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.

The Best Part of Planning My Stay in Ethiopia


Here I am…sitting in the heart of Washington, DC…writing.

If you regularly read my blog you already know I’ve been to Ethiopia before with Save the Children, one of the most prolific and effective international NGOs that helps children and entire communities survive and thrive around the world. During that trip in December 2012, everything was arranged for me from hotel stays to site visits to transportation to most meals in order for me to tell as many stories about frontline health workers as possible.

Now that I am putting together an itinerary for the International Reporting Project‘s next global health trip to Ethiopia I’m in charge of mostly everything from program visits to logistics to finding hotels with decent Wi-Fi in remote areas. This is right in my wheelhouse and is a great privilege. I’ve been a fellow on two International Reporting Project trips and I travel extensively to low-income countries, so to now be a program manager on an upcoming IRP trip is phenomenal.

Ethiopia is a huge country and traveling from point A to point B seamlessly is going to be a challenge, but definitely doable. I’ve scouted out NGO program sites and travel throughout the country to make sure car distances are reasonable and flights in country won’t wear the fellows out. I’ll be seeing several regions of Ethiopia and many cities starting with Addis and then working my way around Ethiopia. It’s going to be an eye-opening experience to be sure and a trip that will likely change my life as all of my trips do.

The countdown continues — two more days and then I’m off to Ethiopia for 18 days!

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[Photos] North Carolina’s Cape


A few weeks ago Michael had an ultramarathon race on Bald Head Island so we headed south to North Carolina’s Cape.  I’ve never been to Bald Head Island before even though I’ve lived in North Carolina for over thirty years. It was extremely quaint. You can only access the island by ferry via the Cape Fear river. The Atlantic ocean is on the other side of the island and houses the state’s oldest light house.

Since I am gearing up to travel to Africa this week I am starting to blog here again to get back into the habit of sharing my journey. Speaking of writing, I have a new piece up on the Gates Foundation blog, Impatient Optimists: Women Helping Women in Johannesburg’s Townships.  This is a story I’ve been meaning to tell since I was in South Africa last year. Better later than never!

Hope you enjoy the photos!

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Why I am Traveling to Ethiopia This Week


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Saturday will mark my fifth time going to Africa and, of course, I am ridiculously happy about it. I will be in Ethiopia for nearly a month planning a two-week itinerary for a global health fellowship program that starts in June. The last time I was in Ethiopia I visited Addis and Hawassa. This time I will be all over Ethiopia by car and by plane so the prospect of seeing much more of the country is bigger this time around.

Ethiopia is the second most populated country in Africa behind Nigeria. With over 93 million people, covering one million square miles, with over 80 ethnic groups there is a lot to see and people to meet. With such a short stay I will only just begin to scratch the surface of all there is to see and learn in Ethiopia.

I fly out on Saturday!

A few photos from my last visit to Ethiopia. You can see my full photo album on G+.

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Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Our Short Adventure With the Southern Snowstorm


We don’t get a heavy snowstorm here in the North Carolina piedmont very often, so when we do it is a big occasion. It began snowing heavily on Wednesday and continued snowing through Thursday afternoon halting traffic and causing everything to close down except gas stations and a few neighborhood stores.  On Thursday morning there had to be at least six inches of snow on the ground. We went out with our girls to play in it because we had the streets to ourselves!  We walked through the snow that had been hardened by a top layer of ice. We even saw cars that got stuck on our downtown streets and needed a little manpower to get them going again.

And then, puff, just like that, the snow was gone! By Friday the temperatures climbed into the low 60s and the snow quickly melted and turned into sludge. Now there are only a few patches of snow in front lawns and piled high in parking lots where the snow had been plowed. Even though the snow didn’t last long, it was a nice change of pace. Last winter was quite warm and if my memory serves correctly we had just a tiny bit of snow. Looking out of the window and seeing snow everywhere helps you remember that, yes, North Carolina still has a true winter even if we only experience it every other year or so.

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