29th Birthday Celebration in Ethiopia

I’ve heard African Americans say they’ve come to this incredible continent, Africa, and have a feeling of being at home. I’ve visited several countries all of which I instantly loved and none of which I felt instantly at home.

It has sparked my curiosity of my ethnic background though.

This will not be a sad post, but I want to say this, if you are able to trace your ethnic background to your country/countries of origin that is incredible. To be able to say you’re Greek or Haitian places you in a location and it gives you tradition. It is incredibly painful to be asked where your family is from and only be able to respond with a blank stare, or my most recent coping mechanism of just picking a brown country so I don’t have to say “I don’t know”.

….but when I got to Ethiopia and walked around Addis I kinda had that at home feeling. Not just because people kept coming to me speaking Amharic, well maybe that’s part of it or because it’s a universal thought that Ethiopian women are drop dead gorgeous and I want to be too…well maybe that’s also part of it. I don’t know what it is, we just looked related and I’ve never been to a place where 1/3rd of the country looks like they could be my cousins.

The trip was in celebration of my 29th birthday and I was able to fly in on my actual birthday and might spark a trend of me celebrating my next birthdays on new soils. I went with a couple of my closest friends and fellow volunteers, in physical location and in heart.

It was a trip filled with delicious coffeer, an incredible amount of culture and some luxury. We saw Lucy’s Bones, the Lalibella Rock Churches which I’m pretty sure has made it to one of those wonder of the world lists, climbed the Semein mountain, got amazing and affordable beauty services at Boston Day Spa, visited the Yirhamne Kristos church which is carved out of a cave and is the home of over 500 skeletons of past pilgrims, ate at Ben a Beba restaurant and enjoyed it’s incredible architecture, saw the most amazing shoulder dancing in Bahir Dar and we made friends in every city we went to.

…don’t get me started on the juice. I almost want other countries to call their stuff liquid from fruit or fruit flavored beverage…juice should be reserved for Ethiopia.

I loved it there and I hope life takes me back time and time again.

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Potential Career Path: Funeral Photographer

I’ve done some unexpected things as a Peace Corps Volunteer all of which pale in comparison to my day as a funeral photographer. I just wanted to help my family and they wanted pictures to remember this event.

I was hesitant to take pictures of people crying or saying their final goodbye. Grieving is such a personal experience. Also, I may have been grieving more for this woman who’s name I didn’t know until an hour into the 3rd day of the funeral celebration and whose casket was in a tent 5 feet from my house than many of the people present.

Death is just dealt with differently here and I think they may have it right or at least a way that’s less traumatizing than we do in the west. They accept it as a part of life. It’s not something to fall apart over. It’s a time to celebrate. I don’t want to paint a picture that there was no grieving because her children were completely destroyed the way anyone would be when they lose their mother.

I think I was successful. My Mama and Baba were very impressed with the photos and since I printed so many other family members and friends were able to get some. If I helped them celebrate her life than it was completely worth my discomfort.