Melkam Gennah! Merry Christmas, from Ethiopia!
Being away from home for Christmas is always difficult. This year, I’m
celebrating my third in a row in Ethiopia, East Africa. While it’s
hard to endure yet another holiday overseas, I am excited about my
upcoming expedition – ‘Low2High: Africa’! It’s a human-powered, solo
expedition from the lowest point on the African continent to the
highest. Can you think of a better way to say goodbye to this
I’ve spent the last two years of my life in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. I am
a Peace Corps Volunteer working to improve the city’s HIV/AIDS
Services Network, and I also teach Life Skills classes to a group of
amazing young adults at the New Day Children’s Centre. My contract
will end on January 13, so right now I have a lot going on in my life.
I am finishing my work, selling my furniture, saying my goodbyes, and
preparing for my expedition. Amidst this huge transition, I’m trying
to find time to celebrate the holidays.
Ethiopia has a unique calendar. It divides the year into 13 months,
and even the year is different from our Gregorian calendar. For
example, December 25, 2010 is equivalent to Tehesas 16, 2003 in the
Ethiopian calendar. It’s confusing. To complicate things further,
Ethiopia celebrates Christmas 2 weeks later, on January 7. However,
this means I get to celebrate Christmas twice, and enjoy both my
native and adopted cultures.
My American Christmas celebration will be over the course of this
weekend. My original plan was to visit the Simien Mountains up north
with some fellow Peace Corps friends. The bad weather in Europe
delayed a friend flying in from Germany, so we decided to celebrate
right here, in Bahir Dar. The city is on the shore of Ethiopia’s
largest lake (Lake Tana), so we’re renting a boat to relax, drink a
few beers, and hopefully see some hippos where the lake flows into the
Blue Nile River. It’ll be a unique, tropical Christmas. We’ll cook
some American food to best imitate the Christmas celebrations we miss
from home, and hopefully my family in America will be able to call and
chat for a bit. I’m taking the opportunity to set aside my constant
thoughts about the expedition, and enjoy a holiday with my close
Orthodox Ethiopians will not be celebrating Christmas for another two
weeks. For that, I’ll be in Ambo with my host family. Christmas here
is a very religious holiday, and has little to do with exchanging
gifts. Extended families get together, often fasting until midnight,
and then go to mass dressed in traditional white clothing. It’s a
beautiful event to witness, and will be a really high-note on which to
end my time in Ethiopia.
Preparations for Low2High: Africa are going well. I have a blog and
facebook page set up so people can follow my adventure. I finally have
a donation portal dedicated to my fundraiser where people can support
the NDCC students. I think my internet leg work is finally done, which
has been no small task considering my limited internet access.
My body feels great. I am in the best shape I’ve been in years. I do
cardiovascular workouts and calisthenics every day. I have been
targeting my legs more lately, strengthening them for the 3 months of
cycling they will soon have to endure.
My recent decision to film the expedition myself has added new
challenges, but as I’m collecting a motley crew of assorted video
equipment, it looks like I’m going to pull it off. I’ve been filming
interviews with friends, had a friend interview me, and have been
trying to document the whole process of preparing for the expedition
and finishing Peace Corps. I don’t know yet what the final product
will be, but there will hopefully be a youtube release after I return
to the States.
From the beginning, I’ve known that the hardest part of my expedition
is going to be psychological. I’ll be up against language barriers,
loneliness, cultural ignorance, and anxiety as I enter parts of Africa
where I have never been before, and don’t really know what to expect.
It’s been hard to prepare for these inevitable hurdles, so I’m trying
some meditation techniques. I really feel that, aside from my
equipment failing, how I handle the psychological obstacles will
determine my level of success.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I have to say I’m
optimistic and happy. The last two years of my life have been the
hardest, yet here I am pushing further. Africa still has so much
allure, and it’s time to go explore.
Low2High: Africa is a human-powered, solo expedition from the lowest
point on the African continent to the highest. Starting at the shore
of Lake Assal (155m below sea level), Kyle will bicycle more than
3,000 km through Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and
Tanzania to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, and then trek to the summit
of Uhuru Peak (5,892m above sea level). It is a fundraiser for the New
Day Children’s Centre in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.
Follow Kyle’s blog – http://low2highafrica.blogspot.com
Donate to the New Day Children’s Centre –