Nesting in Ethiopia

“Eagle’s Nest, this is Crunchy Oats*, reporting for radio check, over.” Cara finished with a straight face as she let go of transmit button and a soft crackle hissed from the walkie-talkie-on-steroids. I stared in disbelief, knowing this was too good to be true.

“Crunchy Oats, this is Eagle’s Nest, you’re coming in with static, over.”

“Copy that, Eagle’s Nest. This is Crunchy Oats, coming in with static, over and out.” I managed to stop myself from cracking up until after Cara put down the radio. “What?” She glared at me, a smile threatening to break through her professional affect.

“I’m going to like it here, that’s all.”

I landed at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport a week ago, which was about a month and some change after Cara landed. Cara was hired to be Peace Corps Ethiopia’s Programming and Training Support Officer, which is what brought us from one national capital to another. Since Cara started at Peace Corps about four years ago it’s been a goal of hers to have a training position overseas and I’m pretty excited to be along for the ride.

My company, The Cloudburst Group, is being a great sport about letting me telework and by extension, so is USAID, whose contract I’m on (shout out to Karol and Heath!). It certainly doesn’t hurt that we have projects in Ethiopia and a few other African countries that are incredibly easy to get to from Addis, arguably Africa’s travel and trade hub. Still, while Cara’s new position started up, I had quite a few things to wrap up in the office and Washington, D.C. before I could hop on a plane. So Cara headed out four weeks ahead of me to begin work, and incidentally set up our new home.

And what a home it is. I’ve never lived in such a serious home. It’s two stories with plenty of spare bedrooms for guests. My living arrangement evolution has gone from parents’ house, to dorms, to a bedroom in a two-bedroom apartment with three guys, to a round, one-room felt ger, to sharing a bedroom in a three bedroom apartment with more women than I should admit to on the internet, to a studio apartment with my wife, and now this veritable castle. And it’s not just the size that makes this a serious home (or the love, if you’re being gross and cliché). It’s the bars on all the windows and doors, the back-up generator bigger than some vehicles I’ve owned, and the razorwire over the gate and cement walls and adorable little guardhouse.

I guess I shouldn’t call the guardhouse adorable, it’s very serious. And I think the Regional Security Officer calls it concertina wire and not razorwire because he’s serious business but still informal, which is his way of reminding all us silly spouses that we don’t have to be serious about everything, except safety, which isn’t a joke even when icebreakers are involved. At least, that’s what I took away from orientation while still heavily jetlagged on Day 2 in country. On Day 3, I saw RSO Bob* again (who in retrospect, reminds me a lot of PC Nurse Paul) and when I tried to give him a handshake he looked down at it like an Ethiopian watching someone swipe food with his left hand.

“Oh we’re being formal now,” RSO Bob muttered. God help me, I’m going to like it here.