Citrin Law Firm paralegal Beedo Latady isn’t too worried about her son Michael going to live in Ethiopia, a relatively safe and stable African country.
However, it will be hard having the youngest of her four children so far away from home for 27 months, the proud mom said. “It’s just that I’m going to miss him.”
Michael promises to relate his experiences through blogging at michaellatady.wordpress.com. Following Michael online will be his family’s therapy.
The 23-year-old, who earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Spring Hill College in May 2012, was invited to serve as an “English language improvement advisor” in the diverse nation. What that means is he will be teaching the country’s English teachers how to teach the language.
The stint starts with three months in Butajira, Ethiopia, where he will live with a local host family while receiving his training, including very intensive language instruction. It will give him time to acclimate himself to the new country.
He found it difficult to pack for an assignment that, except for providing him with a place to live, requires him to be completely self-sufficient and extremely flexible. He doesn’t know where in Ethiopia he will serve, and the country is so diverse — linguistically, ethnically, religiously, and in its terrain. It includes desert, rainforest, and sweater-cold mountains.
Michael has always enjoyed studying foreign tongues and doesn’t think learning Amharic, a Semitic language, will be a problem.
He also isn’t worried about having to live pretty much as the locals live. Before he left, Michael watched a video on how to take a bucket bath, something he might have to do if he ends up living in a village without running water.
“It kind of sounds fun to me, living like that,” said Michael. Fellow Peace Corps members advised he shouldn’t come in with expectations of how it will be. “I’m really excited to learn about the culture, learn the language, challenge myself to go outside my comfort zone. That’s exciting.”
Michael’s interest in working abroad for an organization like the Peace Corps isn’t really a surprise. “Michael has always been interested in other cultures, since he was a little boy,” Beedo said. “He was 3 years old and wanted this book on China. I would read it to him.”
When he found out more about the Chinese culture, his interest then turned to Egypt.
Though Michael had only one Spanish class a week at Christ the King School, he decided in third grade that he would teach himself the language, Beedo said. “He’s always thought outside Daphne, Alabama.”
When he was 14, his Spanish teacher, Lourdes Baumer, arranged for Michael to spend six weeks with her family in Ecuador. His parents, Beedo and Richard, let him make the trip by himself. “We’ve always encouraged [our children] to experience other things,” Beedo said. Michael’s siblings are Elizabeth, Richard and Mary.
When Michael was in high school at Bayside Academy, their family participated in a direct student exchange experience. He went to live with a family in Barcelona, Spain, for three weeks, and afterward their child lived with the Latadys for three weeks. In college, he also spent a semester studying abroad in Bologna, Italy.
After his first year of Peace Corps service, Michael will be able to select his own project. It could, for example, focus on malaria awareness, or AIDS awareness, or gender empowerment.
When school’s out, the Peace Corps runs gender empowerment summer camps, which can be a hard sell in a country where women are expected to stay home and do all the domestic work.
Ethiopians’ adherence to traditional ways and resistance to change are at the root of Michael’s greatest fear about his Peace Corps service, greater even than his fear of the large, carnivorous spiders he was warned about. “I’m worried about not being an effective teacher, not being able to do my job effectively.”
Beedo has complete confidence that her son will do well during his stint. Michael has always been the kind of person who did things for others.
He worked with both adults and school children to boost literacy, and he helped out at the Little Sisters of the Poor nursing home in Mobile. His fluency in Spanish allowed him to converse with an elderly woman who spoke no English, which really meant a lot to her.
His mom knows Michael will touch many lives in Africa and, hopefully, can inspire fellow Southerners to consider Peace Corps service. “It’s going to be hard, but I’m very happy he’s going to be able to do this.”