By Brianna Besch - Peace Corps Volunteer, Ethiopia (2014 - 2016)
The first things you see are differences.
The dirty cloths, mud walls
Charcoal stoves burning in the open.
Pasta for breakfast
Sugar only in coffee, no dessert.
Only skirts, cover your shoulders,
Your ankles, your elbows.
Only men in the shops,
Only women doing laundry.
Torn books, pencils down to the nub,
100 kids in a classroom.
Plowing by ox,
Picking by hand.
It takes longer to notice the similarities.
Food brings people together,
To celebrate, to grieve, to pass the time.
Greetings of how are you, your family,
Peace to you and yours.
Tears of sadness, hurt,
Compassion to help those in need.
Babies are cute, coddled and loved,
Small life must be protected.
Children are the future,
Give them life better than our own.
A smile that reaches the eyes
A laugh that goes belly deep.
If you take the time, we don’t seem so different.
This poem was entered in the Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. The contest received more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.