The first thing Hannah Pensack-Rinehart learned from her Ethiopian phrasebook is, “t’ena yistilgn,” — pronounced teena ustilin — which means, “Hi, how are you?”
Pensack-Rinehart left home in Loveland early Sunday morning for an other-worldly experience, or at least other-country.
She packed a sleeping bag, mattress, padlock, pillow, USB solar charger, e-reader and laptop, a yoga mat, jump ropes and several changes of clothing for a 27-month adventure in Ethiopia.
Follow Hanna Pensack-Rinehart’s blog here to find out more about her Peace Corps adventure in Ethiopia: hannahprinethiopia.blogspot.com/.
She joined the Peace Corps as part of a Peace Corps Masters International program that allows her to use her skill set learned in college and apply it to the Peace Corps, which will also go toward her master’s degree.
She will spend a couple of days in Washington, D.C., going through orientation before flying to Butajira, Ethiopia.
“I never really considered the Peace Corps,” Pensack-Rinehart said. “It was never on my radar until I started the master’s program. Until I saw this, I never had the chance to study abroad.”
Pensack-Rinehart, now 23, double-majored in art/music and in health and exercise science at Colorado State University after graduating from Thompson Valley High School. Then she started her master’s degree in public health through the Colorado School of Public Health/University of Colorado.
Hannah applied early and had to wait 11 months to find out where she would go. She was hoping for a Spanish-speaking country and was shocked to learn she was assigned to Ethiopia.
“However, the more I learned about it, the more I felt it would be a great fit,” she said about the health and education needs in Ethiopia.
She will be using her health education skill set to develop programs in a town or village in Ethiopia for two years after a three-month training stint while living with a host family.
She lived in a condo in Fort Collins where she rented a room for the last two years until a week ago, when she packed up and moved home to Loveland before her adventure abroad.
While some of her friends were surprised at this move, her family gets it.
“She got a lot of, ‘Where are you going? How far away is that?’ from friends,” said her mom, Kathy Pensack-Rinehart. “I was very excited because we have four kids and they’ve all done things all over the place. Her oldest brother lives in Switzerland. I think she has outgrown Loveland a bit and is ready to do something more exciting.”
Kathy said Hannah has a great support system and she and Hannah’s father, Zan, are excited to see how she does in Ethiopia.
Hannah met friends through CSU/Peace Corps who are going with her to Ethiopia or are already there, which meant she got advice on what to pack.
First big item: a USB solar power charger with mini solar panels so that she can power a laptop and e-reader if she doesn’t have electricity. Her backup: several paper journals in case electronics are not the way to go in the country.
Hannah went through all her things in the last few weeks to decide what to keep or give away. Some of her clothes went to Goodwill or Plato’s Closet, “or our basement,” Zan said with a chuckle.
“It was pretty overwhelming consolidating everything, but it also felt really good to take a lot of clothes, a desk, and some odds and ends to Goodwill,” Hannah said. “I went through my room at my parents’ house and cleaned out so many papers, cards and high school memorabilia from across the years. It made me realize how much stuff I have that I truly don’t need and helped me to focus on downsizing and simplifying.”
Kathy said that up to the last minute Saturday night, Hannah was saying, “Should I bring this? Should I bring this?”
Hannah said that from what she’s read and learned from friends or online is that the people in Ethiopia are very generous and kind and loving.
“They respect the Peace Corps and treat Americans like celebrities,” she said. “They flock around you.”
It varies in climate and the landscape and culture are beautiful.
One of her friends advised her to have no expectations so that it is easier to adapt.
She hopes to make a difference wherever she lives, and to listen to the people to find out their needs.
“I’m really looking forward to being immersed in the culture, experiencing a totally new way of life,” Hannah said. “I hope to learn to appreciate what is important, experience the culture and have a new perspective of what I value.”
When Hannah returns in 2017, she will have a semester to write up a paper on the experience and to take two more classes.
The Reporter-Herald hopes to check in again with her in six months to find out how the experience is going. If you have questions for Hannah, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessica Benes: 970-669-5050 ext. 530, email@example.com, twitter.com/jessicabenes.com.