As a Peace Corps Volunteer I’m always keeping my eyes peeled for ways to teach the people around me. After all, it’s the easiest way to do my job. Occasionally these teaching moments are really obvious and more often than not they involve humor. My Ethiopian friends, students and neighbors also teach tons. Actually, they teach me way more than I teach them.
Last week my 12th grade class did a unit on creativity. I was very excited about the lessons because creativity is not really celebrated in Ethiopia and I was looking forward to seeing how the students reacted. The last thing I had planned was a collage project. I gave each student two magazines and encouraged them to “create something beautiful.” I set out scissors and glue sticks and walked around, asking each student about their projects. It didn’t take long for me to realize I needed to teach the class how to use a glue stick. I showed them how to roll it up a little at a time and one of my favorite students looked at me and said in awe, “oh my God.” I laughed out loud. I couldn’t help myself.
As students were finishing up I had each one explain their collage. One student had filled half of his page with things that made him happy and the other half with things that were scary. On the “scary” side there was a picture of a man jogging on the beach at sunset with a dog at his side. I asked him why that picture was scary and he looked at me like I was crazy. Oh. He thought the dog was chasing the man, not exercising with him. Just because we’re looking at the same picture doesn’t mean we’re thinking the same thing. In this instance I contained my laughter.
A few weeks ago Sinite, my neighbor and close friend, taught me another important lesson. I had just rolled out of bed and opened my kitchen drawer for coffee. I saw a flash of grey and immediately slammed it shut. Still sleepy-eyed and coffee-deprived, I grabbed a can of bug spray. Bug spray kills rats too, right? Sinite happened to walk past my window as I was standing in front of the counter contemplating my next step. She knocked on my door and asked what I was doing. After explaining that there was a rat in the drawer she took the spray, waved me away and got the broom. She then expertly demonstrated the best way to find and kill a rat while I stood on a chair and cheered her on. I’m sure the whole town of Atsbi knows I tried to kill a rat with bug spray, but at least now I know that a broom is the preferred Habasha method.
Just a few days ago I was coming back to Atsbi after a trip to town. I had a few books that I had borrowed from a friend to use at the primary school. The scenario was pretty normal. I had to fight for a spot on the bus, but a man who liked my skin color saved me a seat and then proceeded to invade my personal space. This particular “friend” poked a zit on my face and asked what it was. I pushed his hand away and put in my headphones. As I scrolled through my music he leaned over to examine what was on my iphone. This usually bugs me but that day I had books! No one in Ethiopia has good books! I got out a Dr. Seuss book and we read it together. Then we moved on to one about a lion with no rain boots. Next was a story about forest animals being messy. That bus ride was one of the best I’ve had in Ethiopia and I think both me and the man learned something.
Besides all this teaching and learning, work is good and Atsbi is great. I’ve finally found work that I love and think is worthwhile. And….I’m coming home for Christmas! A year into my service and this job is still awesome.
Thanks for reading!