A few Saturdays ago, I conducted my first training with my organization MCDP. I was asked to present a training for teachers on how they can implement the issue of unsafe migration inside and out of the classroom. I diligently prepared the week leading up the presentation, constantly revising my PowerPoint presentation and practicing what I would say. The day of I had imagined arriving early and helping to prepare the community library in our office building we would be using but someone had another plan for me. First, I woke up and it was pouring so I had to wait before venturing down my block to find a taxi. When the rain let up enough I searched out what I thought was a reliable taxi, again I was mistaken and late at this point. I frantically asked the driver to drive as fast as possibly, he answered with a simple “Eshee Eshee” and then promptly asked me if I wanted to hear American music.
Thoughts running through my head: Did he even hear what I asked him before? I don’t care what you play as long as I get to my office as soon as possible. Of course I want to hear American music, what kind of question is that. I should have grabbed that banana off the table.
I answered, “Sure, I don’t mind”. He proceeded to slow down to basically a standstill to adjust the radio while a million other taxis I could have taken passed me. Beyond frustration, I sat impatiently looking at my phone. I should note most taxis aren’t as bad at this one but each have their own unique qualities. I believe most of taxis come from the United States or Europe and are the junkers no one wants so taxi drivers are forced to spruce them us. A few days ago I was in a taxi that had nails for a door lock and what looked like a kitchen drawer handle for a door handle. So there’s already enough anxiety getting in a taxi without a taxi driver stopping in the middle of incoming traffic to adjust the radio station. With that said it’s amazing what the taxi drivers are able to do to their taxis, adorning them to fit their personal identity. Either with crucifixes dangling from the front mirror, Arabic script plastered on the front window, or a crazy sound system with the latest habesha (Ethiopian) hip-hop.
I arrived late to my own presentation but thankfully all the teachers had not arrived. The taxi driver decided he wasn’t done with ruining my day and decided the price we agreed upon wasn’t enough. After harassing me for ten minutes I threw the money at him and walked away. Moments like that take me back to when I lived in Benin and was constantly taken advantage of because of my American status and the misconception that all Americans are rich. It’s hard to come to terms with this especially when you consider yourself a local but the reality is I am well off compared to a number of Ethiopians and Beninese. I am able to afford the luxuries I take for granted even while living and working in a developing country. At the same time there are a lot of Ethiopians in Addis who live with an immense amount of privilege. Our landlord who we call Mama is a well to do devout Orthodox Christian. Through her faith she gives back to the community by hosting parties every year on the Feast of Mary in order to celebrate her religion and celebrate with those less fortunate. You can’t imagine how many people were in this one house eating and drinking her infamous local wine: friends, family, and the less fortunate off the streets. While eating and drinking at the table with my friends, sharing stories and laughing I was able to appreciate the beauty and the blessings in having a community here in Addis.