I really feel compelled to share my story today because I saw personally how afraid Americans are of Ebola. I strongly believe the fear is largely fueled by the media. Everyone is terrified and it’s just unreasonable.
I went to my dentist this morning and he wouldn’t touch me because I just came home from Tanzania. First he made me sign a health declaration form saying that I haven’t been to or have been around anyone from west Africa recently and that I don’t have Ebola symptoms. That was fine. I signed one of those forms when I landed in Dar es Salaam a few weeks ago.
Then, I asked him if he knew where Tanzania was. He didn’t, so I DREW him a map!!! …. DREW it on the back of the form. But, it didn’t matter.
Then he told me to come back in 21 days! He pulled up a calendar on his computer and COUNTED DAYS, friends!
I understand that people are afraid of Ebola. If my dentist wouldn’t see me then he shouldn’t see people who have traveled to Atlanta or Dallas either. That’s how ridiculous my morning was…..
Friends, have I told you how much I love airplanes? Maybe a time, or two, or three.
They fascinate me!
Years ago, I used to hate flying. Now, I get on an airplane as often as I can because they give me great peace! I can’t be reached when I am thousands of feet in the air. Yes, I know, airplanes have Wi-Fi now (even on international flights), but believe me, when I am flying, no matter whether I am going to Addis or Dar es Salaam or London or Johannesburg or Lusaka or a few states away I am never checking my emails.
It’s a shame that the only place I can get a little peace from the world – even though temporary – is in the air.
(left to right) Flying over Washington, DC, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zambia, Tanzania, New York
I really love airplanes even though I have no idea how they function. I am always fascinated that big chunks of metal can lift off into the air and fly for hours to the other side of the world.
For the past few weeks the news has been utterly insufferable. It’s just been really bad – there’s no eloquent way to say it. Bad! In fact, I needed to back away from my laptop last week because the news was a little too much to bear.
I am the type of person who reads as much as I can. I get my news from curated Twitter followers, Flipboard, Facebook (from time to time), and my daily rounds of the major US and UK newspapers and magazines.
Now that I think about it, that may be a bit much!
So, in honor of how much I need to just get away from the 24-hour news cycle again, behold: flowers + macchiatos from Ethiopia. And a great song at the end.
Flowers in the Southern Highlands – Ethiopia
Double Macchiato – Addis
Flowers in Hawassa
Macchiato at Radisson BLU Addis
Flowers in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
Traditional Cup of Ethiopian Coffee
Flowers in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
Double Macchiato at Coffee House, Addis
Wild Flowers – Great Rift Valley – Ethiopia
It’s a little ridiculous to dream about going back to Africa especially when I just got back from the continent a little over a week ago. I understand that. But, as ludicrous as this sounds I am already thinking about traveling to Africa again. I think it’s because Africa is so expansive and there is still so much for me to see. Plus, I’m not getting any younger. I want to be able to climb mountains and walk in the rural areas whenever I want and not be hampered by my age. OK, I’m only 39, but still.
Another thing that is bothering me terribly is that I have only visited east African countries and South Africa. That’s it! I’m not sure how that happened, but I have never visited west Africa and I have traveled to the continent seven times. Now, I’m itching to see that side of the continent.
I really want to visit west Africa, but that’s out of the question now that ebola is running rampant throughout Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Even though ideally I want go to Dakar, Senegal, I can’t take any chances. People travel extensively throughout the region and you just never know if someone is flying with ebola. When I go to Africa I am always worried about malaria and dengue fever. Ebola shouldn’t be on my list of disease worries, so for now, west Africa is out of the question.
I have heard from many people that Rwanda is a fantastic place to visit. And I know I can get really great stories there. Even after the genocide, great strides have been taken to make Rwanda whole again. Kigali is supposed to be extremely safe and clean, so yes, Rwanda is intriguing to me. I also really want to visit Namibia because of its deserts. And Botswana and Mozambique would also be interesting countries to visit. Above all, however, I really want to visit Mali (always have!), but because of the instability there I will have to wait until it’s safer (at least in my mind).
I have no doubt that I will visit Africa again this year. It’s just a matter of where and when. I do need to stay put for awhile. That’s for certain, but there’s nothing wrong with a little “Africa Dreaming” from time to time.
I spent nearly a month in Africa, again! I went through a period last year when I also spent a month in Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa. This time Ethiopia and South Africa were my temporary home throughout June and the early bit of July.
I’ve been home now for about a week and I have adjusted quite well, surprisingly. I haven’t had really weird jet lag problems. The only day when I was ridiculously tired was the day I came back (on July 4th) and I slept like a rock! No one could wake me up for anything. I missed FIFA soccer and Fourth of July fireworks, but I was with my family so that’s all that mattered.
There were a few days when I still desperately missed my family even though we were all in the same place – at home! That was really weird, but that feeling also passed. I am so glad to be in North Carolina without any pressing global jaunts in the pipeline. Although for those of you who know me well, it will probably be a few months before I am on another jet plane with passport in hand ready for another adventure to report on women and girls in unknown places.
Typically when I travel I post updates when I am away, but this trip was a little different. I was co-leading a group of stellar US journalists throughout Ethiopia to report on newborn health on an itinerary I put together in the spring with the International Reporting Project. If you recall, I went on two IRP trips last year as a fellow. This time the tables were flipped and I was the program manager for this Ethiopia reporting trip. It was intense, to be sure, with a lot of moving parts. To make a long story short I concentrated on ensuring the trip went smoothly instead of blogging here every day. I did post pictures along my journey that you can see on my Tumblr blog – short and sweet.
Guarang Women in Ethiopia’s Southern Highlands
Ethiopia is definitely one of my favorite countries to visit. In fact, I love it so much I will figure out a way to live there if only for a few months at a time. There are a lot of stories I would like to tell about women and girls. I want to push my reporting to visit those who I can’t easily get to and places where I might need two translators – one for English to Amharic and another who specializes in Amharic to some other lesser known Ethiopian language; they have several.
In the meantime, it’s back to life and back to reality. I’m thrilled to be back in my own time zone, sitting at my own desk right now, looking out of my own windows.
Addis Ababa often puzzles me. As big, largely populated, and urban as Addis Ababa is, I’m always left scratching my head that any time day or night you can see a herd of goats traipsing through the crowded streets. I am used to seeing herds of goats walking amongst the UN and NGO vehicles, city and mini buses, and private vehicles during the day. But, I had no idea goats would be herded through the Addis streets during the wee hours of the morning. It’s 3 AM! I suspect they’re going to the market and will be someone’s lunch today.
It’s so early, they’re up with the party-goers at the open-air bar on the street below my hotel window. Only in Addis!
…and I will be back in Ethiopia.
Going to Africa is a little second nature for me now. This will be my eighth time traveling to the Continent in three years and my third time traveling to Ethiopia, one of the countries I truly love! I will be in Africa for quite some time again. It seems like I have these massive opportunities to visit Africa, but I’m staying there for longer and longer stretches at a time.
I look forward to sharing photos when I travel around the country throughout June.