Ethiopia Dispatch: Days 9, 10, and 11


Day 9, Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On Tuesday we set out early for a five-hour drive to Arba Minch. The ride was pretty uneventful, if driving on partly paved, partly rocky roads is uneventful. You get that a lot in Africa: highway projects go very well until they don’t and you have to drive in mud and rocks for 20+ kilometer stretches.

My days in Ethiopia are speeding by now! I can hardly keep up.

I have been in Ethiopia for 11 days and so much has been accomplished in such a short amount of time! I’m a little astounded by that.

I just got back from a five-day trip to the southern region of Ethiopia. I wish I could have traveled further south, but my itinerary wouldn’t allow it. Ethiopia is extremely expansive. I drove a total of ten hours south, but there is only so much to see in such a small window of time. Also, the further you travel from the big cities the less likely you will be connected and I must be connected or else I lose my bearings! Those of you who know me in real life, know that to be true. If I cannot connect I become a madwoman!

On Tuesday and Wednesday I couldn’t connect to Wifi. I couldn’t call out on a landline and my local phone finally was able to receive texts and calls only after several hours. It was maddening, but it taught me that I need to just relax. It’s hard to do, especially for someone like me who lives on the Net. I survived, but it was painful!

I did have an amazing view, though.

But the view didn’t matter. All I wanted was my wi-fi, which, by the way, I didn’t get until I got to Hawassa a full day later.

Day 10: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

After I admitted to myself that I would never get on the Internet I decided to stand under these birds on Wednesday morning and just enjoy them and their collective chirping.

Day 11: Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday was all about driving back to Addis. It was a beautiful drive through the Great Rift Valley.

Ethiopia Dispatch: Days 7 and 8


Day 7, Sunday, April 13, 2014

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Today I spent about six hours driving south of Addis through the Great Rift Valley. It was a beautiful, sunny day to get away from capital city. After a hectic week it was a definitely a “no rush” kind of day. Today is Sunday so the road wasn’t crowded with a lot of commercial trucks.  Donkey carts and cattle herds were the only hindrances that added to the drive-time.

We stopped at a few places along the way: one place to have lunch and another place to have coffee – traditional coffee. Even though this is the fasting period for many Ethiopians there are still many meat dishes that are prepared everywhere you go.  It was my first time drinking coffee with tena adam (rue) added to it.  It gave the coffee great flavor – almost like cinnamon, but not quite.

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When we finally got to the hotel I decided to sit out in front of the lake to just relax for a moment, that’s when I saw him: a professional “slingshotter”! All he does is shoot at the precocious monkeys that are all around the compound. If the hotel didn’t hire someone to keep the monkeys at bay they will jump on your tables and eat your food, or attempt to.

Slingshotter keeping the monkeys away.

 

Day 8, Monday, April 14, 2014

I spent the entire day in the field – all day; that is until the rains came in the afternoon.

Out in the field

I did get back in time to see the lake before the sun went down. And, then it was off to dinner with new friends I met in the field.

Lake Hawassa

Tomorrow I head even further south.

More then! 

 

Ethiopia Dispatch: Day 6


*** Day 6: Saturday, April 12, 2014

This morning I went down to breakfast and quickly heard the distinct echo of a chorus of American voices. There is a rather large tour group at my hotel filled with giddy teenagers from the States. It’s good for them that they are seeing Ethiopia at such a young age.

I’m all set to travel south of Addis tomorrow to the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples region. I was in the Amhara region on Wednesday and Thursday. Addis is the capital of the Oromia region.

I have a driver with a Land Cruiser (you can’t drive long distances in Africa without one) all set to pick me up in the morning and then I’m off with a local “fixer” who is working with me to make sure I get around OK and who will help me when people can’t understand my English, or in general don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m simplifying his role a lot in jest. He is an important part of making this planning trip easier and will travel with me all week as I venture south and even more south.

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The weather in Addis, by the way, has been quite pleasant. It hasn’t been hot at all; in fact, it’s been very mild, and the sun has been shining every day. With an altitude of 7500 feet the weather is perpetually nice here. In a word it’s been beautiful! I am a little sad that the June trip will take place at the beginning of the rainy season and beautiful, sunny days will be more scarce. At least it will be the beginning of the rainy season and not during the drenching height of it.

This evening I went out and took a few photos since it is my last night in Addis until I get back next week. I also enjoyed a quick macchiato before I headed up to write. And, of course, I took the obligatory coffee shot because the coffee here is, not surprisingly, phenomenal!

You might not have known that coffee originated in Ethiopia. Many of the locals have told me I need to go to the birthplace of coffee to see it. Maybe next time.

Since it’s the Easter season, many (most!) Ethiopians have been fasting. They are supposed to fast for 55 days before Easter. That means they can’t eat meat or dairy. If you’re a vegetarian, be sure to visit Ethiopia during this time as you can find some of the best vegetarian food around.

Tonight (it’s about 11:20 pm as I write this) I am taking advantage of the amount of sleep I will get. Tomorrow is Hosanna and the travel company where I hired the driver told me to get a late start in the day because a lot of people will be going to church in the morning. A late start? Twist my arm.

Addis at Night

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More tomorrow from a new city in the south of Ethiopia!

Ethiopia Dispatches: Days 4 and 5


*** Day 4, Thursday April, 10, 2014

When I woke up on Thursday morning I peeked out my tightly drawn curtains (I was trying to get some much-needed rest) and saw the sun shimmering across Lake Tana in all its splendor. It was beautiful. But, by the time I finally got downstairs to depart for my day in Bahir Dar the shimmer of the sun had faded away quickly, but the lake was still quite gorgeous.

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I am still attempting to wrap my mind around how big Ethiopia is. Friends, it is huge! It’s a country of 93 million people and the sheer size of the country is mind-blowing. How do I know? Because I am working on logistics for the rest of my time in Ethiopia in order to make sure I get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. There are some challenges, but I love an overground adventure!

After getting back from Bahir Dar on Thursday I immediately threw open my hotel windows in Addis  to hear the hustle and bustle of  the city below. There is always something going on in Addis like most capital cities.

Addis  Below

 

 *** Day 5, Friday, April 11, 2014

On Friday I had four office meetings and two site visits with NGOs. It was an intense day for sure, but full of fantastic possibilities for June. I hired a taxi driver for the day to take me around the city and wait as needed as my meetings were scattered throughout Addis.

It has been extremely nice having so many helpful NGO contacts in the States that have Ethiopian headquarters. It makes my life easier when I am in the planning stage. Global offices are in touch with each another. We all get to know one another. It’s perfect!

When I have traveled before I have never taken the time or energy to get a local number for the country I am visiting. But, in this case, having a local phone is imperative. I have loved being able to call and text my, now very many, contacts instead of having to rely on getting to Wi-Fi and reading my emails.

Tomorrow will one of my last days in Addis until the end of my trip where I will stay in the city to attend more meetings, meet more people, and iron out important details.

Ethiopia Dispatch: Day 3


Today I was in the Amhara region of Ethiopia in its capital Bahir Dar, a bustling lakeside town in the northern part of the country. I loved being just a quick Ethiopian Airlines flight away from Addis.

Bahir Dar is situated on Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake. I took this photo outside of my hotel as the sun was going down this evening. I wanted to capture a little bit of serenity after a very busy day filled with bumpy, unpaved African roads and miles of walking in the Ethiopian countryside.

Lake Tana

Right now it’s 4:30 AM in Ethiopia. I haven’t been able sleep well here thus far. I take cat naps in the evenings and then I can’t fall asleep until around 3:30 or 4:30 AM. Needless to say my body hasn’t gotten a full night’s rest since I’ve been here. I’m fine now, but it will certainly catch up with me. My task for the rest of this week is to make sure I get some rest! In fact, I am struggling to keep my eyes open to finish this post. All I can think about is getting coffee tomorrow morning.

When It Doesn’t Work for You, March On!

I almost stayed at this beautiful, pristine hotel tonight, but guess what? It didn’t have wi-fi in the rooms. The wi-fi  was only available around the pool and in a small lobby. That may have been OK if I was traveling for leisure, but since I’m working it was a deal breaker no matter how beautiful and whimsical it was.

Right now I’m in a hotel that has Wi-Fi in its room. It’s not as pretty, but I’m looking for functionality over beautiful grounds.

Hotel Hotel

I am going to be quite busy over the next few days but I’ll continue to write these dispatches from Ethiopia.

Now, I’m off to try to get a few hours of sleep before the sun comes up!

Ethiopia Dispatch: Day 2


Yesterday after I published my first dispatch from Ethiopia I realized I had already been here two days, not one. Sunday doesn’t count in my book, though. It was a day to get acclimated to the new time zone and sleep off menacing  jet lag. The first real day here in Ethiopia was yesterday to me. It’s funny because I keep thinking today is Wednesday when clearly it’s not. It’s amazing how a trip clear across the planet will cause you to lose all time and space.

Today was filled with meetings and more meetings, again. That’s the great thing about being in Addis: there are NGO headquarters all throughout the city so it’s easy to pay their teams a visit while you’re in town. Tomorrow I head up north to the Amhara region and will be there for a few days.

I didn’t take photos again today because I was far, far too busy. I was in and out of cabs and then in and out of offices all day. But I did see a lot during my cab rides across the city like the popular street commodity, sugar cane, be bought and sold with vigor throughout the populated areas of the city. Stray dogs wandered aimlessly and slept throughout the streets, shoeshiners buffed up shoes throughout the city, friends walked shoulder to shoulder, people sat, sipped, and talked in open-air coffee shops. There is a distinct buzz here in Addis. It’s full of life and untold stories. Telling stories isn’t my duty this time around as you know; rather I’m working to make a fantastic, robust itinerary for upcoming International Reporting Project fellows.

The more I spend time in Ethiopia the more I know I belong here in some capacity, most likely as someone who visits time and again for the rest of my life. For me, all roads lead to Addis.

 

 

Ethiopia Dispatches: Day 1


This trip to Ethiopia is going to be a bit different from all of my other trips to Africa. This one is going to be more cryptic and without a lot of photos. I’m here planning the next IRP trip in June and can’t give away a lot in my dispatches. But, writer that I am, I still want to share as much as I can without spilling any beans.

Today was full of meetings replete with brain power. I love those! I am entirely fortunate to be around people who believe in global health reporting and global health in general and implementing programs that work and save lives. It’s utterly astounding to me how I even got here. I’ve always said whatever it is in your life that you want just go after it! We only have one life to live, so live it!

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It was a beautiful, sunny day in Addis today. The temperature only went up to the mid 70s – the perfect weather for being out and about in many taxis.

I took a cab to a heavily crowded shopping district about 20 minutes from my hotel where I was able to buy a local phone – a Samsung – with the help of my taxi driver. No iPhones here, folks! At least not what I’ve seen. Like every other country I’ve visited, everyone has their mobile phone stuck to their ear. It’s like the United States except in the US you see more people looking down at their phones bumping into people because we can tweet and text and type and read and post on Facebook all at the same time. I think in countries like Ethiopia, calling and texting are the major cellphone habits, but I’m not entirely sure about that just yet.

When my taxi driver parked his car in this crowded shopping district he warned me to hold on tight to my purse and keep it closed, which I did wholeheartedly. I heard him loud and clear, but one great perk of “looking” Ethiopian is no one pays you any attention. I blend in, so everyone on the street has been pretty indifferent to me unlike in other countries like Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania where I stand out. I’ve even been called a “black mzungu” before in said countries. Blending in is such a great perk even though I don’t know a lick of Amharic.

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I took a walk along the road where my hotel is located. There was an amazing bakery with freshly baked bread and plenty of coffee shops and small eateries. I must visit them when I have a free moment, which according to my schedule, is never, but I may be able to make some time to sit with the locals. I like to get out with the Ethiopian people and stumble along the rocky, uneven sidewalks, brush shoulders with people who have places to go and minibuses to catch, and dodge taxis while I’m crossing the street.

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I will be here during the Easter holiday and while I am not heavily religious you better believe I am going to see some Orthodox Christian ceremonies while I am here. I was given some really amazing destinations to visit on Easter; not the overcrowded ones that everyone talks about or are highly encouraged in the travel guide books, but the ones that are just as amazing, but not heavily attended. I’ll take photos if I can.

By the way – only every seven years Ethiopia shares Easter with our calendar, so I am very lucky in that regard.

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Tomorrow is going to be full of meetings again! More then.