Thursday, March 24, 2016

Faces of Islam

Living in Ethiopia for over two years now has really opened my eyes to both the great opportunities in America but also to some great flaws of our country. One of those flaws in my eyes is the way the American Media portrays the outside world, or in reality doesn't portray the outside world. When was the last time you turned on the news and saw a story pertaining to any country outside of Europe? We have by now all heard of the terror attacks in Belgium but how many knew of the attacks in Turkey that just happened a week before? Or how many knew that in its last election cycle Saudi Arabian women were allowed to vote for the first time? Mind you I'm not giving any credit to Saudi Arabia for women's rights but the only stories we ever hear in America about Islamic countries or Muslims from any part of the world is that of terror attacks or ISIS. We rarely hear of the Muslims who are working to improve their communities or fight for human rights. Too many Americans have a limited image of what it means to be Muslim and that is:

Islam is scary.
Islam is terrorism.
Muslims are terrorists.
I do blame our media for only showcasing the negative side of a religion and exploiting the fear of the unknown. 
I believe that fear often comes from a lack of exposure. If you don't personally know or haven't personally been exposed to something it is common to feel fear towards it.
Living in East Africa for the past two years has granted me the opportunity to be exposed to many ideas and religions that are different than my own. I have seen communities work together disregarding religion all together.
I wanted to share with you some pictures of what a Muslim community I recently traveled to for work looks like. I wanted to give you a different view from what our media in America is constantly showing you.
For me Islam doesn't mean terrorism it means:

Curious children.

Moms learning about nutrition to improve their families livelihood. 

Acceptance of people who are different from you.



Children playing.


Take the time to educate yourself outside of what the media tells you to think. You never know what you might learn and who you might meet. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Who run the world?

This past weekend I was lucky enough to participate in a Women First 5k run here in Addis... and by run I mean walk... Lets be honest...

The walk was completed by more than 10,000 women both Ethiopian and foreigners who hope to create more awareness about the problems women face in Ethiopian society.
Can you imagine 10,000 excited and energetic young girls and women all joining together for this great cause?
How could you not feel inspired walking/ running with all these incredible females?
Well let me tell you how....
Here in Ethiopia, as is in much of the developing world men seem to be feed with a silver spoon... meaning they think they can talk and treat women however they please.
Now mind you this is not all men here. I have met some amazingly kind men in this country.
The problem is the assholes are louder than the good guys.
Street harassment is a huge problem that women face here in Ethiopia.
I guess calling it street harassment makes it sounds like in only happens on the street which is not the case.
Mini buses,
really anywhere you can think of women are facing harassment.
So here, as we banded together to show our pride and strength as women men were lined up along the way... you guessed it harassing us.
If you aren't used to dealing with people yelling comments about your body at you daily you might not understand what this can do to your self esteem and how you see your self worth.
Living in the city the harassment is greatly increased as compared to my village.
But as difficult as it is for me I can only think about the women here who don't speak out against it, who can't simply leave if it gets to be to much, and who don't have anyone they can talk about it with.

So now many NGOs are working to empower women, which is great don't get me wrong but when will start looking at the root of the problem?
The boys who think it is okay to treat girls this way. We need to begin to also educate and empower them to think of woman as more than just an object.

Please take the time to watch this short video that highlights the day in a life of a woman here in Addis. Mind you this is EVERYDAY life here.

That being said. Thank you to all the amazing men I have meet here who give me hope for the future. Who have showed me that there is so much good here.

Also a thank you the ladies I know who keep fighting for their rights and their dignity.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Full Circle.

I have delayed writing this post for some time now.
Not because its not important but because it’s a difficult thing for me to write about.

As much as I love new adventures and new experiences saying goodbye is not something I’m particularly good at. To be frank I suck at it. All the feelings and emotions and the blah blah blah… Im just plain not good at it. I knew it was something I was going to have to do but to be honest I thought I would have a few months in which I could slowly start to take people to buna, thank everyone who has made my two years the best time in my life, and get to celebrate my time in Chitu. I thought “Three months to start goodbyes I can do that. I can process things in that amount of time.
So when I was told in the middle of January that I officially was not allowed to return to my site due to forces outside of my control I knew I would not have the time to process the feelings and emotions that I had been wanting to avoid.'

Let’s take a step back to May 2014 when we swore in as volunteers. The day we took the oath to become volunteers I was told I wouldn’t be going to site, due to protests that were happening in my region of Ethiopia. Peace Corps put those of us who would have to wait at Ras hotel in the center of Addis. At the time we didn’t think too much of it considering we had been in the country for a total of three months. Most of us were pretty happy to get to eat pizza and lounge around. One night stands out in my head. A group of us were sitting in a friend’s room eating misc. snacks from care packages when we heard a wedding outside.  We stuck our heads out the window just in time for some small fireworks to come flying towards our room. We quickly closed the window just in time for the fireworks to bounce off the glass. Around 11 days later we were given the all clear and allowed to go to our new homes.

Fast forward 19 months to December 2015. At this point I am 22 months into my 27 month service which is usually the time volunteers begin to wrap up projects and slowly start to say their goodbyes.  I was called on Dec 8th and told that I would need to come to Addis due to some protesting that was happening around my region.  PC had told me they were sending a car and would try to get to me that day. The following day they were able to pick me up from my site and bring me to the Capitol, Addis Ababa. Those of us who had been consolidated before figured we would spend a few days sitting around Addis eating pizza and would be going back to site the following week.  A month later still sitting in Addis… still eating pizza we began to wonder what was going to happen.  Would we be going back soon? Volunteers began going back to site as things calmed down and schools began again. Things were going back to normal in a lot of places. There just a few sites that were taking a little longer. Mine being one of them. After about a month and a half I sat down with the Country Director who told me it might just be a better option for me to begin my extension early.

It was such a mixture of feelings hearing I most likely wouldn’t be going back to where I called home.

I wouldn’t get those months to slowly start to say goodbye.

To have the buna with friends.

To have my farewell celebrations.

To explain to the kids on my street that I was leaving.

I didn’t get that.

I got three hours of frantically packing my house. 
Three hours of my neighbors helping me shove things in misc. oil boxes. 
Three hours of my mom shaking her head saying she wants me to stay. 
Three hours of kids in and out of my house asking when I would come back. Four days? Five days?
Three hours of my neighbors saying goodbye and hoping me the best.
I barely had time to run to my ag office and explain that I had to leave that day.
No real thank yous to my counterpart who always tried his best to include me.

I had three hours.

As those three hours came to a close and I drove away the children that I spent every day walking past, a few months teaching English, countless games, countless hellos, and countless smiles followed the car. Running after the car they yelled for me not to leave.
That moment was one of the hardest things I had ever had to do. Try having 30 children run after a car begging you not to leave. When you yourself aren’t ready to leave anyway.

As I was sitting back at Ras hotel  consolidated for the second and last time I couldn’t help but think back to 19 months before that. How then I couldn’t wait to go to site… and now I wasn’t ready to leave. I was excited for my next year in Ethiopia and the challenges it would bring but also felt robbed of my goodbyes.

January also happens to be wedding season here in Ethiopia. I sat in my room listening to the chants of the wedding party outside of my room. As the chants continued I heard the sound of fireworks begin. A moment later I heard a bang and looked up in time to see a firework crash into my window. 

It was then I knew my service had come full circle. 
I was ready to begin the next adventure.   

Friday, October 23, 2015

How is Africa?

Ethiopia= a country.
Africa= a continent.

Africa is to North America
Ethiopia is to________.

If you can complete this word problem then you my friend batam gobez ( very clever).
But I'm guessing your confused why I started a blog post with a grammar question.

It goes without fail that when people ask how I'm doing they start with
"How is Africa?"

I live in Ethiopia which yes is on the continent of Africa. 
But asking me "How is Africa?" is like me asking you "How is North America?".

Most people outside of Africa don't realize how diverse the continent really is. I am not claiming to be an expert in anything Africa since I have only been to three countries here, but I have seen enough to realize that answering "Hows Africa" isn't possible. Shoot I couldn't tell you what is happening in the North of Ethiopia half the time let alone Botswana. 
Americans tend to have a perception that Africa is all the same and all facing the same problems but that just isn't the case. One country might be facing civil war while right next door is the fastest developing country in the continent. But like I said I don't claim to be an expert but I just want to encourage people to expand their way of thinking outside of America. Maybe take some time to Google news that will show you problems that are happening outside of your bubble.

In case you didn't know just how big Africa is I'll just leave this here.... 


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Reading saves lives.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” 

With 9 months left of service in my beautiful village the Child Development Center is finally going to open at the start of September. This is a project that World Vision has been working on for quite some time but has had hangups along the way.
This is the project that I asked you to donate books to before and I am asking again.
First I'm going to throw some statistics your way that will hopefully show you the importance of this project.
Currently in Ethiopia
39% of people can read and write. 
When we break it down by gender it gets rather scary.
49.1% of males are literate while only
28.9% of females are. 
By giving a child the knowledge of literacy you improve their quality of life. 
They are able to advance their education, find a job that pays a livable wage, and help to change the standard of living in their country. 
Most people living in Ethiopia will not get the chance to travel to other parts of the country let alone other countries. Providing students with books gives them a new outlook on the world and allows them to travel to places with each turn of the page.
So please take the time to purchase a book to send my way.

The best way to do this is through
They provide you with free shipping and cheap books.
I am hoping for mostly childrens books with beautiful pictures but am happy to take anything!

For the shipping address use 
Andrea Spake
PO Box 306 
Woliso, Ethiopia 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ive got a handful of kolo, you should have a handful of kolo

In Ethiopia food is a big part of culture.
Anytime you go to someones house for the first time you will get feed. Often times way more than you want.
On holidays this is especially true. Everyone wants to celebrate with you which means you are going to get fed about a thousand times. The famous double lunch.
There is a word in Amharic “ inebla” that you use to invite someone to eat with you. This isn’t just used on holidays or at peoples home but often while you are out and about.
If you are on a bus and are eating something it would be considered very rude to not offer those sitting around you part of what you are eating.
My personal favorite example is when you are walking around the market or out in a rural area and a merchant or farmer has a pocket full of kolo ( the only real snack food in ethioipa that is made up of roasted barley, chickpeas, and peanuts). If you greet the merchant or farmer you are going to get offered kolo. And who doesn’t want to take a handful of kolo mixed with dirt and pocket lint? I’m sure as heck not going to say no to free food. Even if that food is mixed with a little dirt.

This is one of my favorite parts of the culture here. It really shows how giving the people of Ethiopia are. They may not be rich in birr but if they have a handful of kolo you are sure to have a handful of kolo.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Musical Journey

Ethiopia is one of the most diverse countries in the world. If you drive five minutes you might be in a area that speaks an entirely different language.
Each region and sub-region has a unique culture. One of the ways that I have explored each of the regions is through music. Whether it’s the steady heart beat of Tigraian music or the hip shaking of the south each is distinct.
I’m going to take you through a musical tour of the regions of Ethiopia that volunteers serve in to show some of the differences.
Lets start up north in Tigray. Tigray is one of the easier regions to identify by music. The back ground beat reminds me of a steady heart beat.
Amhara is a large region with many different types of music.  Amhara is best known for the Eskista , a type of shoulder dancing. This song comes from the Gondar region or Amhara.
Oromia is the largest region in Ethiopia. It also happens to be my home so I have quite a bit of pride for this region. The women wear beautiful beaded jewelry and the dance is more in the chest then shoulders.
SNNPR is an extremely diverse region. The music from this region is some of my favorite to dance to. The first song is from the Gurage region where I first lived when I came to Ethiopia.
 This second song from SNNPR comes from an area called Wolayta. This regions dance is mostly in the hips.
There is even more diversity than this but I would be here all day if I were to show you them all. To be honest when I first came to Ethiopia it all kind of sounded the same. But I have found myself in love with Ethiopian music. I find that being able to sing along and knowing the dances is a great way for me to integrate with this amazing culture.
Just because I love them so I am leaving you with a modern Ethiopian rock band that I love.

Sending you all the love from Ethiopia!