Life updates and such…

10th October 2016

An embarrassingly long amount of time has passed since I’ve written anything here. There goes my claim that I will write regularly. My apologies.

In the months that I’ve been gone I’ve journeyed through quite a bit of adventures:

I started a new job
My fiancé arrived in America from Ethiopia
We got married
I changed my last name
Seasons changed and Fall arrived
Hubby started classes
Sent in the Green Card application
I celebrated living through another 365 days
I gained health insurance
We took a trip through the Columbia River Gorge
The husband got his first peak at real snow
& took a stroll on the beach and experienced the ocean and all its saltiness for the first time

Here’s hoping the next months will be filled with just as much excitement… and MUCH more writing.


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Ethiopian Inspired Decor

14th July 2016

Most people think I lived in a mud hut in the middle of a field when they hear I lived in Ethiopia. This is definitely an incorrect image. I lived in a cement room, in a busy compound, with lots and lots of other people. And animals. Yup. Perhaps my favorite part about this living situation is I had the house all to my self and could decorate it however I pleased. The only problem with this is that my Peace Corps budget didn’t exactly allow my imagination to run wild. But with what I was given I did come up with a pretty fine “Peace Corps Cribs” worthy home! And I know this because every time Peace Corps staff visited my house they told me how lovely it was… mhmmm. Here is a picture of a really tan me in my cozy Peace Corps Ethiopia House.Peace Corps Ethiopia House

Some days I miss my concrete room. Most days I don’t. Because, you know, it sucks not having a toilet. But some days…

Now that I am back in the states and I have my own place I get to play interior decorate all over again! My imagination still isn’t running wild, as Peace Corps got the last laugh and I’m using my PC Readjustment Allowance to furnish the place, but come on, INDOOR PLUMBING!

I have to chuckle a bit. While I was in Ethiopia I was all about the finding the modern housewares to make my life more comfortable (notice the US imported bedding? Ha!). And now that I am back stateside I hunt viciously for Ethiopian inspired accents! I’m now wishing I would have left all my clothes back in the motherland of coffee and just took home two suitcases full of handmade Ethiopian decor.

Peace Corps volunteers hold a lot of pride for their host country when they return. One way the bulk of us hold on to our memories is by incorporating cultural elements into our lives – either by continuing to cook the local cuisine, speaking the language, or showing off our collectibles from service.

I’m lucky that Portland has a pretty strong Ethiopian and Eritrean scene. Plenty of Ethiopian restaurants and markets are just a short bike ride away for me. In my current line of work I come across Ethiopian students daily and get to amaze them with my now broken Amharic skills. I am so thankful I can continue to have access to this amazing culture.

A huge way I’ve held onto this culture is by incorporating Ethiopian elements into my new, shiny studio. My main reasoning behind bringing Ethiopian decor into my home is to help make my Ethiopian fiance feel at home. However, even if he wasn’t coming I would still bring these beauties home. One thing Ethiopia does right is create beautiful art. The jewelry is to die for, their fabrics are made with pride, and Ethiopian food… ooooh man.

Here’s a sneak peak into my home and how I chose to infuse it with Ethiopian culture. Some of these items were gifts from my loved ones back in my second home. Some were purchased with money saved from my Peace Corps stipend by inviting myself to everyone’s house for meals (when in Rome…). And a few items are actually American bought but gave me tingly Ethio feelings.

Ethiopian Art

Hand crafted painting bought in Addis Ababa. The background is a woven disk used to toss and sort grains. The images are painted on leather.

Ethiopian Jewlery

“Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collections complete?” No, it’s not. Here lies a sample of the jewelry I collected over my two years in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian cross, “Meskel”, was the first piece to start off my collection. It was a gift from another Peace Corps Volunteer just days after my arrival in country during a tour of Aksum, where the Ark of the covenant is rumored to rest.

Ethiopian Kolo

Kolo. De·li·cious. Kolo is an Ethiopian snack mixture of dried barely, and often peanuts. It’s eaten by the handful during coffee ceremonies, bus rides, and when the power goes out and it’s too dark to cook. Shake anything Ethiopian kid and you can bet kolo will fall out of his pocket.

Woven Blanket

This is my version of “Ethiopian Inspired”. No, this blanket is not from Ethiopia, it’s actually a Mexican woven throw purchased in my home of Oregon. However, the colors of this throw replicate the colors of Oromia, the region of Ethiopia in which I lived. And the tassels definitely share some Ethiopian flare.

Ethiopian Flowers

Plastic flowers. Oh yes, I went there. Ethiopia actually grows a beautiful array of flowers. However, these are often used as exports. Real flowers are quite expensive so Ethiopians tend to opt for these lovelies. These were the first gift my soon-to-be husband gave me. Shortly before I made a visit home for Christmas my first year of service we started dating. When I returned he met in a crowded bus station with these flowers. They will never leave my home.

Ethiopian inspired baskets

I’m pretty woven baskets adorn every Ethiopian household, as they should. Woven Ethiopian baskets are vibrantly colorful and beautiful. These baskets are from Target! SHHH! I painfully regretted not bringing home any baskets (they take up a lot of space!) so when I saw these at everyone’s favorite retailer I had to jump on them.

Ethiopian Woodwork

This cute little puzzle came from an artisan fair in Addis Ababa. I fell in love with this piece the moment I saw it. It hold three of my favorite scenes in Ethiopia – the big, beautiful, flat top tress that can spread their branches for miles (it seems like), the traditional round mud and straw house, the “Gojo Bet”, and Ethiopian chickens, Doros! The pieces are so thin and delicate that I would never recommend putting this into the hands of a child! But it makes a great coffee table piece.

Ethiopian Coffee Story

I brought up a “coffee table book” printed on hand made paper that depicts the origin of the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. The coffee ceremony is one of the richest and most lived parts of Ethiopian culture. I would be mortified if I told the story wrong so this little guy has been handy.

Ethiopian Berbere

Berbere – the mother of all Ethiopian spices! Berbere is a wonderful spice blend typically containing hili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, korarima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek. The chili peppers stand out the most – giving this spice a deep red color and powerful punch of hotness. Most Ethiopian foods and infused with this rich spice. I brought some berbere home with me but have been fortunate it find it for a reasonable price in Ethiopian markets around Portland.

Ethiopian candle holders

Another artisan fair find! I am lucky to own a set of these beautiful hand painted candle holders made from clay. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to burn a candle in this beauty though – I’d be heartbroken if the paint ever peeled away!

Ethiopian Bookmarks

Hand painted, leather Ethiopian bookmarks. The man depicts an Ethiopian soldier and the woman wears the traditional Ethiopian dress and carries a water jug. These bookmarks are so simple, yet incredibly beautiful.


Ethiopian Coffee

Any day of the week I’d pick hand roasted, hand ground Ethio coffee over store bought… but if I had to go that route I’d purchase this. Tomoca has local cafes in the capital but they go above and beyond that Starbucks expectation of coffee chains (I wouldn’t even call Tomoca a chain). Tomoca has a rich flavor that reflects the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. If you’re looking for an Ethiopian coffee that is exported I would only recommend Tomoca! I brought bags and bags and bags back from Ethiopia but you can find it on Amazon for a pretty penny.

Ethiopian Netelas

The Netela is a handwoven oversized scarf Ethiopian women wear on a daily basis and to ceremonies. The scarf is used to cover the hair and shoulders. These are various Netelas and scarves that were given to me throughout my stay in Ethiopia. In my opinion, it’s one of the most heartfelt gifts that can be given to a woman in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Jebena

Jebena. A Jebena is how coffee is boiled in Ethiopia. It’s delicious. This one was gifted to me by my future sister-in-law just days before we said our goodbyes. I’ll never be able to make coffee as good as her but at least I can do it in style now.

If you were in the Peace Corps, military, lived abroad, or desire to one day travel let me know know how you brought another culture into your house! Write me a story. Send pics. Link me to your blog. 

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Five Reasons Not to Join the Peace Corps

30th June 2016

Like most things in life – Peace Corps is bitter sweet.

You’re away from your friends and family for 27 months… so you have to put all this effort into making new friends and family that will probably stick around for many years to come.Family

As Peace Corps Volunteers you will band together to create a powerful force. You will love each other and hate each other and be able to laugh things off at the end of the day that normal people would think you’re crazy for (because as PCVS, you’re definitely not normal). Your host family, even though you don’t speak the same language, just yet, will know you’re thousands of miles apart from your own mother and father and that you need love and guidance, just as their own children do. You’ll befriend the kid who delivers water, and the bus station kids who will protect you with their lives, and the baby who is mesmerized by your foreign glasses. These people will become your life, and I guarantee you you will think of them long after you have left.

You won’t change the world… you’ll just impact your small community in a thousand tiny ways.Changes

Whether people admit it or not, most join the Peace Corps because they feel they are changing the world in some way. The world is a big place to start with making a change. “The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water.” In Peace Corps you’re placed into, most likely, a small, remote area. For you, your world will start there. Your world will be your host mom who only knows a life within the walls of her compound, the grandmother who sells you tomatoes on Wednesday, and the student who has never once had the courage to speak up in a room overflowing with 80 students. This is where your change begins.

Nothing will ever make sense and you’ll be in a constant state of confusion… you’ll learn to embrace living in the unplanned moments.

 Anyone who has ever done Peace Corps will probably tell you structure goes out the window as soon as you get on that plane. You’ll live in a country where things just happen. Everything will be new to you and most of it will probably not make a lick of sense, ever. It’s not important to understand why the entire office closed down in the middle of the work day to go to coffee – you just do it. Or why you had to switch buses 3 times and drive around the entire town twice before your actually start your journey – it happened, go with it. You’ll encounter rituals you think are crazy. And sometimes you’ll be beyond frustrated that you can’t find the meaning in something that is forced upon you. But you learn to adapt and move with the culture and appreciate that life just happens… and that’s more beautiful than planning it.

This will be the loneliest experience of your life … but you’ll get to know yourself better than ever before.Alone

Aside from all the amazing people you’ll meet, at the end of the day it will still just be you, sitting alone in your mud room, most likely with no electricity. You’ll have an endless amount of time to reflect on the moments that have happened, the way you’ve reacted, your downfalls, and your risings. Without the distractions of social media and pop culture telling you what to care about and how to dress you’ll find a whole new set of values and you’ll begin to question why you cared so much about the things you cared about. You’ll change as a person, and in some ways you’ll also stay the same. You’ll probably get a little lost along the way, that’s okay. But in the end you’ll see yourself in a whole new light.

Failure will 100% occur, over and over again… and you’ll have countless opportunities to begin again.Fail

You will fail at language tests. And you will fail in your projects. You will fail at following some sort of ridiculous Peace Corps rule. You will fail at keeping in touch. You will definitely fail at not being labeled “The American”. And through all these failures you’ll learn to turn your biggest weaknesses into your biggest strengths. You’ll learn to pick yourself up and hold your head up high – I promise. Failure occurs at all stages of your life, but in Peace Corps… everything is just ten times more dramatic in Peace Corps.

To Ethiopia and Back

20th June 2016

To Ethiopia and Back Default

Some of you, most of you not, may be familiar with the work of my previous blog – Ethiopia Catalog.

Ethiopia Catalog was an attempt to write about my experiences over 27 months in Ethiopia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. This attempt horribly crashed and burned the second I touched down in country. I got a few posts out, and they were quite good, but as the months went on I found it increasingly difficult and frustrating to gather all my emotions and experiences into a clear, precise thought.

Ethiopia did a number on me. I experienced some of my highest highs and lowest lows. I had days where I felt on top of the world. And I had even more days where I wanted to crawl back into bed and cry… and cry… and cry. Through all these ups and downs I just couldn’t find it in myself to write something that truly reflected my experience. I wanted to write about how refreshing it was to walk to the market and buy home-grown produce from my favorite “mother”… but the mingling irritation of the children who chased me through town and the men who harassed me while I tried bargain the price of tomatoes (because what’s more attractive than a woman buying tomatoes?) wouldn’t let me paint a picture I wanted to share.

I didn’t write because I felt like I couldn’t be honest the world – I couldn’t even be honest with myself. Now that I’ve been back stateside for a few months I’ve had plenty (but never enough) time to process my thoughts and feelings. I’ve come to terms with most of the events that erupted over those long, yet short, 27 months. I’ve learn to let go. And I’ve learn to hold on.

I fell off my bike… I’m ready to get back on. My scrapes and wounds have healed and I’m eager to start writing again. As my life settles down in the states again I hope to share my experiences from abroad, my feelings on readjustment, and the exciting plans I have for the future (proud wife-to-be here!).

Let me know what you want to hear about.

What made me fall in love with Ethiopia?
How does it work being engaged to someone from a foreign country?
What do I plan to do next?
I got plenty of stories for you.