As an African, I always try to be genuine and mindful about my perceptions of the continent. I never want to romanticize the continent, but I also never want to approach it with pessimism. That being said, I couldn’t help but form some preconceived notions about Addis before I got here on Monday afternoon. I am the first person to call someone out for assuming that all places in Africa are the same, but I couldn’t help but think of Addis in relation to my hometown of Lagos, and this informed many of my expectations of what life would be like in the city. Lagos is certainly a major point of reference for me and I think it’s fair to draw some similarities between the two metropolises, but I’ve made a conscious effort to try and experience Addis for what it is without having to constantly compare it to Lagos simply because they’re on the same continent. With this in mind, I felt ready to take on the New Flower!
Orientation week was very eventful. We visited various sites: The National Museum, Entoto, Kurifto Resort (possibly the nicest place I’ve ever been to in my life), and Yoda Abyssinia Cultural Center, where we watched performances in the Tigray, Amhara, and Gurage dance styles, amongst others, that were was purely awe-inspiring. The performers were magnificent, I watched the entire time with a smile on my face, which might have been partially due to the generous amounts of woin tej (Ethiopian honey wine) that I consumed. Nonetheless, it was one of my favorite experiences during orientation. Another, less obvious, favorite of mine were our many car rides through the city. I’m generally a fan of long car rides, but even more so here. There’s an abundance of eye-catching views, so much so, that I experience slight “FOMO” every time I’m in the car and I take a break from staring out the window.
I like the pace of the city—it’s hectic in its own way, but still somehow more relaxed than New York—and, for the most part, I don’t feel out of place. Before coming to Ethiopia, I feared that I’d have to deal with hyper-visibility, as I do in many spaces—even within the United States—but that hasn’t been a major issue for me so far. I’m not sure yet, if this is because we’ve been travelling mostly in groups and with the interpreters, but it’ll definitely be something to observe as I start moving around the city on my own.
Though there’s still a lot of uncertainty in the air for me, and I’m a little outside of my comfort zone, I’m excited to be here. It’s a unique experience that I’m grateful to have and I know that whatever happens, I’m bound to gain something that I wouldn’t have if I had spent my summer going to music festivals and overpriced brunch parties in New York, as I had originally planned. I’ll drink some woin tej to that!