Training is halfway over, and fortunately, I think I have successfully passed through what can only been described as midterm slump. It is almost amusing to see all the stereotypical stressors explained in the Peace Corps literature spring to reality in my daily life: the tedium of the training routine; the lack of control over my schedule; the regression back to a world of classrooms and curfews,and the yearning for all the freedoms of adulthood that I formerly enjoyed; the constant annoyance of children in the streets yelling,"Youyouyou!" and, "Moneymoneymoney!"; the feeling of isolation from family and friends and a former life; the frustration of language barriers; and the need to be socially and culturally "on" at all times. It all seemed to come to a head this past week for some reason– it's just that time, I suppose – but I suspect that a free weekend and a fairly relaxed week to come will do wonders.
The family continues to be wonderful, and we are growing closer everyday. I also find myself growing closer to the group of friends I have made within our training class, and as the weeks remaining in Welisso begin to dissolve, I realize how much I will miss having their company and support immediately at hand. The pre-service training process isa rather strange experience. You are taken to a foreign country with forty-some obviously somewhat like-minded people, placed together in a small community where you share common experiences and undergo common trials, given time to grow accustomed to relying on each other for support and encouragement, and then distributed individually all across the country for the next two years. It is a bizarre thing we are doing, you can't help but think sometimes.
Meanwhile, though, life in Welisso has settled into a comfortable routine. Days are spent in trying to survive hours upon hours inside the classroom. Nights are spent with the family. Saturday afternoons are spent hanging out with my little brother, playing or watching soccer. Sundays are spent with my girls. Free time distributed sporadically throughout the week is filled with errands and small housekeeping tasks, reading, writing, visiting the Internet café to check in on things at home, watching movies in groups of volunteers, and exploring Welisso. I have even started back up with my morning distance runs, with some of the other volunteers. As we run through the streets in the early morning, the few people out and about cheer us on, either in Amharic or in broken English phrases. My favorites so far have been, "Yes. Proud. Continue," and one morning, "No worry!You be happy-fat!" Many aspects of life in Welisso that initially seemed outlandish have become simply mundane: walking to class alongside cattle, donkeys, and goats; eating hot pepper first thing in the morning in my breakfast; relieving myself in basically a sheltered hole in the back yard… All have become part of our acculturation.
This second half of training will surely pass more quickly than the first. In the coming weeks, we will finally learn the answers to the questions that have dominated our thoughts: Where will I be for the next two years? What will I be doing? What will be my living conditions? Will I be near the people to whom I've grown the closest? Things are beginning to get more real for us. Some of our infinite list of "what ifs" are on the verge of becoming "what nows". I am excited to move on to the next step of this adventure, but it will also be difficult to leave this place and these people with which I have grown so very comfortable.