FEELING SMALL IN A BIG CITY

thoughts

My time in Addis Ababa has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Every single damn day has been humbling –and not in an easy introspective way- The Alliance Éthio-Français may be my least favorite thing in Ethiopia –besides diarrhea- I love speaking French, and at one point was great at it, but as time passed in the States my French skills became archived I some unknown chasm of my brain.

While I have lost much of my French skills, -which is humbling enough- it doesn’t help that the secretary of the AÉF speaks French with a thick Ethiopian accent, making it pretty much impossible for anyone to understand, let alone register for classes. The stress of taking a French placement exam now rivals the moment in which I nearly shit myself last weekend while hiking with friends, and had to quickly duck into a bush –lovely moments brought to you by Ethiopia-

 In addition to struggling with French -and embarrassing gastrointestinal mishaps- the language barrier can allow you to feel left out and confused. Being American I often find myself in the position of power in situations in which there is a language barrier –not this time- While most people in Addis speak some bit of English, that doesn’t mean that things don’t get lost in translation daily. I find myself the odd man out as I sit silently while people around me carry on in Amharic.

And then there is this whole applying to jobs and trying to move to Africa thing I am doing. That’s been a doozy. Nothing makes you feel less qualified than editing your CV; removing all the “awesome” jobs I worked in college from my “employment history” is bleak -the dining hall, some pizza place, Abercrombie & Fitch…no, I do not want to be a member of the “A&F club”-

But ultimately, all my “woe is me’s” pale in comparison to the poverty. This is the most humbling of all. Walking down the street I am violently jarred form my usual neuroticisms –I wish I felt more confident in using the Amharic words I’ve learned, why can’t I remember anything? Why can’t I remember French?!?- People grab at my arms on my way home from dinner, asking for the take-out food I planned on eating for lunch the following day. If I’m holding a water bottle, children walk up to me holding out their hands, saying “wah-ter, miss. Peas, wah-ter.” It is impossible to give to all of them, but which one do you give to? –The nagging guilt of privilege-

 Everything is insignificant.

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