Monday, May 21, 2012

Ruminations on Ethiopia

I am currently slowly making my way back to America, stopping off to visit several friends along the way.  My first stop was Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to visit a new friend that is the principal of an international school there.  I was only there for a few days, 2 of which I spent helping out at school, but that was still plenty of time for a few adventures and some random thoughts.

- If you haven’t flown internationally, you should give it a try, particularly in Asia and Africa.  My flight from Nairobi to Addis was only 2 hours and I still got a full breakfast.  Also of note, Ethiopian Airlines has excellent radio stations.  Egypt Air does not.

- As a general rule, people in Addis Ababa were incredibly helpful.  So many strangers went so far out of their way to make sure I got where I was going, which was really good because…

- …it’s very difficult to get around Addis as a foreigner.  Seriously, streets are not labeled well and the minibus system is really confusing if you can’t read or speak Amharic.  (It’s so hard!  ‘Thank you’ is so many syllables long!)  On my first day, I took one 20 minute minibus ride to get from Joyce’s house into downtown.  To get home I took 3 minibuses, walked several blocks and, after an hour and a half, finally gave up and just took a cab for the last bit. 

- Apparently elementary school is my natural environment.  I spent one day helping out in first grade and within an hour or two I was correcting kids, creating/giving a math assessment and making a plan for the work I would get done during my break. 

- If you ask one guy about something on a map, you’ll soon have every man in the area peering over your shoulder to have a gander and put in their two cents.  I’m not sure if this has more to do with what appears to be men’s innate love of maps or the fact that they were banned in Ethiopia until not that long ago, thanks to the Russians helping the country be communist briefly during the 70’s and 80’s. 

- The food is cheap and the coffee delicious.  Though, personally, I am not sold on the amount of traditional dishes that include raw meat.  I’m willing to give that a go once, but I’m just not sure I need to push my luck repeatedly. 

- Despite being neighbors, culturally, Ethiopia and Kenya are worlds apart.  Ethiopia has a very long history of influence from the Egyptian/Arabic/Ottoman north that really shows in their culture. 

In between lending a hand at school and pretending like I could actually get places, I managed to hit up a couple museums where I saw the remains of some of the oldest humanoids discovered thus far as well as some very interesting prehistoric animals.  I had never considered how different they would be from North American prehistoric animals.  I also got to see inside an Orthodox cathedral, which was not at all what I expected – much more functional than beautiful.  A huge thanks to Joyce for being such a lovely host – I had a great time catching up with her.  Until next time!
Mock-up bones of Lucy (I'm pretty sure the real ones are still on tour)
St. George Orthodox Cathedral

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