shares his personal stash with you.

Image

(My favorite sook across the street from me)

13.You notice this random kid that follows you around all the time has become your personal bodyguard…and you feel safe again.       If you ever plan to be in Ethiopia for a while befriend a kid they will always have your back!

Image

(two of my body guards/compound family)

14. You have more friends under the age of 12…refer to #13…but you are more afraid of kids ages 12-17…they sometimes know the wrong words in English but I’m working on it ;-)!

(some of my friends at school in my office…we read magazines and gab during the breaks)

15. That random teacher or person in your town always greets you like this…”You are an English teacher, you speak                            English.” YES I AM!

Image

16. You become fearless…except maybe when it comes to food…

While it came be very difficult and can take longer than you expect to be known as anything other than ferengi (foreigner) especially if you live in a big town like Mekele, you still find those subtle ways you’ve changed as a Peace Corps Volunteer, ways you’ve integrated, and you eventually get to know some wonderful people who will treat you like family!  And in the end those are the memories you hold on to once you’ve left…in 49 days…but who’s counting?!?!?

Amour,

Elle

The Secret Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer…vol 7: Dare To Dream!

Dear World,

Where did the time fly?  I feel like I just posted my last blog post yesterday, but when I look at the date it seems its been almost 4 months. SO basically we have a lot of catching up to do!  During my almost 2 years of service I’ve had lots of down town but the last 3 months has been a whirlwind and I have been so busy (happily busy). I have been working on several programs this semester and between the 6th and 7th Grade English Club (which doubles as a pen-pal club), the 8th Grade English Exam Review, the Teacher English Grammar Course, Tutoring, and Office Hours/Art Time for Students, my days have been full!

Today I would like to share with you the activity me and my students embarked on just yesterday…Dream Boards.  I know Dream Boards have been popular recently back home.  I’ve seen them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.  I actually did one while I was applying for Peace Corps.  It has been something I’ve wanted to do with students since I began my Peace Corps service and I had been collecting magazines from Ethiopian Airlines and saving magazines that were sent to me. Finally, the opportunity presented itself.

Image

We’ve been working on reading comprehension by using the Eager for English books some of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers help put together with writers from America.  These books have been an awesome resource.  They tell children stories in English but in the Ethiopian context.  Needless to say my students love them.  I have been creating questions for my students for each story.  The last story was about butterflies, and the main character talks about a dream she had.  The day after we completed the discussion questions it popped into my head…we should do dream boards.  So I went home to start working on one to show my students as an example. Two days later I gathered all the necessary materials and unsure of how this idea would be received I arrived to classroom 7B for English club.

Image

 

Image

My students loved it! They were excited to read the magazines, think of ideas and about what they would like to be when they grew up, and even what they would like to own. A few students had cars on their Dream Boards but all of them had dreams! Even with all the “Teacher where is the plaster (glue),” “Teacher where are the scissors,” “Teacher I need another magazine,” “Ellie’ Ellie, Ellie,” and the huge mess of paper left on the floor for me and my wonderful friend Pam, who assisted me that day and took great pictures, to clean up, it was truly a wonderful experience and quite possibly it will be my fondest memory of my Peace Corps service. This experience was made even better when my students realized they could take their boards home…

Image

 

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

 

Image

Image

Image

I don’t want to be too mushy but I have to be honest. These kids are truly inspiring. Anyone who is a teacher can tell you, kids can be a lot of work and with teaching comes so much responsibility.  You try to be a positive example, you push for them to explore their dreams, and as Peace Corps volunteer you work towards teaching them about your culture and you are open to learning about theirs. There are so many times where my students come into my office and we explain to each other vocabulary words and they go through my magazines and ask me questions about food and clothes, and even better, they invite me over for holidays and the want to do my hair!  You are never just a teacher, you always end up being so much more and students end up being much more than just your students.    Whenever I’m having a bad day and I’m truly ready to go home…I  go to school and they remind me why I’m here in Ethiopia.  I have been so lucky to have these kids help me realize my dream as a Peace Corps Volunteer!

So with basically only a month left in school I feel I still have so much to do and when I leave Ethiopia I still have so many dreams to accomplish.  And I would like to end this post with a quote that was given to me: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” ~Thoreau.  No matter who you are or where you are.

Amour,

Elle

P.S. I have said this before but I would like to say it again…I am so blessed because even though we live in a world that will tell you all the things you can’t do, I had a mom that always told me my dreams were possible.  Thank you Mommy!

 

The Secret Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer…vol 6: 27 Things To-Do In My 27th Year!

Dear World,

Happy New Year! I know i’m late…but you know I live in Ethiopia.  So every year I make a To-Do list for myself…you know…all the the things I would like to accomplish in the New Year.  I’ve never been big into New Year Resolutions…instead of focusing on all the things I want to stop doing, I like to look at all the exciting things that I haven’t done!

Also, as the New Year came around I started to notice all these popular blogs posting “23 Things To Do Instead Of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23” or “24 Things to Do Instead of Getting Married Before You’re 24, a response” (a response to the previous post).  So I decided it would be better for me to post my own…in the spirit of all the things I want to do in my 27th year of living…or as my Grandmother likes to say…”you’re 3 years away from 30!” Please don’t remind me ;-).

Here goes…

1. Make it Home in 1 Piece/Complete Peace Corps Service (COS)- I might be a little dirtier, a little thinner, and a lot hungrier…but I want to make it home!

2. Read the Bible all the way through-It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never actually did.  Being so far away from home, my family, and my church family, I have found myself, more often, looking to this beautifully written daily book of Bible verses and quotes my cousin Pam Silas gave me while I was home visiting.  This book has helped me when I’ve been in search of  guidance in dealing with so many issues.  I have to say it has renewed my faith in a way I never imagine and I am so grateful!

3. Continue to Journal- It the best way to end the day…in reflection!

4. Hit goal weight and Keep it off/ Live healthier lifestyle-Basically, I want to look good on my European vacation in August…Oh, and of course be healthy.

5. Complete Rosetta Stone: French-I think being fluent in another language is quite an accomplishment…and it will be super helpful when I’m in France.

6. Study for the LSAT-What is studying again!?!?!?

7. Read 10 Books-I have plenty of time while in Ethiopia.

8. Read the U.S. Constitution-I took a Constitutional Law course at Hampton and I really enjoyed it but we didn’t have the time to really go through the whole thing…so I would like to finish what I started.

9. Travel throughout Ethiopia (Harar, Axum, Gonder, and Lalibela.)

10. Close of Service Trip to Europe (Italy, Spain, France, Great Britain.)

11. Get a Job with Peace Corps (stateside)

12. Take LSAT/Apply for Law School.

13. Find an Organization to Volunteer with back in America-Before I left home I had the privilege of working with Catholic Charities of Dallas, and I really enjoyed the experience…Peace Corps has made want to continue my volunteer efforts for the rest of my life!

14. Join a social organization (i.e. Toastmasters)

15. Work on a political campaign-I want the experience…you never know what the future may hold!

16. Complete a 10K without walking!

17. Start dance classes again-Dancing is an important passion of mine and I find I’m happiest when I’m dancing…

18. Begin a martial arts class-me with boxing gloves…do you see it…I do!

19. Be able to do a handstand-Its something really simple that’s just for fun.

20. Learn how to play chess.

21. Stop biting my nails-one habit I really need to break!

22. Continue to write letters-Even though I’ll be back in America with working telephones and consistent internet, there is something so relaxing and gratifying about writing and receiving letters.

23. Go to a concert-I’ve never been to a concert and I really want to see Britney Spears at Planet Hollywood! Who’s with me!?

24. Pay off Debts (i.e Student Loans are no joke…go away!).

25. RE-Start Sister Day-Every year my sister and I have one day that we spend entirely together (like every other day :-)) and we hang out and do all the things we love separately together!

26. Say something nice to someone everyday!

27. “Rise Up and Attack Each Day with Enthusiasm” My new outlook on life…tomorrow isn’t promised so live each day like its your first day!
I’m really excited for my list and all the things 2014 has to offer.  As most of you know, there is one thing  that I am most excited for…in 6 months I will be on my way home and I am so excited to see all of you!  So Until next time….Amour,Elle
P.S. Just some recent pictures…
My compound family on Ethiopian Christmas (Melkam Genna or Happy Christmas)…January 7th…
Image
Image
I taught them to play Uno and now they can’t get enough…
Image
And they feed me bizu (a lot of) migib (food)! I was stuffed…
Image
The night before, I watched as my landlords brother “prepared” the meat…the goat and I bonded before his untimely…”disappearance.”
Image
Mail Call! It’s always a good day when I receive letters or packages!
Image
Image
Image
Image
I have frown to need by buna (coffee) breaks…religiously at 10 am and 3 pm I have the required 3 cups!
Image
My favorite Ethiopian dish…Tagabino!
Image
THE END!

The Secret Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer…vol. 5: A Christmas to Remember

Dear World,

My second and last Christmas in Ethiopia didn’t include Black Friday shopping or a real Christmas tree, but it will forever be remembered by me and my favorite Hampton University sweatshirt.  This year I decided to visit my good Peace Corps friend Pam in her town, Korem.  Korem is smaller and colder than Mekele, and a much needed vacation from the hustle and bustle of the “big city.”  

We started our Christmas holiday by running around Mekele buying all the things we wouldn’t have access to in Korem.  This included killed, de-feathered, and cut chicken wings, legs, and thighs,  real butter, green beans, red and white wine, and ham and cheese sandwiches for the road.  We then headed to the bus station where the real adventure began.  It took 2 mini buses and 1 Bajaj up a mountain (as it kept running out of gas), 6 hours (more than the typical 3), ferenji prices (when you are a foreigner they like to charge you way more until they realize you can speak the language and shame them until they give you the correct price), and an empty battery for a car that leaked all the acid onto our bags as well as my favorite Hampton University sweatshirt, and Pam’s only pair of jeans.  Needless, all of those things are ruined!  But we didn’t let this take away our Christmas Spirit.  We finally arrived at Pam’s beautiful compound and drifted asleep while watching ‘The Last Holiday’ with Queen Latifah and LL Cool J :-).

Image

Image

Image

ImageImage

Before we knew it, it was Christmas Eve!  We woke up and made blueberry pancakes with real butter and maple syrup.  We then proceeded to clean and go to the market for additional supplies.  The market is in an open field full of people selling goods, vegetables, animals, and people bartering and negotiating for the best deals.  It’s one of the most beautiful and best cultural experiences in Ethiopia.  

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

 

Christmas dinner prep begins now! After everything is set we are invited over to Pam’s neighbor’s house for a coffee ceremony (my favorite thing to do in Ethiopia is to get invited over for coffee).  The coffee is not only betam konjo (very delicious), they have a television and we get caught up on CNN World News, Sports, and MTV’s Pimp My Ride.  If there is a better way to spend Christmas Eve in Ethiopia, I don’t know it!  We end our night by baking bagels (from scratch), drinking hot cocoa, and watching/crying to The Best Man Holiday.

Image

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Christmas Day is here and the bagels came out perfectly!  Pam and I exchange Christmas gifts, drink delicious pumpkin coffee from Starbucks (Thank you Becca!), and surf Facebook, of course, and see all the engagements, (Congrats Thessa and Steven and Daria and Walt), I counted 6 so far.  Also, Lizzie, a PC volunteer from the nearby town of Maichew, and Mulu, an awesome friend of Pam’s from Korem, came to join in on the festivities.  Then, I went to work in the kitchen.  Fried chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, green beans with onions, cucumber salad, and brownies drizzled in chocolate frosting…all made from scratch! We washed all these treats down with Jamaican Punch and Wine from South Africa.  And what’s a Christmas without Uno…yes, we played Uno, watched Christmas movies (This Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and A Muppet’s Christmas Story) and ate until we couldn’t fit one more thing into our bodies! 

I was also able to talk to my wonderfully supportive and beautiful family and friends. Thank you, Ben and Papa, Mom, Tori, T-Mack, Aunt Pat, Mommy Carol, Cousin Sheryl, Shantel, Thessa, Natasha, Laura, and Vic. I always miss my family and friends, but during the holidays its 10x harder.  However, the Peace Corps family I have here really helps to get me through these tough days.  I am truly blessed to have all of you and to have this life! 

ImageImageImageImageImageImage 

Image

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

 

 

My Christmas is finally complete! It was a long journey to Christmas, but we made it… and it was perfect!  

Amour,

Elle

P.S. Happy Holidays!!!

Image

#THANKFUL

Dear World,

I just realized I never blogged about what I was thankful for on Thanksgiving…you know since we just had a holiday purely for that reason!  But I don’t think it’s ever too late to say all the reasons you are thankful.  This past month I’ve really gotten into podcasts…they are the best things ever…one podcast I really enjoy is called Transformation Nation.  After one episode, after her urging, I started to write in my journal 3 things from that day that I am grateful…and this has had a tremendous effect on my outlook here in Ethiopia.  I want to urge all of you back home and abroad to try this.  I think that it’s so easy to complain about things that don’t go our way or to forget the good things…but even in the worst circumstances there are still reasons to give thanks!

This year has been a roller-coaster ride and there have been many times that I wanted to get off and go back home…it would just be so easy again…but who said life was supposed to be easy?

So I want to start off by saying I am grateful for:

1. My family and friends-To everyone who has let me vent, pout, and sometimes cry!  To all of you who have written me emails, letters, called, read this blog, or posted those much needed words of love and encouragement to Facebook or Instagram! I am forever grateful for all of you!

2. Peace Corps Ethiopia- This special group of people has given me so much…more than I could ever expect to get in 27 months.  I know its not over yet (I have 8 more months…but who’s counting) but I am so grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity with these once in a lifetime friends.  I truly don’t want to know what my life could have been if I never met you guys!

3. Ethiopia- Now this has been a love-hate relationship from the start but I am appreciative of all the strength that you have pushed on me and I have sometimes unwillingly accepted.  I now know I can survive in almost any circumstance and now I welcome it!

4. The Sheraton Hotel of Addis Ababa- For being so patient with Peace Corps Volunteers (like myself) that haven’t been anywhere this nice in a very long time…and sometimes act like it… :-).  The food was amazing, the staff was so attentive, and the company was even better!

5. Hope- It can get you through the toughest of times and I am so happy that I never surrendered my Hope.  I have lost it at times but I always rediscover it at exactly the right moment! I am hopeful of my future, understanding of my past, and excited about the present!

I could go on and on and on…and on but I would like to end with what I posted on Facebook:

Happy Thanksgiving! “Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.” – Theodore Roosevelt…I am so grateful for all of my experiences, for everyone who has been so supportive and loving, through mail, phone calls, and Facebook, for my family and friends back home and the family I have been so lucky to meet here in Ethiopia, I love my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers, for Peace Corps who gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and for all of the beautiful messages I see right here…It is truly a beautiful life…and God is good!

Image

Image

ImageImageImageImage

The top of this picture is from this year and the bottom is from the Hilton last year.

Just some pictures from my lovely experience at the Sheraton Hotel of Addis Ababa.

Thankfully,

Elle

The Secret Life of A Peace Corps Volunteer…vol 4: The Adventures of Writing a Children’s Cloth Book

Dear World,

Today was a good day! I’ve been saying this more often lately ;-).  I participated in a children’s cloth book workshop taught by Anne Pellowski, a renowned storyteller and children’s book creator.

Image

My work space was a little messy but here is my product!

Image

“The Legend of the Singing Washing Women” By Marcelle Brown

Image

In a land far away there were women who sang and washed all day.

It was tradition that once you became of age you were given the honor of joining the long line of washing women.

Image

Zewdie grew up dreaming of exploring distant lands.

She did not think there was honor in washing clothes for the people in her village.

Image

Zewdie’s mother was very disappointed that she felt this way.

So she and the other women came together to sing their song to Zewdie.

Image

From dusk to dawn/ We gather together/ We gather together/ Around the river.

We work hard all day/ We love hard all day/ We stand strong all day/ Around the river.

Mothers, sisters, daughters/ work to keep our past alive/ work to build our future/ together around the river.

Image

Zewdie finally understood the honor the washing women held.

They helped connect their past to their future. These women were a symbol of strength.

The strength that helped create Zewdie’s dreams.

Image

THE END

I wanted to write a book that didn’t just empower girls in education but also in their own traditions.  I think it’s important to incorporate stories that help children learn English and that helps to preserve a piece of their own culture.

I hope you guys enjoy my new found storytelling skills as much as I did.  I am hoping that I will be able to hold a workshop at my school with my teachers so that we can create books in English and the native language.  This way I will have something to leave that will be able to continue once I am gone…that is the purpose of Peace Corps!

Amour,

Elle

The Secret Life of a Peace Corps…vol. 3: Recess is Over

Dear World!

It has been a slow and fast summer.  I cannot believe I have been to America and back already.  When I got back from America I had a nice long month vacation before things got serious!

I have recently returned from my week long Mid-Service Conference (MSC) in Addis with the Peace Corps.  If you are my friend on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram…you can see that it was, let’s say, eventful.  I’ve come back to my site with a renewed commitment and excitement to my service.  I was able to finally open a letter I wrote to myself during my Pre-Service Training (PST) last year.  The letter helped me to remember how open and ready I was for a new experience and I was excited all over again.  Almost, like I was here for the first time.

In my letter I wrote down 3 goals I had for myself:

1.  To help and not to hurt others;

2. To become a better person, and be open to new and different experiences;

3. Not to Early Terminate (ET)…basically DO NOT QUIT!

I am proud that I have stuck to my goals…especially the one about not quitting…but I know I have so much more to do!

So what are my goals for this year you ask?

1. Complete Model Teaching Program.

It is clear! Since it is so difficult to get teachers to training’s outside of school hours, my programs will now be completed during school hours.

2. Work at the language.

Since I live in a large town it is easy to get around with a mix of English and Amharic, but becoming fluent in the language will help me to integrate more outside of school…and I really want to know when someone is talking about me.  Yes, I’m inquisitive!

3. Not to Early Terminate (ET)…basically DO NOT QUIT!

It’s the same as it was last year.  This is to remind myself never to give up no matter how difficult it gets (and it gets difficult, especially with the holidays coming up), because as my dad once told me…”True failure only occurs when you quit!”

So, with a new year and new goals ahead and fears in the past I am going into this year way more prepared because I know what to expect and I am still excited because there is new territory to conquer!

Amour,

Elle

P.S. Below are pictures of one of the main streets and pictures of our new Peace Corps regional office in Mekele!!! So excited to spend some time with the wifi and do work of course.

IMG_1398IMG_1404IMG_1405

The Secret Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer…vol. 2: Top 10 Accomplishments

Dear World,

Being a Peace Corps Volunteer can be tough…it’s “the hardest job you’ll ever love!”  Things can move slowly and sometimes you feel like you’re not doing enough.  So when you do start to get things done and get people involved you get really (I mean really) excited and you want to share those experiences  with anyone you can think to share it with!  That is exactly what inspired me to write this blog entry.

MY TOP 10 PEACE CORPS ACCOMPLISHMENTS

1.  Found someone I can pay to wash my clothes! (Now this may not seem like a goal one sets for themselves in Peace Corps…oh but it is!  Washing machines are not readily available so I had the oh so wonderful task of hand washing every piece of clothing I brought with me…not an easy task.  Some PCV’s enjoy this time, however, I did not!  So my compound family found me a wonderful and trustworthy lady who makes my whites so unbelievable white!)

2.  Started an English Club for students at my primary school.  (Now this is exciting.  I have students who are interested in coming to this club meeting.  They come to my office and ask me often “when is English club this week?”  Not only do they ask me but they come…this is not an easy feat…but it makes me so proud.)

3.  Started an English Club for the teachers at my primary school.  (Even though I’ve only had one meeting, it was successful because teachers actually showed up.  It’s still a work in progress but i’m still positive.)

4. I have an office at my school.  (Getting an office at a school can be like pulling teeth, but I am so grateful to have a school that gave me a space where I can plan activities for my program and to set up my model classroom.)

5.  I found an awesome counter-part to work with! ( A counter-part is someone who is supposed to advocate for you and work with you to create programs at your school. Changing sites made it difficult to find a new counter-part and it was disappointing, but recently I found an English teacher at my school who is so enthusiastic.  PCV’s here will understand, it’s more than just words!)

6. I found someone to do my hair!  (Now you would think living on the continent of Africa I would find lots of people that could braid my hair, but just because it’s Africa does not make that true.  However, I finally found someone in my new town to do it and she is great!)

7.  I completed a 10k run.  (I didn’t even realize this was a goal until I completed it! I’m so happy to have done so and it has pushed me to do Insanity…I am currently on week 3!)

8.  Improved Amharic language skills.  ( Amharic is the national language of Ethiopia.  I am proud to say I can do more than order food with it!)

9. I feel like I’m doing something incredible.  (When you initially apply to join the Peace Corps you have an idea of what you might be doing, then you get here and realize you had no idea what you were talking about.  Then you learn that that’s OK and you become flexible with your expectations and you make way for something truly amazing…LIFE. It’s not always what you plan but it always works out! Recently I heard a quote by Joseph Campbell “We must let go of the life we planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”  I think that really explains the expectations you should have for your Peace Corps experience.)

10. I’ve met some of the best people in the world!  (Peace Corps Volunteers are the best people you will ever know!)

So these are just some of the things I have experienced 10 months into my Peace Corps life, and I think it’s only going to get better and hopefully this time next year I will have even more accomplishments to share!

Love,

Elle

Picture Update!!!

Dear World,

This is just a glimpse of what Ethiopia has been like so far!!!Image

Day of Swear-In with Sagure Crew

Image

Shaking hands with U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia (Donald E. Booth)

Image

With fellow Peace Corps Volunteers

Image

Peace Corps Ethiopia G7 Peace Corps Volunteers!!!

Image

Sagure Reunion at In-Service Training

Image

Photo Op courtesy of On-Soon (she is awesome!!!)

The following pictures are from our hiking trip to Lake Wenchi @ In-Service Training…

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Thanksgiving in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia…

Image

On the way to Thanksgiving Dinner @ the Hilton Hotel!!!

Image

Waiting for the Thanksgiving buffet to start….

Image

Thanksgiving Dinner…and it was delicious!!!

Image

Me and Alicia after dinner…yes we could still walk!

Image

So happy to spend the holiday with my Peace Corps friends!!!

Image

Getting ready to start the Great Ethiopian Race 10K

Image

YES!!! I completed the 10K…

Image

Victory is ours!!!

Image

Then we had pizza…

Image

Dinner with Jessi and Scott made in Mek’ele…i’m eating well now!

Image

YES…camels at the market in Mek’ele Ethiopia!!!

Image

Merry Christmas from Ethiopia!!!

Image

Hannah’s Fireball Dance on New Years Eve!!!

Image

She was awesome!!!

So that’s the update so far…I hope you enjoyed the pictures!!!

Amour,

Elle

P.S. I will be posting up pictures of my new home soon…