When you wish for sector-specific work, it comes all at once. It’s like the saying, “When it rains, it pours,” except the rain is more like a hurricane.
It’s refreshing (keeping with the hurricane metaphor, are those ever refreshing?), tinish overwhelming, and did I say really awesome? Because it is.
For someone who thrives on planning, on mapping out an A-F itinerary for foreseeable situations, discovering work when there is no intent to find work feels…different.
Let’s break down different.
In the most bizarre way, finding work when you’re not seeking it feels freeing. It feels freeing because genuine excitement, fresh perspective explodes in the moment. We’re talking about clapping your hands, jumping out and shouting, “YES! Let’s do it tomorrow!” genuine explosive excitement. That’s the emotion that fuels you to pound through writing objectives, breaking down goals.
Before leaving site for a two-week training back in November, a man carrying a 3×3 green picture book approached me at the bus station. Standing to my left, he walked up and said, “I believe you are a Peace Corps Volunteer.”
Hi, yes, I don’t know if it was your perfect English or your beautiful statement that caught my attention first. I am indeed a PCV, what’s up and how can I help?
Turns out this guy, Israel, used to be a counterpart for education PCVs when he lived in Bonga. (Whereas Gurage Zone is in the northeast corner of SNNPR, Bonga is in Keffa Zone, way west in SNNPR. It borders the Gambella region of the country, its nearest international neighbors are the Sudans.) He moved back this way to jumpstart a preschool-focused NGO and we’ve been working together for about a month. A few photos of the model classroom he’s designed at the primary school pepper this post.
When not bouncing between the health office, health center and women’s affairs office trying to coordinate meetings to talk about starting trainings (red tape is a universal construct, except here we use a purple stamp to seal approval), or having impromptu English lessons inside the compound or having English club-turned youth development club meetings (the highlight of my week every week), Israel asks me to work with him at his reading programs, where he teaches preschool-age kids letters, basic vocabulary and English nursery rhymes to train their ears to a new language at a young age. (Those kids rock at “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and go to town with “Old McMickey,” in case you wondered.)
The last week and a half, we haven’t had any joint reading-program meetings, and I haven’t been by the primary school to help Israel with the preschool. I’ve been doing WaSH (water and sanitation, hygiene) trainings for HEWs (health extension workers) in the woreda and helping finalize a gardening training with the health center to kick off a nutrition campaign. The projects are incredible, don’t get me wrong (and do forgive the bias), but I hate feeling like I’ve bailed on someone who gets Peace Corps and was really eager to work together.
In the only time where I’ve embraced the Ethiopian fashion of visiting someone unannounced, I stopped by his place last Sunday afternoon, compliments of the WaSH training not extending past noon. Before I even stepped through the gate, I just popped out apology after apology. This guy gave me a flash drive packed with energizers, lesson plans, activities to do with youth, helped me find someone to start a gender club with AND sealed a meeting place, and I’ve just tefashed around, like that typical American jerk only concerned about work.
He laughed and pulled me into his house, where I discovered he had another friend who stopped by to visit, too. In small-world, small-site news, this guy lives on my compound. He just moved to town. We didn’t meet him on my compound, which would make sense, we meet in another guy’s house on the other side of town. The new compound neighbor works in water sanitation, and when Israel said I came from a WaSH training, this guy said, “We will work together with the schools!”
Look at that exclamation point! I swear, it’s the small things – like a stranger’s candid expression – that make each day worth it.