26 April 2008

Sometimes, in the unremitting drone of a hardnosed city and the monotonous progression of various offices, meetings, and workshops, I am prone to forget the power and overwhelming beauty of this place, the thrill of the adventure I am undertaking. Sitting here now – surrounded by gelada baboons feeding on mountain grasses at 3800 meters elevation and overlooking rugged crags soaring high into a flawless blue sky, plunging into seemingly unfathomable depths below, and stretching into the hazy distance as far as can be seen – is a compelling reminder.

As a post-IST/pre-site-return refresher, seven of us arranged a five-day trek through the Simien Mountains north of Gondar. Hiking seven to eight hours each day, camping overnight at three different sites, and attaining as high as 4430 meters elevation, we have wandered our way through the western side of the national park. We have encountered breathtaking vistas, truly unique native beauty, and an astonishing diversity of natural environments. We are led on our way by a rifle-wielding Ethiopian scout named Asmiro, a weathered Ethiopian man with a beautiful grin and a wonderful sense of humor. He speaks approximately six words of English: "Good scout! No problem!" and, in answer to our inquiries about the direction of our journey, "Up up up!" and "Down down down!" Fortunately, "up" and "down" are really the only words necessary to describe our path, as Ethiopian trailmakers seem to have largely eschewed the use of switchbacks. Why waste time winding gradually along the mountain ridges when you can just tackle straight lines up and down their faces? The hiking has been challenging, but we all feel a great sense of accomplishment in finally reaching camp each evening. Time at camp is also rewarding, as we spend nights around the campfire, talking with each other and sharing meals and sometimes music with the local scouts and park wardens.

This trip has been more than just a fun diversion and a change of scenery. In this vacation from official Peace Corps duties, we have encountered many of the elements that attracted us to this program in the first place: the lure of exotic places, the thrill of fresh experiences, the prospect of expanding our views of the global community, the joy of forming rich human connections, the chance to meet and overcome great challenges and grow stronger and wiser in the process. These were the reasons that caused us to choose Peace Corps over other similar volunteering or public health and community development opportunities. And as we return to our sites and proceed with our efforts to strengthen and improve our respective communities, we are sustained and encouraged by the reminder of how richly we ourselves are benefited from our service.

1 comment:

moniCa said...

Hi Christen,

i am a pcv in south africa, about to finish in july. im then flying to kenya to travel in east africa for three months. im thinking to go straight to ethiopia for a month, which would be about 15 july- 15 august. i would like very much to get in touch with pcvs in the country and try to visit as many as possible. i would also like to hear from some of them about travel recommendations and tips.

my idea is to have my message and contact info forwarded to the whole pcv group, then people can get in touch with me if they are interested in hosting. please get in touch if you can help: monica817@msn.com. thanks!!