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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving in Ethiopia!

Ever since I took my hunter's training and safety class at Davis, I have wanted to kill and prepare my own Thanksgiving turkey. Well, there are no turkeys in Ethiopia, but I did get pretty close - I killed and plucked and roasted my own Thanksgiving chicken!

Thanksgiving up here in the mountains was a blast. Three of our Peace Corps friends joined us, as did Eshete, Ambaye, our friend Shif, and two random Americans who were camping near to our house. We made a ton of food, and despite our limited resources, it turned out quite well! In addition to the chicken, we had green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, twice-baked potatoes, bread rolls, candied carrots, green salad, shiro for the less-adventurous Ethiopians, apple pie, lime meringue pie and a cake! What a feast! We managed to use every single dish in our house (and I had dish duty the next day, so lots of dish washing for me!) and most of our chairs, so I would call the party a success.

The highlight of the meal was when we went around and said what we were thankful for. Most people were thankful for the opportunity to be in Ethiopia, the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving away from home with friends and new family, things like that. There were one unusual 'I'm thankful for..." though. Shif, our Ethiopian friend and tour guide, said he was thankful for his mother, because she was the best cook in the world. To note, his mother was not at Thanksgiving, nor had she cooked any of the food that was on the table in front of him. It was pretty great! Then, when we asked him to translate what he had said into Amharic so that the other Ethiopian guests could understand him, he simply said "Thank you." :)

I have spent a lot of this week thinking about all the things I am thankful for. Being here, obviously - the opportunity to live and work in a foreign country, to interact with local people and learn not only about my research subjects but also about life and culture in a place that often seems worlds away from my life in America. I'm thankful for all the opportunities that have led me down this path - the great education I've had access to, the University of Michigan Gelada Research Project for letting me join the team even though I'm a Princeton student, my supportive family who not only encourages me to do crazy things like move to Ethiopian to live with monkeys, but also is willing to come visit me here, my mental and physical health, the financial and emotional support that my extended family has provided, things like that. I'm thankful for my boyfriend Sam, who emails me every day without fail - even when he is traveling or has no power or is trapped in a blizzard or a flood - and who is taking time off work and school to live with me here for almost two months. He's not a traveler by nature, so coming halfway around the world simply because I asked him to is quite something! I'm thankful for all my friends and relatives back home who write to me and keep me from being lonely up here, and who send me crazy packages and letters even though it's expensive. And I'm particularly thankful for the community I live in here in the mountains - my two housemates Ali and Julie who provide constant food, love, entertainment and opportunities for deep conversations, our three Ethiopian assistants Eshete, Ambaye and Setey who cook for us, teach us about Ethiopia AND help collect all our data, our neighbors who bring us water and do our laundry and chase cows and sheep away from our study site and send their kids over to entertain us, our friend Shif who makes sure we have tomatoes and olive oil and fuel for our car, our Peace Corps friends Derek and Claire who share their house, their garden, their dogs and their care packages with us every week, and all the random Ethiopians who recognize our car and wave at us as we drive to work in the morning. Being here is such an amazing, life-changing experience, and the people really make it worthwhile. I am so excited that my family and Sam and his sister Ruth are coming out here in a few weeks to experience it with me!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying the long weekend. I'm off to build and decorate the gingerbread house that my Aunt Catherine sent me - another Barale tradition that will be continued here in Africa!


  1. I'm thankful that we get to see you soon!!

  2. ps my "word verification' for posting that comment was "Sweatio". gross. post a pic of your gingerbread house!!