First Impressions

Ethiopia is the first time that I can say that I have actually been to Africa. I started my trek to Ethiopia by going to Turkey. I have many friends there and figured that it would be a fun stop to make along the way. I stayed in Turkey for about 11 days before I departed to Ethiopia. I stayed in Ankara for the first half and Istanbul for the second half of my trip. I am a horrible trip planner because I set up my flights like this:

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This felt like the longest commute of life! The time in between Turkey and Ethiopia (accounting for my layovers) was about 30+ hours of total travel time. I was able to explore Munich during my long layover, which was nice. I took German as my language class in undergrad so I was able to practice as I navigated around the city.

Here are some pictures from my trip:

 

 

As I was on my flight to Ethiopia I had feelings of anxiety. Being that this would be my first time in Africa I had to tell myself not to fall victim to the prejudices that I had created in my head. I googled pictures of Ethiopians and even my Amharic teacher told me I resembled a typical Ethiopian. I soon came to learn that it was very true. Many places I would go people would come to me speaking Amharic and I met them with a face of confusion. We were required to take an Amharic class before we ended the semester but the class didn’t really make us conversational. I know a few phrases so far and how to do some pretty basic things but not enough to hold an actual conversation with Ethiopians.

This is a picture of Yosef (my boss) and I at the first hotel in Ethiopia. The Taitu Hotel!

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So we are separated in two houses. House 1 & House 2. I started off in House 1, which is owned by a lady we know as “Mama”, and there are little girls that tend to the compound and a security guard named “Mekonnen”. Everyone is very humble and happy to assist us though the language barrier is pretty evident. We lost power and water access for the 3 days during our first week which made things pretty difficult especially at night. We can also not drink the water from the tap because it is not filtered. It is safe to shower and brush our teeth with but everything else we have to be pretty cautious about. This is the first time I really have had to be cautious about the water I consume. Reminds me of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan that is happening right now. Luckily there is a bodega-style shop literally to the left of our compound that sells bottles of water in a 6-pack for a reasonably cheap price. We have maids that clean for us everyday of the week and are supposed to be getting a cook in the coming weeks. Most of the meals we have had so far have either been at the local hotel down the road of IFP sponsored orientation meals. I am wondering how things will play out once orientation week is over in terms of meals. (I am a very picky eater). I have moved to House 2 now because my room was very tiny LOL and there was an opening in House 2 with a bigger space that would allow me to have a closet.

 

We have translators that helped us get sim cards for our local phones so that we would be able to communicate with each other via whatsapp and make phone calls to stay connected while we are in Addis. The translators are students at Addis Ababa University and are all pretty much around my age(22). They are very willing to help and speak English very well so there aren’t any problems communicating with them. During the last days of our orientation week we all went out to a very nice traditional Ethiopian restaurant with the translators and program coordinators to have a great cultural experience. We ate traditional food and drank traditional wine called Njera and Tej respectively. The food is very spicy!! But I am also a person that hates spicy food. I embraced the culture here though because the food is great!

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It is supposed to be rainy season hear but it has only rained one day so far. The translators have told us that rainy season will come in about a month and I have my shoes, rain jacket and bucket hat to be ready for the elements. I thought it was pretty interesting the way infrastructure is set up here. The days our power was out we literally could see the 2 power lines that were down and they were just lying on the side of the road. I also find it interesting that people drive with no regard to pedestrians or traffic rules. There are no sidewalks in the places I frequent so most people walk along the sides of the road and move as cars come flying down the road. At night the city is very dark because there are no streetlights. There is an interesting parallel to Detroit, Michigan in that regard because there was a long period of time where the city government could not afford to pay for enough streetlights in many neighborhoods so there was complete darkness. I think it presents many risks. I also feel that there is an unspoken hostility among the people here but I don’t sense any real danger. I feel the people are always thinking about something or wondering something but I don’t see it being outwardly expressed from my foreigner point of view, but I am very curious to understand this hostility that I perceive from the people. When I am by myself in certain places I do not feel as much hostility but when I am with the group I feel the piercing stares of many local Ethiopians as we(the IFP group) walks to different places or rides around in our van that we have.

This is a picture of the group as we were touring Entoto!

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The country has a rich history, arguably the start of humanity, and I enjoyed all the historical sites that we visited during the IFP orientation week. I am a Christian but I am not very religious. I brought my bible with me during the trip because I want to finish it this summer in my down time when I am able to read. I start my internship this coming week working for a group called Consortium of Self Help Group Approach Promoters (COSAP) and it seems like it will be a very promising opportunity. My project involves me doing rapid assessment of women’s self-help group in the drought affected regions of Ethiopia. I am looking to learn a lot about development and the struggles women face in developing countries, as I do not know much about either.

 

My first week has been pretty interesting so far, looking forward to what happens next week.