So disclaimer! Ethiopia was my first flight. I was giddy with excitement as my beautiful boyfriend (see how I slid that in right there) and siblings drove me to the airport. The flight was smooth…..I had no expectations, just a big ole open mind and it went off without a hitch. Skipping the part about one my interesting flight neighbours and yummy flight food (yes all that happened). I want to rush to the good part…Ethiopia the country, the people. First off this was a work trip but it felt more like leisure than work.
My first opinion of the country, from looking at the capital, apart from the extremely beautiful faces is that Addis Ababa feels/looks like a phoenix. It’s rising from the ashes with all the new high rise buildings and emerging skyscraper constructions in every corner, but you can still see the cracks of what it once was. The tin shacks and shops sandwiched by upcoming 5 star hotels, the people who look just as overwhelmed with what their city is turning into, the newly constructed flyovers juxtaposed with not so well constructed roads all somehow making this wholesome city what it is. It’s its own kind of beautiful. Perfect yet imperfect. I have failed to find a one word fits all for this place. It is just what it is.
Now for the people….oh how I love these people. It’s rare to find so many in one place that match my happiness and enthusiasm for life, always ready with a smile and a new word for the day even when I do not understand their beautiful language, Amharic . This is what I have so far *not sure of the spellings though*.
Damnatush – good morning; Ishii – okay; amasekinalo – thank you; shaii – tea; Buna – coffee; konjo – beautiful/pretty; igyii – go.
If I talk about Ethiopians, I cannot fail to vocal their norm of sharing, caring and supporting local businesses. It is the benign of their existence. Almost all food is shared on one plate by all in the family; rarely did I get to eat on a plate by my lonesome. The people in this place go out of their way for you, never expecting anything in return. To be honest I have not met so many genuine human beings in one place.
My first day in a restaurant, I had the most melanin in the room no jokes (in my country I am considered lighter than most). However with time, I met all skin complexions; most of the people falling in between that type of skin; not quite black and not white either. Speaking of restaurants, the food here has an acquired taste (in a good way). First day you cannot fathom what you’re putting in your mouth due to the uniqueness in flavours, but 5 days down the road, “engera” is one of my favourites. Engera (the rolled up piece in the picture below) is the staple food in this community accompanying 90 percent of the meals making them wholesome in my opinion. They also incorporate pasta, rice, fish and beef in the meals.
As I engaged with the people and toured a little here and there, I came to notice the richness and pride in culture that is rare in this day and age. It is as if they haven’t yet been fully contaminated with the need to be thoroughly westernised (they are the only non-colonised African nation) and in my opinion that’s a win. However, I think it’s catching on in the younger generation as viewed from the dress code (mainly jeans) and some of the music, food and general entertainment they enjoy.
The country was built on the basis of religion with Orthodox being the most common religion adapted by the people. They take every opportunity to pray, Saturdays and Sundays for the entire night, and have a lot of fasting periods, I honestly cannot recall many of them. For example during this particular season, they have the 55 days of fasting where no meat is eaten on Wednesdays and Fridays. However their fasting food is so good I almost considered going vegetarian.
To be honest though, I was alarmed when for a glaring two days, there was no Wi-Fi at the hotels because the government had switched it off for reasons unknown to us. I felt as if one of my basic human rights had been stripped away. However the residents on the other hand seemed to take it in stride that if that had been done then there must be a reason concerning security; that was my first peek at the high level of patriotism and positive mindedness of the people for their country and after my fury with the situation faded, I was impressed. They have only good words to speak about their government (maybe it’s just the ones I interacted with).
I hope this piece paints a picture of the kind of community I encountered. There’s a lot not scripted here, like maybe how the income gap is so wide between the poor and the rich that the ones who struggle to make it really struggle and barely break even, how the taxes are so ridiculous that the price of a second hand Vitz can get you a Mercedes in Uganda. I just wrote from my perspective which is usually sunny, but just like any other country, it’s not a bed of roses. I really did enjoy my time and stay and I am forever grateful to all that made it so.