I’m incredibly sorry for leaving everyone hanging for around 2 months, usually I’m better about this. In the past two months it went from something moving at snail speed to the month of October which was amazing and just flew by, and now I’m sitting in my room writing this while rocking out to Christmas music.  Where has the time gone?

September ended with an amazing hike to the waterfalls and back with a bunch of my friends. I believe I’ve said it before but can’t hurt saying it again.  The waterfalls are wonderful places just a short 30-45 minute hike from my house. Doing that hike with friends is such a fun time, you get ridiculous stories like how Bernard went crazy and did Parkour on the side of a mountain (basically just jumped off things and acted crazy), or to get to the kalebet waterfall we had to climb through tons of bushes with thorns because we were coming down on the wrong side…. Ooops.

A few photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3880716417918.2142577.1279020041&type=1&l=fd068fee64

Once October came I really couldn’t contain my excitement and nerves. I was going to Mekelle to help volunteer for my second mission with Operation Smile, an organization who provides free surgeries for adults and children with cleft palates and lips. I love helping out with this… even though most of my work involves walking to the lab and back 200 times with volunteers so they can get blood work done, and a bit of record keeping.  I met some amazing people this time though and even caught up with some patients from the last time that came back for a checkup or to get another surgery.  This time there were a group of people that were Somali which made it difficult to speak to them, since it is a very different language. They brought an interpreter with them for the trip and this guy was awesome.  He spoke Amharic, English, Somali, and I think another language.  He was just so incredibly helpful; things wouldn’t have gone quite as smoothly without his help.

Right after Operation Smile I boarded a plane for Addis, where I then stayed for a day before I departed on my LONG flight back to the states.  While in Addis I finished up some errands, caught up with the other environment group which was in for their medical visits, and met up with my friend Mulu for dinner.  My flights went incredibly smooth with zero problems.  I got off the plane in Minneapolis and felt myself immediately relax, I was back.  After going through customs very easily, I grabbed my bags and saw my Mom, Dad, and older sister Allie standing there waiting for me. Having it been a year since I was in America certain things seemed to really stand out, for example: the airport smells like laundry detergent, ever notice that? Also EVERY SINGLE PERSON             has a smart phone; I came back a bit smart phone illiterate.  Since being in Ethiopia my family has sold my childhood home and moved to an apartment in a very happening part of town.  I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t feel like home. Instead I found that I felt at home immediately, it was our furniture, our photos, my family… how was this not my home. I quickly learned that a home is not the house, apartment, condo, you live in. It is who you surround yourself with, which is another reason I caught myself telling people when I was going ‘home’ to Ethiopia.  Most of my time at home really revolved around spending time with family and eating. I was able to carve pumpkins with my older sister, shop with the younger, and meet up with friends or family for nearly every meal.  While I was home I went to my Cousin Adam’s wedding.  It was amazing, not only did I get this amazing new cousin, but I got to spend quality time with my whole family. For the first time in nearly 10 years we were all in one place.  I finished out the trip with a bit of shopping for gifts for my family and friends here in Ethiopia and a trip to my cousin’s classroom to help out. Then on Halloween I arrived at the airport to find that no one was there… I saw maybe tops 3 passengers up until I got to my gate, talk about spooky. The trip back was a bit more taxing than the way there. I had an overnight trip to London and then an 8 hour layover at the airport. I would have explored London for a bit, but I had all of my luggage with me and wasn’t able to check in until 3 hours before my flight. Then I had yet another overnight flight into Addis Ababa.  I got into that airport at 7 am just late enough to miss the last morning flight up to Mekelle, so instead I ended up waiting at the airport until 3pm for my flight back up north. I was just exhausted at this point, but once I got to Mekelle I had a wonderful dinner invitation by some of the volunteers in the area so I rallied and went out. The next day I stayed in Addis trying to just ease back into Ethiopian life and went to an Italian guy’s house for a Halloween party. There I met about a dozen or so foreigners working in Ethiopia.

I finally caught a bus down to Korem to only arrive to tons of hugs and kisses from my family and friends.  I’ve found it hard to get back into the swing of things work wise but as soon as I got to my town I knew I was back home.  It’s not an easy life, but it’s one that I chose, one that I love, one where I’m loved.

Some photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4006319797924.2145367.1279020041&type=1&l=1ce0106d6c

Since being back things have been slow.  I’m catching up with people around town, giving out the gifts that I brought back for people.  We currently don’t have water, and the power is, although better, still a bit spotty on days but I’m doing well. I’m glad to be home, I’m glad I went home, and wouldn’t replace any of it for anything.