As Madison prepares to leave the Water to Thrive group and return to the U.S., she shares what her experience has taught her. The photos in this post are among her favorites from the trip.

My time in Ethiopia is now coming to an end! Reflecting on the three weeks I’ve spent here, I realize that I have learned so much – about Ethiopian culture and traditions and about the amazing and resilient spirit of the Ethiopian people, and also about a different way of life than I was used to in the United States.

There’s an abbreviation that our Ethiopian project manager Gashaw taught us… TIA, or this is Africa. It is meant to be an explanation for the unexplained, like the power randomly going out or sometimes not having wi-fi. People work on their own time and everyone takes their time at dinner and allows time for multiple jebena buna breaks (Gashaw specifically).

People are not as obsessed about managing every second of their time perfectly here like they are in the US. In the US we get so impatient when we have to wait for anything, but here the people are very patient and thankful for the blessings in their lives, instead of getting annoyed at the little things. Here, dinner may take an hour, or it make take three hours. When something would happen that made us “late” to getting to water projects, we just went with the flow and we still always made it to the projects and were able to see all the amazing work that Water to Thrive funded.

Speaking of time, again, my time is almost over here! It is amazing to think about how fast it all went. Before leaving, I thought that three weeks would go by slowly, but it has flown by.

Overall, I am extremely thankful to have had this experience. I met so many wonderful people in the rural communities we visited throughout Ethiopia. I will always remember their hospitality and the warm welcomes they gave us. I will definitely remember the shocking things I saw on this trip, for example, when I watched a young girl collect dirty, bug-filled water to take home to drink. This is why we came, to help bring clean water to her community that can change her life.

I will remember all of the fun and silly memories I made on this trip with Kendall, Susanne and Gashaw (and all the funny videos Kendall and I took of Gashaw). Kendall and I especially became closer because we were roommates for a lot of the trip. I’m so thankful to have met her and spent this time with her. Now, I’m lucky to call Kendall a true friend.

Going to Ethiopia with Water to Thrive has been a life-changing experience in more than one way. I have learned so much about Ethiopia, the global water crisis, myself, friendship, patience, happiness, and love. I would recommend a vision trip not only to anyone who wants to learn more about the global water crisis first hand, but also to anyone who wants a new perspective on life. This trip has taught me more lessons than one.