In an hour I will be on a plane- the first of three in the 24-hour-plus journey to Gondar. I’ve sent my bags through and cleared security, and I have an hour here, of peace and quiet in the terminal, before embarking on this next big adventure.

This journey started in December, when I applied to the SCOPE fellowship. The selection team is diligent- scrutinizing transcripts, letters of recommendation, and past experiences. In the interview, I described how eager I was to join such a dynamic  project. I was looking to return to East Africa, and was ready to work hard. In January I was thrilled to learn that I would be working together with Sheldon, my classmate and friend.

In March, we began learning more about the SCOPE and FLAME projects. There were meetings, memos, and endless e-mails. I visited the UW travel clinic for vaccinations and bottles of malaria medications.

During the Spring, Sheldon and I presented our work plans with the SCOPE team at UW and with supporters in the local faith community. While completing a full load of graduate school coursework, I worked on the team compiling the survey we will use to assess local health centers. My pile of “stuff for the trip”, from a UV water purifier to modest, breezy skirts, grew.

My Ethiopian Visa, necessary to work in the country, arrived after some tense delays. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian SCOPE team was busy ensuring everything would be ready for our arrival.

After taking my last UW final exam, I packed up my belongings and stowed them away, ready to relax for a few days with my parents before leaving.

I grew up only a mile from SeaTac airport, so every time I am here I feel like something has come full circle. Last night my parents and I walked along the waterfront in Des Moines as a family, in what has become a pre-departure ritual in my trips abroad. It was just right- warm and sunny- the best of Seattle days.

In a few days I will be enjoying the best of Ethiopian days- warm hospitality, new friendships, and community- all in the light of the same sun.

I look forward to keeping you updated over the next six months and beyond!