Saturday, July 19, 2014

Addis Ababa and a Homestay in Butajira

Here we are, in Peace Corps training in Ethiopia! The first 10 days were spent at a King's Hotel in the capital, Addis Ababa. We had trainings every day we were there, including Saturday. On Sunday, we had a mandatory visit to a museum and a market for half the day and then had the rest of the day off. One half day off in 10 days. Welcome to pre-service training! :) “We own you,” our smiling country director said on our first day in country. Never were truer words spoken.

During our time in Addis, we learned about Peace Corps policies, basic TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) strategies, the things that are going to make us sick and how to prevent that from happening, basic training in the main local language (Amharic), and safety and security. We did a lot of group work, listened to a lot of lectures with power point presentations and were given a break every couple of hours for shy-buna (tea/coffee break) or lunch. We also got a bunch of vaccinations and started taking malaria medication.

training room at King's Hotel
We didn't have a lot of free time in Addis, but we did get to go out for dinner on our own most days and had our guided sight seeing day on Sunday. At the museum we went to on Sunday, we got to see Lucy's bones from over three million years ago, as well as some local art and cultural clothing and tools.

The hotel was nice and I loved having a hot shower every night but we're learning so much more about Ethiopia by actually living with an Ethiopia family in our home stay. We moved in with our host family a week ago today in Butajira (3 hours south of Addis Ababa). I was a bit worried about living with strangers but already, just a week in, I feel like family. Ethiopians are some of the most hospitable, kind, and giving people in the world. I feel so lucky to have landed here.

our road and our compound doors on the left
Our host mom, Etagu, and host dad, Tadesse, are both so wonderful. They are taking such good care of us! Ethiopian food is so good and I'm never hungry. Etagu is always encouraging us to eat more; it's the Ethiopian way to show you care. I've been able to help with some cooking but am not allowed to clean anything but our room. Today, Etagu is going to teach us how to hand wash our laundry.

We have training six days a week, 8-5:30 Monday through Friday and 8-12:30 on Saturday. The days are full and we're learning a lot. I'm really enjoying learning Amharic and can now great people using multiple sayings at any time of the day. Greetings are a huge part of the culture here! 

Before we left for the airport in DC, our staging coordinator told us to fall in love with Ethiopia as fast as we can. I thought it would be hard to love, but I was wrong. I love it here already.     

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Staging in Washington DC

Getting ready for the Peace Corps entails an official stop for Staging. Staging is when we got to meet our fellow volunteers in our group for the first time, which was nerve-racking and fun simultaneously. We also got additional information about what we would be doing our first few days in Ethiopia and all the logistical details about actually getting to Ethiopia.

Our staging was held in Washington DC and it was cool to be able to explore the capital a bit. We went to the White House the night we arrived, just in time for the beautiful evening light.

The next day we started at the Capitol building and made our way down to the Lincoln Memorial, stopping at a couple Smithsonian museums, the Washington Monument, and the Vietnam Memorial. Most of the most popular sights are in the same area, which made it really easy to see a lot of stuff in a short time. It was June, so it was hot and humid, but it was worth it to see all the iconic buildings and monuments I've heard so much about throughout my life. I felt so American!!

Julia Child's kitchen
Lincoln's hat

Next stop: Ethiopia!!!

California 2014

It was so great to see so many amazing people in our short three weeks in California. We stayed in Modesto with my family and Santa Clara with Spencer's family. We went floating down the Stanislaus River and saw a Giant's game in San Francisco. We got to hug so many loved ones and ate so much yummy food. Also, we shopped a LOT for all our Peace Corps supplies. It was amazing. Thank you for all the good times everyone! We love you and miss you already.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

Unfortunately, we couldn't do much traveling around Australia because we needed to save up for the Peace Corps. However, there was one place we absolutely knew we had to see before we left and that was the Great Barrier Reef.

We made stayed three nights in Cairns at Traveller's Oasis hostel, which was a great budget place to stay. The first day we walked around Cairns. It didn't take long since Cairns is pretty small but it's a nice little tourist town. The next day we did what we really came to do, see the reef!! We went out to two spots on the reef with Sea Star Cruises.

The reef doesn't look as vibrant as it does on TV/Finding Nemo in real life. When they film it for TV, they bring in big underwater lights to make everything pop. In real life, our eyes can't process colors underwater like that. Not saying it wasn't great, because it was EPIC. Those drop offs that look like nothing in the photos are incredible to see for real-sies. Trust me on this. Also, some of the fish were so big....but in the pictures, they look small. It's really one of those things you have to experience for yourself. It was beautiful. It's like a whole other world under the water!

Our last day in Queensland, we went up to Karunda to see a waterfall and walk through the rain forest. Like Cairns, it's a nice little tourist town. The waterfall was just a trickle because it was the dry season.

Cairns was well worth the short trip and even though it was a bit of a stretch for us financially, I'm so glad we got to see the Great Barrier Reef!!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Vivid Sydney

Sydney is super awesome because there are all kinds of fun free things to do around the city throughout the year. One of the coolest public events is Vivid Sydney, an amazing light show to brighten up those short winter days. I was really looking forward to this one and it did not disappoint. Enough talk, let's see the photos!


Even though we only took pictures of the Opera House and the museum, there were so many other cool things to see. Sorry folks, but we were enjoying it too much to take photos! :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Luna Park Anniversary Celebration

A couple weeks ago Spencer and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary (yay!) at Luna Park. Luna Park is a fun little, carnival-like amusement park located on the water right next to the Harbour Bridge. I didn't really know what it was going to be like and therefore had little expectations, which always makes for the best of days, doesn't it? First, Spencer and I went out to eat lunch at a fancy restaurant in the Rocks. We didn't take any pictures of it because it was so good and we enjoyed it so much! :) We took a quick photo with the Opera House and then we walked across the bridge to get to the Park.

hand rail from the stairs descending into North Sydney

Luna Park is geared more towards kids but was super fun for us big kids, as well. It's a bit pricey so we opted to buy the two ride pass along with entrance to Coney Island. For our two rides we chose the ferris wheel and the Wild Mouse roller coaster. My favorite parts about Coney Island were the slides and the pin ball. I don't think I've ever played so much pin ball! :)

We made sure to stay until dark so we could see the park all lit up in all it's glory. Right before dark they do a free raffle for any guest who wants to enter and then one lucky person gets to turn on all the lights. There's a lot of hoopla and fanfare. It's very fun!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Royal National Park

We recently had a couple long weekends due to Easter and Anzac Day (like Veterans Day in the States). It was nice to get a little break from work and one day we took a day trip down to Royal National Park. To get there we took a bus, a train, and a ferry. It was cloudy and drizzly the whole day but even so, it was worth it. Take a look...

Since the weather was not great, we were some of the few people out enjoying the park. Climbing over the rocky shore, it felt like we were all alone in uncharted territory. When we finally climbed up the cliff to try and find the real trail, we found this beautiful grassy area that looked like it came straight out of a Disney movie.

Then we saw a pod of dolphins riding the waves and leaping out of the water. It was incredible!! We were so happy to see them. What a treat! We took a little video of them.


Finally, on the way back to the ferry at the end of the day, we were right in the middle of a chorus of laughing kookaburras. Here's a video of one laughing, if you'd like to see. Now, imagine that multiplied by about 10 to get what we heard. It was very cool.

A big thanks to this guy for planning the whole day. You're the best, Spence!