Defining Ethiopia

Each day I choose what “Ethiopia” will mean to me: a fuming curse, a relieving exhale, or an unwinding question.  This country isn’t the most endearing of places.  There’s no rich, colored, patterned dress here, no particularly innovative or world-altering ideology, not even something sweet to chase the spicy, tough staple foods that top a plate of fermented injera pancake.  I joined the Peace Corps to escape having life happen to me, but in this grueling and rocky country, I possess less agency than I do at home.  The cloudy mountains beyond town aren’t as enchanting after receiving multiple “China!”s, “hey sexy”s, and “where are you go”s, just on the way to get a cup of coffee.  The plight of merely being woman here, I feel, has robbed some of my softness. But then I reflect on what I have learned in Ethiopia: how to be truly gracious–gracious to others, gracious to myself.  In just two months, I feel as if I alone have experienced all that is right–and wrong–with the world.  And still, there is no resolution yet, just resistance resilience.

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