The Joy of Simplicity

Two years ago toady I stepped on to the beautiful continent of Africa. Most days I miss my students and my community in Mekanissa. I miss the students’ greetings every morning, playing football (soccer) with the prenovices, family dinners with the volunteers or the impromptu “Wednesday is English day. Marcy will lead prayers at morning assembly today.” I know that I am where I am meant to be and that every experience I have brings me closer to the person I was created to be. I am truly blessed.

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary entitled, TINY: a story about living small. A friend encouraged me to watch it. It is about a couple who decided to build a tiny house. The house was built on a trailer, so it was tiny. I don’t recall how many square feet it was, but it was fascinating to see how they built it and made use of every possible space. It made me want to go through my closets, drawers, etc to get rid of my useless stuff. It isn’t about having nothing, but wanting and using what you have. If you have a 3,000 sq ft house, and use all the rooms effectively without any wasted or useless space that’s okay too. I would recommend TINY to all. It is available on Netflix.

After watching TINY, I cleaned out a few drawers and a few items from my closet. Shortly after doing so, I went to a few garage sales and found some good deals on things that I use. My mom used to have a rule whenever we would go shopping, for every item I bought/added to my closet I had to ditch two items. I didn’t always follow that rule, but maybe I should try to live by it now.

The second thing that has inspired me is a story from a friend. This friend is teaching an online class this semester and had their students take up a spiritual practice. A definition of spiritual practice is the regular performance of actions and activities undertaken for the purpose of cultivating spiritual development. Sometimes the metaphor that is used is walking a path. As people perform the spiritual practices, they go further along on the path towards relationship or union with God.  As you may have noticed this is a class on spirituality and religion. One student started the practice of eliminating one item from their house a day. The student may donate, recycle or dispose of the item. It may be a key in the junk drawer that no one knows what it goes to, an article of clothing that has not been worn lately, or anything really. Isn’t that an awesome idea?  To get in the habit of simplifying our life, but with a goal of growing in relation with God. Do you have a spiritual practice? If not, why not start one today. We can all use a reminder of God’s presence in our lives.

I taught my religious education students a lesson on Happiness last week. Did you know that there are 3 things that play into people’s happiness. This all comes from Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research. The first is genes (%50). Thank your parents for that. The second is Circumstances (%10) or as I like to say “the hand you have been dealt”, and the third is Intentional Activity (%40).Happiness Pie Chart

People tend to think that the more stuff we have, the bigger house, or the iPhone 6 the happier we will be. The research shows that the way we interact with others, being religious or faith-filled and expressing gratitude also play into a person’s happiness. It appears we have more say in our happiness that most think. Needless to say, I was much more excited about the lesson than my youth were. These things appear to be connected in my mind, but maybe not as clearly for you.

The last thing that has caught my attention is our semi-annual Whole Community event at my parish which I have the pleasure of helping plan. This semester’s event is going to have the theme, “The Joy of Simplicity.” This was the frosting on the cake. All of the things that I had been listening to, reading, watching and pondering come down to this: Finding joy in simplicity. It is THAT simple. Where do you find joy? Do you spend more time in front of a screen that you do with your family? Do you spend your treasure wisely? Do you share your talents without asking anything in return? In the church world, we talk much about the three Ts of Stewardship, time, talent and treasure, but I encourage you to pause and take a moment to reflect…

How can you enjoy what you have and simplify the way you use your talent, treasures and most importantly time?

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365 Days

It is hard to believe that I left the beautiful country of Ethiopia 365 days ago… Well 366 days if we’re being specific. I have been reflecting on my experience and the changes I see in myself, so I thought I would share them with you.

My experience in Ethiopia has made me a more patient person. I thought I was patient before, but in reality I think I was just good at hiding my frustration. Now I am more genuine in my patience. I rarely seem to be in a rush, and I don’t let things upset me. My father always told us, “There are big things in life and there are little things in life. Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I’m taking that to heart now more than ever. At work we are in a time of transition, and there was some anxiety amongst the staff. I reminded my coworkers what the Dalai Lama said,

“If there is no solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it.”

How beautiful is that? I hope you can remember the Dalai Lama’s words when you are feeling stressed out.

Another thing I have noticed is focusing more on people and how they are doing. This summer I was a team member for the Christian Leadership Institute, and one of the workshops was on task vs. maintenance. I learned put more time and energy into the maintenance of relationships.

While in Ethiopia it was logistically difficult to maintain my relationships and friendships like I wanted to. Now because I live in different a city or state than my friends and family, I really have to put forth the effort to keep in touch. Some of you may know I love to write letters, so for my friends in far off places I try to write letters to let them know they may be far from home but they are not forgotten.

One specific relationship I have been very intentional about is with my parents. This relationship is something I took for granted or didn’t really think about for the better part of my life. I try to call to keep in touch when I don’t see them regularly or better yet to meet up for breakfast or dinner if it works into our schedules.

One of my friends and fellow volunteer, who is still in Ethiopia, told me the other day not to be sad about being away from Ethiopia for one year. I think that is good advice. Why mourn what we no longer have? Why not be happy for the memories we have? Some days I am overcome with emotions the people I met and the stories I heard in Ethiopia. In those moments, I take time to pray for my students, coworkers, friends, families, community or strangers. I cannot be with them physically, but I can be with them spiritually.

I have had students, young men who are studying to be priests, tell me, “Teacher, we miss you! We are praying for you and your family.” It brightens my day to know they are not only thinking of me, but also sending prayers to my family and I.

How has my experience effected my work with young people? I like to think it has made me more compassionate and understanding. You never know where someone is coming from or what they are dealing with. When I am teaching religious education, I try to pull in snippets of different stories from Ethiopia, culture, feast days, family life, etc. The way I see things is different than it was before, so I feel it is my role to open and stretch their minds. I read a quote the other day, so I wanted to share it.

“The best teachers are those who tell you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.”
— Alexandra K Trenfor

Teachers are there to guide us, not to give us all the answers. Take a moment to thank someone you consider to be a teacher in your life.

Sending peace and prayers to you!


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Lent: America vs. Ethiopia

Wow, it’s already the third week of Lent, and it has been a while since I last wrote. I just wanted to share some thoughts about Lent. Last year my Lent was very intense. My roommates/fellow volunteers and I decided to fast like Ethiopians during Lent. The Orthodox rules for Lent are as follows: No food or drink until 3pm when the fast is broken by going to church and no animal products (meat, eggs, milk, cheese, honey, etc) during the fasting time. Essentially we were vegan for 55 days not 40 days like our Lenten season. I did make some adjustments last year. I knew I wouldn’t be the best teacher I could be if I didn’t drink water during the day. How would God be happy if I wasn’t serving my kiddos as best as I could? Some people told me I wasn’t fasting correctly because I drank water during the school day. It was physically and emotionally challenging. I was mostly focused on the physical challenge instead of what the purpose should be… spiritual growth.  

                This year my Lent is also intense, but in a slightly different way. I wanted to be in solidarity with my students and friends in Ethiopia, so I decided to try the vegan thing again. I knew it was going to be hard, but you probably have no idea how processed our food is and what it actually contains. Another positive about trying being vegan is that it makes me slow down and realize what I am eating. How was this created? What ingredients are in it? In addition to being vegan, I am doing a four week detoxification with some friends. Typically detoxifications are done to improve physical wellbeing. As a group we decided to use the detox as a form of fasting and to meet weekly to dive deeper into the spiritual practice of fasting. Every week we take something out and add something to our diet. We are in our third week, and we have taken out caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, gluten, processed sugars and oils and we limit our natural sugar intake. In addition to taking those things out, we add healthier things, like green leafy vegetables, healthy oils, avocados and lots of water.   

                One of the things I didn’t want to do with my fasting was inconvenience anyone. This is my choice to limit my diet in a particular way, but I don’t want to cause any problems for anyone else. I admit I ate a couple foods on my list that I should not eat. We read a chapter of Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline. Foster writes, “The Spiritual Disciples are intended for our good. They are meant to bring the abundances of God into our lives. It is possible, however, to turn them into another set of soul-killing laws. Law-bound Disciplines breathe death.” If we view fasting as an unbreakable law, how is that bringing us any closer to God? Maybe I’m not the best faster, but I am trying to use my crazy Lenten detox fast as a way to draw closer to God. In Matthew 6:3, it says “When you give to the poor do not let your left hand know what your right is doing.” Later in 6:16 it is written, “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting.” I try to be joyful in my fasting and encourage others to be joyful as well. I don’t flaunt it nor do I hide it, but rather I use it as a way to evangelize. When people say “oh, are you a vegetarian?” I explain my strange version of fasting as a way to grow in my faith and to remember my students in a far off place whom I hold dear to my heart. Did I mention that in Ethiopia fasting is considered an honorable thing? My students were so proud of me for fasting. I, in turn, am proud of all who fast from food, technology or whatever it might be. I will continue to pray for all as we together struggle through Lent with our sacrifices knowing that Jesus’ was the ultimate sacrifice. 

                What are you doing this Lent? I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you are not doing anything special for Lent, know that it is not too late. There are still 20 days until Easter (not including Sundays which are not included in the 40 days of Lent), and it is never too late for the Father to welcome you home. Know you are loved. Happy fasting!     

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Thanksgiving, Advent, and the birth of Christ

I have been reflecting a lot lately, but I haven’t been writing. Here are a few of my recent thoughts on Thanksgiving, Advent, the commercialization of Christmas, and other random things.

Post-Ethiopia life is full of many things that make me think. I love Thanksgiving. It is simply a time to be with family, to thank the good Lord for all that we are blessed with and to eat delicious food. I love the simplicity of this feast. I think everyday should be thanksgiving, with a small “t”. We should always be thankful for all that we have, and we should always try to spend as much time as possible with our loved ones. This Thanksgiving I was blessed to be able to spend the holiday with my family. In the last 8 years my family has grown from 5 people to 10. In addition to my mom, dad, sister and brother, I now have a brother-in-law, a sister-in-law, a niece and two nephews. This Thanksgiving was the first time all of us have been together since my nephews were born 14 and 15 months ago! How beautiful is that? It was great to be able to share a meal, to pray, to watch football, to read, to go to the park and simply to be with them. I am truly thankful for sharing this feast with my family. We were even able to share a meal of Ethiopian food! It was the first time I have had enjera and shiro wot since leaving Ethiopia! It was wonderful to be able to share some of the culture with my family, to share one plate and to eat with our hands. I know everyone does not have that opportunity to be with family or friends during the holidays, so to all those I pray that you find comfort in your situation and know that you are loved by others and especially your creator.

It is now Advent in the liturgical year. Advent is a wonderful season. The secular world would like you to think this is the Christmas season, but that isn’t quite true. Advent is a time to prepare for Christmas, more specifically the birth of Jesus. Over Thanksgiving I asked my 4.5 year old niece what Christmas was about; naturally she responded Santa and gifts. I then asked her whose birthday was on Christmas. Her answer was Santa. I gently corrected her by saying that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday, so we are celebrating His birth not Santa’s. It is a hard thing for little ones to understand, but how many of us adults get caught up in the gifts and other stuff of Christmas and not the real reason for the season?

I have a hard time with stuff. This definitely has to do with my time spent in Ethiopia. Yes, the kids didn’t have a lot of possessions, but they were not lacking spiritually. Materially poor, but spiritually wealthy. I think this is the opposite of some of us. We have all that we could want and more, but how is our spiritual life? What are we filling our life with? As Americans we are surrounded by stuff, but we are always searching for more. The next piece of technology, a slimmer, better version of what we already have. Why do we think that more is better? That bigger is better? That stuff will make us happy? We are searching for something, but we’re not looking in the right places. This Christmas season how are you giving gifts? Are you giving because you want to or because it is just what you do? What are you giving? More stuff or something useful and practical? I’m not saying you should stop giving gifts, but I’m challenging you to think about your giving.

Maybe you’re thinking, Marcy, what are you doing different this Advent? You can’t be talking the talk without walking the walk. I’m trying to be more conscious of the stuff I’m giving this year. I’m trying to slow down from the hustle and bustle and not get caught up in the commercial Christmas season. Don’t get me wrong I love baking cookies and other wonderful Christmas traditions, just not getting sucked into “the more stuff, the better” mentality. As a youth minister I’m trying to teach my students how to reflect on their lives, how are they preparing for Jesus’ birth? I am also giving them opportunities to give back to the community. We give food baskets to those in need within our community for the holidays. We will decorate the food baskets and bake cookies to include in the baskets. It’s not so much about the baskets, but the thought that goes into the giving.

I have mentioned this before, but Ethiopians know how to fast and feast. They fast 40 days before Christmas. They celebrate Christmas on January 7th, so they started fasting on November 24th. Fasting is a way to prepare one’s self spiritually and physically. I decided in an effort to prepare for Jesus’ birth this year I would fast during Advent. I am not doing the Ethiopian fast. It would be difficult to be vegan with all the wonderful holidays treats out there, but I am going to give up meat. I started a little late, the Monday after the first Sunday of Advent, but I thought it might be good to try something different this year to prepare for Christ’s birth.

Not too long along I was at the National Catholic Youth Conference with 23,000 Catholics! We had a bit of a Salesian mini-reunion. I saw Luke and Lorena who were both SLMs and Jessica and Rachael who were both Salesian Domestic Volunteers! I love how small the Catholic world is! At one session all 23,000 of us prayed through Taize. One of the Taize songs really moved me. It stuck with me for days and now even weeks later. We belong to you, oh Lord of our longing, we belong to you. In our daily living, dying and rising, we belong to you. It is the chorus of “We Belong to You” by Trevor Thomson. Check it out! I think it is a wonderful Advent mantra.

What are you doing this Advent to prepare for the birth of the Christ child?

Shout outs to…
My wonderful family. I love you and thank God for you every day.
Current SLMs and volunteers who may be struggling this holiday season, sending prayers your way!
Miss Rondon for her recent post ( that encouraged me to share these thoughts with you.
Katie, my fellow youth minister and friend, with whom I sang “We belong to you…” 100 times.

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Life is a journey. And the journey continues.

It has been 19 days since I left Ethiopia. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t write a last blog post about my experience. Well I have a few reasons, not excuses. 1. The last days are crazy and you want to spend time with the kids and the people, not packing or writing your blog. 2. I stopped in Ireland and Northern Ireland with my parents for a wee vacation on my way home. Lastly, and most importantly, this experience isn’t finished. Okay, yes, I’m no longer in Ethiopia, but serving others doesn’t stop there. As human beings, we are a collection of all that we have seen, heard, and experienced. We carry with us all that we have done and all the people we have met.
As I reflect on my experience of Ethiopia, I’m reminded of the song from the musical Wicked, For Good. (Shout out to Megan because this is her favorite musical of all time.) This stanza reflects what I’m feeling.

I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are lead to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.


“In giving, we receive.” You think that you are helping others, but in the end sometimes it seems you receive more than the recipients of your giving. This is the case for the children I worked with at Don Bosco School and Youth Centre in Mekanissa, Ethiopia.
A dear friend and Latin teacher would be proud of this. “Docendo discimus.” is Latin for “By teaching we learn.” Sorry dear readers, unlike my friend and fellow missioner in Ethiopia, Miss Rondon, I cannot give the origin of the phrase or any other information that would be helpful besides that it was written by Seneca the Younger. I just thought it would be fun to include the Latin. Docendo discimus. It sounds nice. By teaching, we learn. After one year of teaching English to fourth and fifth graders, Salesian prenovices and techincal students, I know this to be true.
Last August, I had just finished orientation and I was pumped. I was a little nervous to be going to Ethiopia, but I was mostly excited. I thought, okay, I’m going to be an English teacher. I know English, I can do this. I mean, English is my mother-tongue, it can’t be that hard, right? Well to be honest, that was pretty arrogant of me to think.

Here are a few things I have learned this year:

1. Teaching is one of the most difficult professions there is. Wowzer! It is tough. Just imagine teaching 55 little fourth graders who don’t really understand you. Everyday a challenge, but if it was easy who would want to do it?

2. Being the daughter of two teachers, I always respected the job, but now I understand. Kudos to all teachers out there. You guys and gals are heroes! You are inspiring and encouraging so many great minds! Keep lighting those fires! “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” -W.B. Yeats

3. I am blessed to say I was a teacher for a year because I had the opportunity to work with some wonderful kids.

4. English is THE way for kids in Ethiopia to succeed. In the early days (to be honest most days) of teaching, I really doubted my abilities in the classroom. “Is it beneficial for the students to have a native speaker? They don’t understand me; I don’t understand them. This isn’t working!” By the end I really saw the benefit of having a native speaker for an English teacher. Hopefully, not only did their English improve (I’m not sure if it did?), but also being exposed to another culture and the opportunities that exist beyond their present situation was priceless.

5. I learned a lot about myself this year. Whenever you are taken out of your comfort zone, you have nothing to hide behind. We have so many distractions in our lives that it is easy to not face some of the things we may be dealing with or that we carry with us. In Ethiopia, I was just Marcy. No one knew my family or my friends. I was just me. I wasn’t Mr. Mueller’s daughter or Whitney or Tyler’s little sister. I was Marcy. Or should I say Merci? Many people had difficulty with saying Marcy, so it turned into a bit of a French accent. I also learned that I wasn’t very confident in the kitchen. In the beginning I asked my roommates about 50 questions when I would cook. I was reaffirmed in my listening and mediating skills. If there was ever a situation in our house, I happily played the role of mediator. I am someone who frequently asks for people’s advice, especially close family members or friends. This year I didn’t have the same opportunity to get that advice as readily as I would have liked, so I had to do more personal reflection and really trust in myself and my decisions without the immediate feedback that I would typically receive at home. Not only was I trusting in myself, but also in God. Everything comes from Him.

6. “Live simply so that others may simply live.” -Gandhi I learned to reduce, reuse and recycle. Seriously, you can find a use for anything and everything. Six months into living in Ethiopia I found an awesome use for a plastic spice jar. A tooth brush holder! Last week I was washing out a finished jar of some food or another and I asked, “Dad, do we have a use for this?” He looked at me quizzically and said “No, put it in the recycling.” “Are you sure we don’t have a use for this?” “No Marcy, just put it in the recycling bin.” “But really, we have to have some purpose for this jar. It could be so useful!” It was at that point that I realized it is okay to let things go. I just didn’t want something useful to go to waste. That is the mindset of hoarders and people who have very few material items. Hopefully I’m not on the road to becoming a hoarder…

7. Take time to smell the roses! I know, I know, we’ve all heard that a million times, but I learned or relearned how to slow down and to be. To be with people. To be with the kids. To simply be. To be simply. In the last days in Ethiopia I was meeting up with a couple of the teachers to go to lunch. We met not far from our compound, but I was a few minutes late. Another time meeting the teachers I was also late. It took me nearly a whole year to realize that I was giving myself enough time to get to my destination, yet somehow I was still late. I knew about Africa time, so I wasn’t in a rush to be on time because most things didn’t actually start on time. But my main problem was that I didn’t calculate meeting my students and people along the way into the amount of time it takes to get from point A to point B. It could take you 10 minutes or more from our house just to reach the front gate of our compound because there were always children along the way who would run up and greet you with hugs. If you know anything about little kids, you know it is impossible to deny their hugs! Their faces would beam as you picked them up into your arms and gave them a good hug. Or just to greet a gaggle of kids shaking all their hands and saying “Hello! How are you?” either in Amharic or English. These were the moments that taught me to slow down and to simply be.

8. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me…. Ethiopians retaught me to be respectful. Just the way they greet an elder, a priest or someone new. When you shake an elder’s hand you place your left hand around your forearm as a sign of respect, with a slight bow of the head. It is the same when you pay a cashier. You never take or give money with the left hand, always the right hand with the left on the forearm as an added sign of respect, and sometimes with a slight bow of the head. I noticed I did that when I returned to the States and I felt a little silly, but maybe the cashiers didn’t actually notice. Respect is such an important lesson that should not be lost in the world today.

9.  Hard work vs. Convenience. It is amazing how much work goes into the daily life chores of an Ethiopian or anyone in the developing world. Examples: Water. Most people have to carry all the water they need for the day on their backs. This includes water for cooking, cleaning, bathing, drinking, etc. Coffee. Coffee is a huge part of Ethiopian culture. It takes a lot of work to pull off a coffee ceremony. The pounding of the beans is hard work! Many products in America are marketed for convenience because there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day for all our activities, work, cooking, cleaning, eating, family time, etc, etc, etc. Again, we need to slow down and enjoy life (and real food, not the boxed/ready to go stuff).

10. Faith. Faith comes in many forms. In Ethiopia there are many religions, Ethiopian Orthodox, Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, etc. Faith looks different for everyone, everywhere. Sometimes faith is walking past a church and making the sign of the cross three times. Sometimes it is praying on a prayer rug facing Mecca. Sometimes it is enjoying the liturgy of the word and the Eucharist. Other times it is serving those who are less fortunate than you. Faith is a beautiful thing that should be shared. Tuesdays at morning assembly, were English Day. So we would greet the elementary students in English instead of Amharic. Sometimes they would invite me up to say the prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary & the Glory Be) in English. Most of the kids didn’t understand the words I was saying, but that didn’t matter. As I was praying in English, they would whisper their prayers in Amharic. It was always so great to see so many kids joined together in prayer.

The antidote to frustration is a calm faith, not in your own cleverness, or in hard toil, but in God’s guidance.” – Norman Vincent Peale


Update: It has now been 37 days since I left Ethiopia. I have started my new job as a youth minister in Dubuque, Iowa. I am readjusting to living at home for a little while. I am loving having the opportunity to spend time with my family! We just celebrated my nephew’s 1st birthday last week. I have been helping with Dad with his garden, which some days I think is a little too big to handle. I have been cooking and thrifting with Mom. I am happy to be home. Things have changed here. It’s amazing how everyone keeps moving while you’re away. I’ve changed. I’m trying to learn how to mesh the pre-Ethiopia Marcy with the post-Ethiopia Marcy. How do I share my experiences with others in a way that does it justice? Do people care about what I did in Ethiopia? Who was I before? Who I am now? Those are just a few of the things I have been thinking about lately. I would like write about tackling those questions in the future. I don’t want this experience, this part of me, to end here. Life is a journey. And the journey continues.

I am wondering if you, dear reader, can help me. Earlier in the year I did a post answering people’s questions. I think as someone who has returned from Ethiopia, it may be helpful if you ask me some more questions.
So here is your task: What do you want to know about my experience in Ethiopia? Example, would you do it all over again if you could? What was your favorite place? This may give us a great opportunity to share with each other, especially if you are someone I have not seen or spoken to since I returned. I can’t guarantee this will be a speedy blog post to write, but if you ask, I will answer. Thank you for your love and support. May God bless you, your family, your work and all those intentions you hold in your heart!  
his is one of my fourth graders, Eyerusalem. Near the end, she told me to call her Jerry because that was the English version of her name. Image
This is another Eyerus. She’s one of my favorite kiddos. Eyerus couldn’t pronounce her “r”s so she said her name like Eyelus, and Teresa was Telesa. I miss these two and all my students as well as the community in Mekanissa. 

The kids, a pre-novice, and I at oratory. 


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A month of Goodbyes, School’s out, Egypt, Dilla, Holiday in Zway and Krempt

*This post was written in July. It was my last post written in Ethiopia. Sorry it is two months late. The last days were a bit busy. Enjoy!*

We finished the school year on June 29th. That week we had 3 days of exams and two days of grading and returning exams. The last two weeks of school were crazy. Trying to finish the lessons, prepare the students for the exams and the grades. It was a busy few weeks, but it was rewarding when some of my students did well on their exams. Many of my students were worried that I was leaving immediately, but I reassured them I would still be around. I turned in my grades that Friday, and I was finished for the school year! All those years of being a student and looking forward to the end of the school year… Now I realize that teachers everywhere have that feeling as well. I would just like to thank all teachers, the ones that I have had, the ones that I’m related to (especially my parents), and the ones I don’t know. Kudos to you. You really are doing great things. You are shaping the minds of the young. You are not just teaching your students, you are preparing them for life. You’re work is not easy. So I would just like to thank you for teaching.

Two other people finished their school year on June 29th, my dear friends Paula and Jenna. They finished their year and we headed home on July 1st. Luckily we were able to spend some time together before they left. We went to an NGO market to buy some things before they left. We went to the parish near by to buy some religious art. We also simply enjoying being in each others company. It was a bit strange to help them prepare to leave and to say goodbye. My departure was 1.5 months away so it didn’t feel right to be saying goodbye. I also said goodbye to my site partner, Marie, on July 26th. We had a good year together and now I realize how much I took Marie’s company for granted. We could sit and talk for hours about anything or nothing at all. Now I have no one to speak quickly with or to use big words with. Oh wait, no that was Marie who would use big words with me, and to be honest I didn’t always understand. I’m happy that she is now spending some time with family and beginning the next chapter in her life.

There was a meeting for the Salesian Youth Movement here in Addis. It was the first time that animators from all the Salesian communities had gathered together. In the past the communities in the north gathered and the south gathered, but not all together. I think it was a nice experience for the young people to get together with other young people. I am imagining if I was a high school student and I never had the opportunity to gather for a retreat or a youth gathering with other young people from other towns. My experience would have been limited. I heard from the animators that they enjoyed it. One night they invited us, volunteers, over for a bonfire and dancing. It was so nice to see them united and enjoying something together. Ethiopians are very proud and each region has it’s own culture, so it can be difficult to unite people. Faith naturally brings people together.

Right around the time Paula and Jenna were in Addis, one of the volunteers had to leave Ethiopia in order to get his visa renewed. Italians have to do this every 3 months, so it is a common occurrence. Sometimes people go back to their country or they go to a near by country like Kenya or Egypt. This volunteer went to Egypt, but he didn’t know about the situation in Egypt until he arrived. He was in Egypt for 5 days, and no one heard anything from him. We were all praying that he was safe. When we went to the airport to pick him up we weren’t sure if he would be there. He arrived safely back to Addis and told us of his time in Egypt. He didn’t do much of anything because of the unrest. It was more of a sleeping and relaxing holiday than anything else. We all learned that it is important to some research before you plan a trip. During this situation I was able to share the saying, “No news is good news.”

The Salesians went on a retreat to Dilla, which is in the south of Ethiopia, but they needed a driver, so Luca, one of the volunteers, drove them. I went along because I had never been to Dillla and I had heard it was beautiful. Also Jayne, a former SLM, was in Dilla for three years. I thought it would be nice to see her little piece of Ethiopia. Dilla has a different landscape than Addis and the surrounding area. It is covered in trees. The Salesian compound was beautiful. It was covered in flowers and trees. Mango trees, papaya trees, banana trees, avocado trees and coffee plants! The only trees we have here in our compound that actually grow anything are guava trees. For me guava is not as exciting as mangoes or avocados. There was also a tree house in the compound! It had a sar bet, or a grass house, on the ground and a tree house above it. I felt like a small child finding a wonderful place to play! It was a nice place to relax and enjoy the view of the compound. We walked to the outskirts of the town to another Salesian compound, Walleme. It is what we call an out station. It had a school, a church, as well as space to play. Walleme also had a pig farm! The farm was funded by the ngo, VIS, which is the organization Lorenzo works for. We only stayed in Dilla one night as to not disturb the Salesians’ retreat. It was so nice to see Dilla and to meet even more Salesians. There were Salesians from the north that I had never met before. Dilla is a nice place.

We then made our way back to Zway to spend some time with the volunteers there. There are 2 Austrians, 1 Italian woman and an Italian family who lives there. The family has 3 children under the age of 3 ½. It was so nice to be able to spend time with them. One day we went to the lake to see the hippos because some of us had never seen them before. It was nice. I also enjoyed spending time with the kids, who were 1 ½ and 3 years old. Playing with kids at oratory and playing with kids in their home is a little different. Spending time with the family made me realize how excited I am to spend time with my niece and nephews when I return home. I also had the chance to practice my Italian. Living with only Italians for a week improved my comprehension skills. I don’t really know Italian, but I’ve picked up a few things here and there. I was planning on staying for a few days in Zway just to relax and then go home to Addis, but I ended up staying until the Salesians were coming back from their retreat. It was nice to be able to spend some time away from work and home with different people. It was a refreshing week Dilla and Zway.

You may be wondering what krempt is… Krempt means summer in Amharic. It is now officially summer. Summer in Ethiopia means the rainy season. Krempt also means summer school. I will be teaching some classes not in Don Bosco school, but in the Youth Centre. Spoken English isn’t an academic subject, so it doesn’t exist in summer school. Summer school starts at 8 in the morning with an hour and half of group games, followed by 2 hours of classes. The students then have the afternoon free, which is good so they can get home before the afternoon rains happen, but that doesn’t always happen. I am enjoying krempt so far. I enjoy the rain and the clouds, but the thing I do not like is mud. Mud is not fun, but we can’t have the rain without the mud, so I’ll just have to deal with the mud. Krempt timert bet, or summer school, started last Monday. I’ll update you on how it goes, what the program is like, etc.

I have exactly three weeks left before I leave Ethiopia. It is a strange feeling. I am ready to go home and see my family and friends, but I am not ready to leave my students and say goodbye. It is a balancing act. New beginnings are exciting, but endings can be a bit sad. I don’t know what to feel at this moment, but I do know that this experience has changed me. It has challenged me. It has made me cry, and it has made me laugh. It has helped me learn more about myself, more about others, more about humanity. It has taught me to be patient and to try. It has taught me to see beauty in the smallest and simplest things. It has taught me how to love more fully. It has taught me so much. Hopefully I was able to give something in return.    Image
This was the awesome tree house and grass house (or sarbet) in Dilla!
This is me in the sarbet!
The view from the tree house.
This is what coffee looks like. There were banana, mango, papaya trees and coffee plants everywhere in the Salesian compound in Dilla! 
I had cornrows my last days in Ethiopia! When I went to Ireland I think Mom and Dad were a little surprised. Image
Some KGs working together to build a house out of blocks.
Happy as a clam🙂


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Feasting and Hiking

We had a very nice celebration for the feast of Mary Help of Christians on May 24th. The church in our compound is called  is the shrine of Mary Help of Christians, so naturally it was a large feast. There was no school in the compound in honor of the feast. The bishop of Addis Abeba presided the mass. There were about ten priests at the mass. There was Confirmation and First Communion. There were four young adults who were confirmed, and 7 children who received their first communion. Two of the young adults who were confirmed were my students, one a Consolata Missionary pre-novice and one Salesian pre-novice. It was very special to be there to celebrate with them. There was a procession before and after the mass. We circled around the church one time. The procession involved all the receiving the sacraments, the priests, the choir, the bust of St. John Bosco, a statue of Mary Help of Christians, and all the parishioners. It was beautiful. There were drums and singing as well. After mass all the parishioners shared in a meal together.  


We had another day without school on Tuesday. It was the national holiday is called Genbot haya, Genbot is the month and haya means 20th, so the 20th day of the eighth month. Genbot haya is the Downfall of the Derg or the communist regime. The Derg was the government that took over in 1975 or so and it lasted until 1991. Since we had no school, we took Donato’s kids on a hike. We live in Mekanissa, which is a suburb on the edge of Addis. We took them to a near by mountain or more accurately a big hill. It was maybe 5 or 6 kilometers from our compound. Just imagine taking 400 kids and teenagers for a walk. It was fun to be with the kids outside of our compound and to see some of my students with their friends and comfortable.


We had two days without school in a week, but they were very productive, not in the typical I accomplished so much, but in that we, the community, the parishioners and the kids really spent quality time together. The time is passing quickly. It is already the 2nd of June. Life is good here in Addis. Keep sending prayers for me and the people here in Ethiopia. Thank you and God bless!

ImageThis is part of the procession into the church.

The bishop with the kids and young adults who were confirmed or received their first communion.
Here are some of the kids on the way to the mountain! Notice the minibus below the bridge… it is the typical transportation throughout the city and the countryside.

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