Change Yourself…Change The World.

A bit of Ethiopian fusion
August 6, 2010, 10:15 am
Filed under: Ethiopia, Pictures Post

Dear friends,

My time in Ethiopia draws to a close, but I have other pictures to share with you- pictures that cropped up from random moments in Addis Ababa, or in Awassa, or on our journey back to Addis Ababa (in which we visited the village Shashamene). I wanted to share these with you as well, which you can find in the pictures below.

Ethiopia was a very interesting experience and quite an introduction to Africa, but I find myself extremely excited to move on to the next step- Kenya! I leave for Kenya today, where I’ll be stationed for three months, working as a Kiva Fellow at Faulu Kenya. Work starts on Monday and I can’t wait.

In the meantime, here are the rest of the pictures of Ethiopia.

Much love and see you in Kenya!


Pictures here: Ethiopian Fusion

Globalization At Its Finest
August 5, 2010, 9:58 am
Filed under: Ethiopia, Video Post

Being a ferenje in Ethiopia
August 5, 2010, 8:09 am
Filed under: Ethiopia, Pictures Post

Hi friends,

Sorry I’m a little back-logged– internet in hard to come by in Ethiopia!

Tuesday was such a fantastic day. One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to just go to a village and hang out with the locals, and that’s exactly what Yoseph and I did.

To give a bit of a background story- as stated before, all of my travels in Ethiopia have been thanks to Rick Wandoff, an amazing individual who has been to Ethiopia many times, and encouraged me to go. He arranged for me to stay with his good friend Yoseph, who has taken me all around Addis Ababa and other areas of Ethiopia. Rick has been brimming with ideas for different places for me to go and visit. Many thanks again, Rick and Yoseph!

So to get back to our story, Rick and his wife Katie both adopted a daughter from Ethiopia, Sophia, about five years ago, from the Leku Shebedino Village, about an hour drive from Awassa. Sophia’s birth mother died of typhoid, and her birth father died of malaria, leaving behind five children. Rick and Katie adopted Sophia when she was a few months old. Today Yoseph and I went to the village to visit Sophia’s brothers and sister- Asamenew, age 12, Mekebeb, age 10, Abatu, age 9, and Mescrach, age 6. They live with their Aunt and Uncle, Mesfin and Mulu, who have two daughters (Netsanet, age 15, and Selam, age 4).

As soon as we got to the village, the whole family popped out and gave me big awkward hugs, welcoming me to their house. Yoseph led me into a dimly lit room and we all introduced each other. Then we sat there, in a sort of strained silence, trying to figure out what we should say to each other. I had come there to meet Sophia’s family, and to understand more about the locals and village life in Ethiopia, but I also wanted to take pictures of them for Ricks’ family, and as a memento for the village to have. I didn’t want to suddenly whip out my expensive camera and shove it in their faces when they didn’t even know me. What kind of impression would I be giving them as a foreigner, coming into their village, introducing myself, and suddenly turning their lives into a photo shoot? I knew in order for them to feel comfortable around me, some kind of barrier had to be crossed. I wanted to learn more about their lives, and for them to know about mine.

And so, I reverted to automatic mode: acting like a child myself.

‘You play soccer?’ I asked them, Yoseph translating for me.
Smiles crept over the boys’ faces. They nodded.
‘Well, let’s go!’ I said, standing up. Taken off guard a bit, the boys hastened to grab a soccer ball from the shed, which was a gift from Yoseph.

The family and I walked up the village center and near the school- suddenly throngs of Ethiopian boys and girls came hurrying up, giggling behind their hands at the strange ferenje (foreigner) in Thai pants and a sports t-shirt. I waved at all of them and invited that they join. We swiftly divided into teams- Yoseph, Mesfin, Mekebeb, and Abatu, versus Asamenew, me, and two other locals from the village. I handed off my camera to Netsonet and gave a quick tutorial, who held my D5000 like it was an eggshell, and carefully snapped pictures of our game. Suffice to say, we schooled the other team. Three times. It was all thanks to Asamenew, who is Sophia’s eldest brother and a killer soccer player. He should play for the National Team!

After soccer, everyone had sufficiently warmed up to the ferenje, and we all started playing various games. The girls taught me Azureny Atazureny, a sort of singing game where you spin each other in a circle and then let go. I taught them Duck Duck Goose- I know, pretty lame game, but I couldn’t think of anything else. I wish ‘Spud’ had popped into my head- I used to play that all the time as a kid. Asamenew, Mekebeb, and Abatu all got up and sang (I videotaped!), did handstands, and raced each other.

Afterwards, we headed back over to the house, where the family all wrote Rick notes and I snapped pictures of each of them in ‘cool’ poses (I totally prompted this, which resulted in a lot of pictures of them striking silly stances and laughing all over the place). It was a wonderful day that can only be encapsulated by the pictures I took– which you can find below!

My absolute favorite thing to do is to cross boundaries with another culture in this way. I think that it’s equally scary for a foreigner and a local village to feel very shy around one another, which makes them unsure how to interact. I always revert to being silly, playing games, and winning the hearts over of the kids to dissolve this apprehension. I really hope that my Peace Corps experience consists of me being the ferenje in a village like this- playing with the kids every day and sharing our different cultures with one another.

Pictures here: Sophia’s Village

Addis Ababa
August 1, 2010, 12:42 pm
Filed under: Ethiopia, Pictures Post

Dear friends,

So while I have you here, I’d just like to marvel at how WONDROUS it is to have internet! I spent a good portion of today checking not one, but THREE different internet locations, only to find that they were all not working (including the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa, which is- at least what Yoseph says- the best hotel in Africa). I finally came back to the Sheraton tonight to find out that the internet is working again! I will never take you for granted again, internet.

So I’m cheating a bit here and actually writing this post ahead of time, which I’ve never done before (this is actually written on August 1st and slated to be released on August 2nd), because of my paranoid fear that the internet could be down tomorrow. So what you are reading today in fact, happened yesterday. Right now as you are reading this, I am probably driving 4 1/2 hours South to Awassa with Yoseph to check out some other areas of Ethiopia. With that being said, I will not be able to post again until at least August 5th. So hopefully this will tide you over for a few days.

Today Yoseph and I explored some more of Addis Ababa- we went to Entoto, which is one of the highest mountains in Ethiopia, to take in a view of the entire city and to visit Taitu’s Memorial Museum and Palace (Taitu was an emperor of Ethiopia during the 1800’s). I have to say that Taitu’s ‘Palace’ (you’ll see in the pictures) is surprisingly quite small- especially if you’re thinking that around the same time such edifices like the Taj Mahal, which is massive, had already been constructed to demonstrate the power of the Mughal empire in India. In relation, the ‘palace’ looks like a summer house in the mountains, but I’m glad that we went up there to check it out and see the view. Ethiopia is a really beautiful place, and grows on me by the day. I’m also especially taking a massive liking to injera (the sponge-like bread) and all of the delicious sauces that accompany it.

Yoseph and I then went to an Italian restaurant for lunch (there are a lot of Italian influences in Addis Ababa, which means that there are many authentic Italian restaurants. The pizza we had was delicious) and drove around the expat/diplomat area of Addis Ababa. I was astounded at the gorgeous houses hidden behind massive gates, which is in total contrast to most other areas of the city. We also stopped to walk around a bit, and I by luck found a store selling traditional Ethiopian furniture and decorations. I went a little crazy there (I’m a huge fan of African furnishings), and got two bowls (one large, one small), two traditional tej wine glasses, a mancala board, and a wall hanging– all to the tune of 15 dollars. It definitely helped that Yoseph was there and knew the shop keeper, so he gave me more ‘discounted’ prices. Yoseph has also been a great ‘tour guide,’ explaining to me the history of Ethiopia and Eritrea, what he feels about the country and development there, and where he hopes it goes in the future.

I am now at the Sheraton, giddily typing away on wi-fi and marveling at how extreme this hotel is. It feels like I am back in the United States- lavishly dressed men and women lounge on velvet armchairs, a man daintily plays the piano, and the drinks menu is about 10 pages.

Yoseph and I have covered much of Addis Ababa through his car (unfortunately I wasn’t able to take as many pictures as I usually do, since a lot of my traveling is walking, not driving- but it was great that I had the opportunity to see so many different areas of the city), and tomorrow we are going into one of the slums (to see what it looks like in relation to the expat area), to the Merkato, and then off to Awassa and Shashamene (a town where many Rastafarians live) to see more of Ethiopia.

Check out the pictures below. See you in a few days!

More of Addis

T.I.A. (This Is Africa)
August 1, 2010, 10:52 am
Filed under: Ethiopia, Pictures Post

Dear friends,


I don’t even know how to describe this place. I feel that the past two days have been such a jumbled blur of sights and experiences, and I don’t know how to piece them together yet, or begin processing what they mean. What I can tell you is this: I am in Africa. Not the ‘Egypt’ Africa, which is still Africa but also part of the Middle East- this time, I feel that I am in REAL Africa, the Africa that I had always read about but never seen first-hand.

I don’t know quite how to describe this, but before coming here I had this ‘idea’ in my head of what Addis Ababa (the capital) would be: a bustling and sprawling city, swarming with people (who, for some reason, I imagined as Muslim), dusty high rises and swindlers on every street corner- sort of like Cairo, Egypt.

In actuality, Addis Ababa is the complete opposite. Yes, the city is sprawling, but it is GREEN, and there’s no real ‘city’ feel. It feels like a very large town. Some of the roads are paved, and some are a bumpy, muddy mess. Small shops give away to lanes upon lanes of tin houses, and there are ‘sections’ of the city where hordes of people sit on stoops, waiting to be hired as carpenters, or to peddle bananas and vegetables.

And the people- older women dressed in all white grasp arms as they hobble across the street, younger women decked out in vivacious skirts and pumps pause alluringly for a bus, middle-aged men shepherd donkeys overloaded with bales of hay down the highway, little boys in flip flops and torn pants giggle together at some secret joke in the muddy sidewalks. ‘Addis’ (as the locals call it), is definitely not what I expected, now I feel I am REALLY in Africa!

My ‘homestay family’ (as they are locals, and I am staying at their house, I like to call them my homestay), are wonderful. Yoseph, Makdes, and their one-year-old son, Phinehas, are gracious and welcoming, and their housekeeper Birrtu cooks delicious food!

What I like the most so far is when Yoseph takes me along with him to see totally different areas of the city, and I stare out the window of his four wheeler, watching all of the different sights and people in them. On Friday he took me out to lunch at ‘Yod Abysinia Cultural Restaurant,’ which serves traditional Ethiopian food. We ordered the maheberwe for lunch, which is the national Ethiopian food dish- a large family-style platter with injera (a staple food in Ethiopia, a kind of spongy bread) heaped with all kinds of different sauces to try. My favorites were dorw wote (a red sauce with chicken and boiled egg) and kay wote (brown sauce with beef). Yoseph is a huge fan of kitfo, which is raw beef and apparently a delicacy in Ethiopia. I boldly tried it- pretty delicious, but I decided one bite would suffice. To drink I had the famous tej, which is a delicious honey wine. The wine is WAY stronger here than in the United States! I couldn’t drink even half my glass.

And since I’m living with a local family, I’m starting to pick up little phrases in Amharic (the local language). I think I’ve found the most difficult ‘thank you’ so far in all the languages I’ve learned- Amasehganalo– what a mouthful. I still mess it up. You may also be interested to know that the calendar in Ethiopia is totally different, and today is July 25th, 2002! Also, instead of 10:45 PM, it is 4:45 PM (hour ‘1’ starts at sunrise, 7 AM).

Yesterday Yoseph and Makdes celebrated Phinehas’s first birthday, and they had a big party at their house with all of their relatives and friends. At first I felt a little out of place with all of their relatives who refused to let me help or cook and only spoke Amharic, and I retreated to my room for a bit- but after the party really started going, people started talking to me in English, and I showed some of the kids Star Wars I on my computer, which was a big hit. The food was fantastic, (I’m liking injera more and more every day) and Yoseph got a kegger of St. Georges draft, which is some of the best beer I’ve tasted.

So that’s my first impressions of Ethiopia! It may take awhile for me to post again- internet is really sparse here, even in the capital. Tomorrow Yoseph and I are going out on a three day trek to the south of Ethiopia, and I don’t have high hopes that it will be better. But while I can, here are some pictures!

Addis Ababa

Goodbye Middle East!
July 28, 2010, 5:02 pm
Filed under: Ethiopia, Jordan

The Red Sea

Today was my last full day in Jordan, and I tried to take advantage of it to the fullest. I know that I’ll be in Nairobi for three months, without a beach in sight– and so I headed down to Aqaba, down in Southern Jordan, to relax by the Red Sea for a few blissful hours and snorkel. I went to the Royal Diving Club and spent a good amount of time cooling off in the deliciously cold water.

Jordan has been amazing. Incredible country, incredible people, so many fabulous sights to see, wondrous food to eat, and friends to make. I’m surprised at how much of the country I covered in a mere four days– I would love to come back here someday (if only to go back to the Zara Spa, or REALLY splurge on the Red Sea and stay at the Radisson Blu, which looks astounding and has jet skis, yachts, and all kinds of mind-boggling amenities). I’ve been talking it up to my parents because I know how much they would love it.

My post ends here- these past four days have been incredible but exhausting, and I have a full 25 hour travel day ahead of me to Ethiopia (one bus, two taxis, and three flights). I’m not quite sure what the internet situation is in Ethiopia, but I’ll try my best to update regularly.

Before I go, I’d like to give a huge thanks to Rick Wandoff, who sparked my interest to travel to Ethiopia in the first place. Rick has been to Ethiopia multiple times and adopted a daughter there. I am staying with a friend of his, Yoseph, in Addis Ababa for free, and he is taking me anywhere around the country I desire to go. I can’t imagine how exciting this next week will be! Thanks so much again Rick, and Yoseph, who is letting me stay with his family!

Sleep beckons. Dreaming of Ethiopia already. Or maybe that’s my lucid dreaming starting up from taking malaria pills. Either or, I’m happy.

Much love,