29.7.16 / Friday, July 29, 2016
…really, just word-to-the-wise for travelers/foreigners, especially those coming from the west.
- Hold positivity and perspective in tandem; meaning, your experience is shaped by your outlook. Everyone has expectations (conscious and unconscious, stated and unstated), but seek to be open-minded. And, when things don’t go as expected, be flexible and adaptable. It will make a world of difference.
- The adage, “It’s not weird/bad/gross/wrong/backwards; it’s just different” has been a trusty travel/living perspective for over a decade, and it’s served me well in Addis too. The west does not have things figured out, and the way you live is not “the normal” way. Seek to be self-aware and cognizant of this distinction.
- You are a guest. Be mindful of how you present yourself, and be aware of how much space you take up – including how loud you are and/or what types of conversations you have in public.
- Make friends with local people. Ask questions with respect, and listen to their stories with an open mind, ready to have your assumptions challenged. Connect the layers and layers of history to present circumstances and experiences.
- Find local art on streets and in museums. Appreciate new-to-you music and dance. Regularly try local cuisine. Seek out spots that are popular with locals, not those that are just catering to foreigners.
- Accept invitations into people’s homes. Bring a gift or a treat to share.
- Get to know your neighbors and the shopkeepers with whom you are living near. Patronize their businesses.
- You are representing many different identities, and you have the opportunity to challenge a stereotype/generalization/assumption that someone may hold about one of your identities. For example, if the assumption is that Americans are lazy and don’t bother to learn the local language when traveling, then surprise people every day by using your Amareena on public transportation, at restaurants, and when interacting with folks on the street.
- How you frame an interaction can shape your experience (not to mention it often reveals the presumptions and/or privilege with which you’re operating). For example, “They don’t speak English.” is a statement that assumes everyone should accommodate to your monolingual and/or native language position. In a different regard, the statement, “I am still learning the language here” or at the very least, “I’m so sorry, I don’t know the local language” places the onus on you, not the local person with whom you’re conversing/interacting.
- Get comfortable with using the local language! Be willing to make mistakes and learn from them in order to improve your language skills. Challenge yourself to learn a new word and phrase each day, and then use it.
- Be a self-starter in your internship. Be teachable but also be assertive. Find ways to be useful and learn something new. You will benefit tremendously just by being a part of the team/staff at the non-governmental organization or community-based organization with you are partnering.
- Be kind. To your roommates, to your colleagues, to strangers, to yourself.
- Try to have a new experience every weekend. Take risks… while being savvy and wise. Hike in and outside of Addis. And travel. (That 60% off in-country flight discount if you book your international flight with Ethiopian Air is no joke; take advantage of it).
- Even if you take every health precaution (i.e. you get all required and recommended immunizations beforehand, you are conscious about which fresh fruits/veggies your stomach can handle, you don’t touch any animals or livestock, you even brush your teeth with bottled water…), you will likely still get sick at some point. That’s okay. In Addis, there are plenty of local clinics and doctors who will take good care of you. Take all your prescribed meds, and choose to laugh at the situation rather than blame or complain.
- Be conscious of how much you need and/or consume; seek to be resourceful – i.e. don’t take more than you can eat. (So many of these tips apply to everyday living, wherever you may call home, but keeping them at the forefront of your mind when you are a visitor speaks volumes.)
- Above all, seek to hold a nuanced perspective. Addis/Ethiopia is place of immense diversity. Recognize the beauty on every street, in each person you meet. It is a place to love!