presently there are something like 30 of us PCVs in ethiopia working in the health sector.
the powers that be, those being local admin, our washington DC overlords, and the ethiopian government, insist that everything we do out here had better have something to do with curing HIV/AIDS. even the environment and education sectors have to prove that what they’re doing is solving the AIDS problem or they won’t get funding.
to the untrained eye, this might make a person think that ethiopia was on the cutting edge of health care.
i mean, even the most advanced health care providers from all over the world have thus far failed to stop HIV. so if HIV is ethiopia’s only problem, then they must be on par right?
why is it then, that when our beloved blonde brittany, brittany of the boru crew, is laid up in the hospital with gastritis, an affliction that makes it terribly painful to eat anything greasy, spicy, salty, sour, creamy, fermented, or otherwise interesting to the palette, they keep carting in meals loaded with palm oil and chili peppers?
this is not the attention to detail one would expect from a health care system that claims to be mustard in every respect other than that pesky AIDS thing (note: add mustard to the list of things brittany can’t eat).
this is the attention to detail one might expect from a health care system that answers the question “why wasn’t this case of measles reported to the CDC?” with girly giggles as nurses flee from the room. so i guess that explains it then.
our poor blonde brittany.
our poor blonde brittany from memphis, tennessee, home to arguably the best barbeque cooking in the solar system, can’t eat spicy, salty, greasy…
poor brittany writhing in pain from hospital food, of all things. reduced to a diet of digestive biscuits and water.
brittany who had just received a care package containing, of all things, cheetos. do you know that i have been in ethiopia for an entire year, and i haven’t thought of cheetos once? it must be my highly medicated state of confusion. trooper that she is, brittany tried to appreciate them. wouldn’t you? a year in ethiopia, with scant few sustenance options save for ethiopian food, and one day the mail delivers you a box with that shiny orange bag inside. that bag with the really cool cheetah on the front promising you the kind of x-treme deliciousness that can only come from styrofoam packing peanuts covered in day-glo orange safety paint?
i don’t know why they’re so damn good, but if the french can eat deep fried garden slugs, and people will pay thousands of dollars a pound for coffee beans that can only be obtained from the shit of a south american jungle cat, then why can’t we enjoy cheez flavored crispy sponge nuggets now and then?
i think the only good reason, sorry to say this brittany, is gastritis.
she wouldn’t make it much longer in a country where everything is greasy, spicy, salty, fermented…
she’s going home.
it’s a medical separation, and she can come back if things turn around in the next six weeks, but i won’t blame her if she doesn’t. mostly we’re all pretty fed up with ethiopia and it’s snail’s pace of self-destruction.
i think a lot of us have grown to love bits and pieces of this place, mostly as a survival mechanism.
how could we stay here if it was purely awful?
we desperately long for those little fun bits. trips to jimma, addis, bahir dar. places with fast internet, cold beverages, and dairy products.
and brittany, i think, had truly enjoyed her time here, but how much could she enjoy it when she would be surviving on little more than glucose brothers’ tea cookies?
sitting in brittany’s hospital room, helping her enjoy her cheetos before she went back to a country where the munchies flow like wine and she still won’t be able to eat them, got me a little nostalgic for the afternoons at the boru shai bet eating sambusa and peanut butter tea, and bitching about our day.
after the four of us left boru, i didn’t keep up with the crew too well. i think what bums me out most about brittany leaving is that, in these last months, i didn’t appreciate her as much as i should have. the boru crew was a tight little support group when we were out there, and now, a year later, i’m wondering what happened.
we got thrown to different parts of the country, different experiences, and schedules…
during PST it didn’t matter who was married, and who wasn’t; who was in a town like assela and who was in a town like boru; who was fresh out of college, and who was an old hand; who was learning what language, and who was better at it. for all intents and purposes we were all living the same lives.
a year ago i was pontificating on how life was changing everyday. new relationships, new experiences, new knowledge, new places and challenges.
the same holds true today. on the one hand, you might say life is changing for all of us, but i think a more accurate way to put it is that life is changing for each of us. and i think that’s starting to wear us down. without 68 sidekicks to bounce off of, the stability and routine is great, but the sameness and emptiness of the peace corps days is boring the pants off of us. meanwhile the novelty and challenges of the ethiopian days are just a pain in our pantsless asses most of the time.
but why should that be so?
were we not going to use all that great down time to read all those books we never got around to? to learn languages, and instruments, and hobbies? to work out until we were chiseled from stone? to study until the GREs and GMATs and MCATs were laughable? is that not still the plan?
what’s more, isn’t adventure the spice of life? yeah that spiciness is starting to give us a collective case of emotional gastritis, but let’s look at the bright side: i could sit in bedele waiting for a bus for the rest of my service, and at the end of it all, i still did peace corps ethiopia. for better or worse, i get the benefits of that. it’s time to forget how much this place can suck, and embrace it. because:
a) it could always be worse (always).
b) if nothing else, it makes for a good story.
surely at the rate life was changing we couldn’t expect to remain the happy-go-lucky atlanta 69ers forever, but, and maybe it’s just me, and maybe i’m really only feeling this because brittany’s leaving, but i think life in Ethiopia has broken our spirits, and our bonds just a tiny bit.
a year in, down in the G5 doldrums, i think what i’d like to do is forget about the struggle to love ethiopia, i think what i’d like to do is to appreciate the people who make it bearable, appreciate the silliness of it all, and try my best to live with that bright eyed optimism that we all arrived with, that eager invincibility that we all fueled in each other.
i think what i need to do, is make this more of an adventure.
peace corps ethiopia?
let’s parking lot that.
the great adventure that is life, peace corps ethiopia chapter?
i think i’ll take that for a spin.
but before i do, what i’d really like to do is say that you will be missed, brittany, by the boru crew, and all the rest. of course we hope you’ll return, but should you stay away, enjoy the land of cheetos and freedom fries.
we’ll see you again, soon enough.
best of luck on your new adventure.
brittany looks optimistically into the distance…
there was once a time when we were this excited about the transportation in ethiopia.
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stay tuned for our next episode:
reading assignment: tracks : robyn davidson
one woman’s solo journey across the unforgiving western australian outback with no one but her dog and a herd of camels. don’t ask why i specifically sought out this book, or why i need more in depth maps. just enjoy her hilarious and poignant trek.