First Impressions

Addis Abeba is the city I now call home for the next two months. I will be working at MCDP, Mission for Community Development Program, a locally based non-governmental agency focused on economic and social development for women and children. Located in the rolling hills of Ethiopia, Addis is an incredibly breathtaking city. Artfully draped in front of a vast mountainous scenic landscape, Addis is able to invigorate all of your sense at once. Since arriving I’ve had this lingering feeling I’ve been here before. I see it in the calm and tranquil spirit of Ethiopians along with the melodious rhythm of the Amharic language and the rich, flavorful tastes of shiro and injeera.

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I find Addis to be an interesting city. As one of the fastest growing non-oil exporting economies in the world and the fifth fastest growing economy Addis is heavily concentrating on economically and structurally developing. Everywhere you look you see projects either at the beginning stages or near completion in order to host office buildings, apartments, and shops. Cramped together, people and industries face a hard time of having and finding room in this densely populated city. Addis is also interesting for me specifically because I’ve never really lived in an African city. During my three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, West Africa I was stationed in a rural city far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. I had no electricity, running water, and had to bike to buy toilet paper and make phone calls. Addis is completely different, everything is at my fingertips and very similar to my New York life. At times when I see young men walking down the road together with their trendy haircuts and American brand clothing I think about the hipster New York neighborhoods like Williamsburg, where they can be seen wearing the same things. The women wear beautiful dresses, and heels, with perfectly coiffed hair, walking to a taxi as if the semi-paved road is a cat walk. I love the easy access of buying a pizza whenever I like or having access to five star hotels with decently working wifi, but I do miss the rural environment I’m used to. I miss the clean fresh air, the comfort of everyone knowing me in a village and not being followed by overeager men, having the ability the walk when it’s dark or go running alone in the morning. I am looking forward to the opportunity to go out to the rural side with my organization in order to monitor and evaluate some of the current projects in progress.

However, there is something to say about living in a city especially Addis Abeba. Historically, a resister of domination from both international actors and internal authoritarian leaders you see the active preservation of their country’s history in their language and well collected museums, you hear the dark, sordid stories of their past and feel the passion and love for their culture in most Ethiopians you meet.

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At this point I can’t say if Addis is for me, but I’ve been thankful to all the help I’ve received from strangers, the hugs I’ve received from the little girls at our compound, the beauty of the Amharic language I learn everyday, and the organization I’ve been paired with to work on the prevention of unsafe migration of women and girls. I’m looking forward to the next two months filled with days of challenging experiences and the best coffee I’ve ever tasted!IMG_1037