This is the face of a girl who went running for the first time at site. Before moving here, I intended to run every morning. Well, in two days, I’ll have lived here for a month. Cay (that’s my Ethiopian name cause Caylene transforms to Kelly for some reason), what happened to the other 30 days? Allow me to share with you the reasons I allowed to convince me to stay in, which is everything I’m against.
Integration. In Peace Corps, integration is sacred. We are told from the start to integrate into the community in order to be safe, to be successful, bla bla bla. And I 100-percent agree, although, integration is a broad term and a ferenji (foreigner) such as myself will never be able to fully integrate, at least not at this time in Ethiopia. I hardly know the language, I don’t believe that Igziabiher yimmasgan (God will provide), I like my coffee in a mug, not a tiny shot glass, and I’m a strong-willed, capable female who’s not afraid to confront a man if the situation was warranted. Nonetheless, I have integration in my head. I want me some friends. Don’t think I could go two years without its benefits. But I also don’t think I can go two years if I fully integrate, and I don’t think that’s the point. If it was, I’d get married, have adorable Habasha children, and do what the man says. I guess what I’m getting at is that for Peace Corps’ role, gaining status in the community is important. But, several social norms of the community are deficient, which is why Peace Corps exists in Ethiopia. So, it’s on me to compromise. Back to running. I’ve never seen one person run in Bensa, unless it’s chasing a donkey or something. So, for the sake of integration, I’ve declined to run these last 30 days. I realize now that’s wrong. If I compromise what’s really important to me, I’m doing myself a disservice and Ethiopia as well. People got to see me run this morning, intentionally engaging in a healthy activity. That’s really why I’m here. Maybe they thought I was crazy. Maybe they thought I was running from someone. They probably thought I was running from someone. But, maybe they thought I enjoy running and hopefully soon, people will ask why!
Attention. Holy shit ferenji get a lot of attention in Ethiopia. I feel like Peace Corpsees who have a hard time readjusting to life back in the States are really going through withdrawal from all the attention they acclimated to while living abroad. It’s not a bad thing, all the attention I get; it’s just unfamiliar. But it is pretty annoying unless I intentionally take a humorous stand. Compared to other places I’ve visited, my town directs minimum attention my way. I’m lucky. But random things still happen. Sometimes people, usually kids, yell, “Ferenji” or, “You” or my personal favorite, “My sista!” Yesterday a younger girl touched my face. At first, I was like WTF?! Then bad visions of where her hands were happened. Then I laughed. I probably experienced the 5 stages of grief when I realized that there have been people for me who I just really wanted to touch and then never wash my hand, like Will Smith. I kind of feel bad that I’m that girl’s Will Smith. But back to running. Sometimes it takes a strong mindset to even get out of the house in anticipation for the inevitable attention. So going out of the house to engage in an activity that nobody else does, that’s a whole other ball field. But, you know, I’m already the weird person in town for no reason besides my skin color and funny accent. They are going to think I’m weird regardless so, I might as well give them a reason and do the things I like. And who knows, maybe going for a jog won’t be such a weird thing one day!
There are other reasons I could get into, like I’m lazy, or I’d rather sleep, or showering is scarce so I’ll smell bad for the rest of the day, etcetera but this post is already getting long and I hate reading long blogs. There’s just one thing I’ll leave you with… compromise is an important part of life whether you’re in the States, Ethiopia, or anywhere else. It’s unhealthy to go one direction in extreme and obviously quite dissonant. Do yourself a favor and challenge yourself to experience a new lifestyle but don’t cease all activities or practices that compose who you are! Today, I went running but I also went to coffee with the coolest ladies in Bensa Daye, Tigist and Mimi, who don’t speak English and I usually have no idea what they’re saying. Go somewhere. Challenge yourself.
(My road at 6:00 am ferenji time)