Awkward Silence

Week 1 in Deneba- 9/27/14

My Peace Corps Service is off to a wonderful start in the rural town of Deneba. Due to my shy nature, some things this past week have been a bit challenging for me as far as integration. It is difficult to explain that I’m not a big talker even in English, let alone in a language I don’t know well enough to carry on a conversation. However, slowly friends and colleagues have grown comfortable enough to speak to me in English. As intimidated as I am trying to use Amharic, they are equally intimidated to speak to a native English speaker in English. Communication hasn’t been as big of a barrier as I expected. Most of my colleagues as well as most community members I have met, can speak English well enough to communicate with me easily. Still there are many silences and awkward moments.

My first week was spent hanging around my school, getting to know teachers, watching them play checkers, and practicing my Amharic. Since school had not yet begun, teachers simply gathered to have meetings and allow students time to come in and register. I was invited to a funeral ceremony for a colleague’s mother. I was pleased to be included, as most every teacher from my school was in attendance enjoying kolo (roasted barley, nuts, chickpeas) and buna (coffee). I also had the pleasure of attending the Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony for Meskal (Finding of the True Cross on 9/27). This holiday has been celebrated in Ethiopia for over 1600 years. They celebrate by building a large bonfire the night before Meskal, priests bless the bonfire, and then at dusk, the fire is lit beginning the celebration. This holiday commemorates the discovery of the cross by the Empress Helena (Ileni), upon which Jesus was crucified. My town of Deneba consists of 98% Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, 1% Protestant, and 1% Muslim.

The celebration was a great way for me to be seen in my community and gain respect for participating in community events. I soon drew a crowd of children who would pass by, see me, almost fall over from shock, and then go get their friends to see the foriengi. It is impossible for me to go unnoticed in my town.

Until next time…peace!

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