I went to Ethiopia for 2 weeks for a work trip. It was HARD work.
I was delivering 2 back-to-back trainings, which I would normally never do, as it’s exhausting. But you know how it is, end of the financial year, budget to spend, blah blah blah.
I had 1 weekend free in the middle, and was hoping to get out of the city and see something of the rest of the country, as there is SO MUCH amazing stuff here! But sadly in the end I came down with a really rotten cold and had to work all weekend anyway. So I mostly sat in my hotel room, working, which was lame, although I did manage to pop out on Sunday afternoon for a few hours, so I went to the Sheraton Hotel which has a fancy pool and lazed around for a couple of hours.
Now, while I was deeply immersed in my trainings, a major emergency happened in one of the regions that I cover in my new role, so of course, I was trying to keep up with the zillions of emails and skype messages flying around every time we took a coffee break in the training and in the evenings. Then there were floods in a totally separate region I also cover, and they needed me to review funding proposals and allocations and get involved in that – so I was juggling responses on two continents, in at least 4 countries, while doing a full-time day job.
It was a little frustrating to say the least, that everyone expected me to be superwoman and manage a full day’s training course from 9-5 each day, plus all the prep work in the evenings for the next day, AND know everything about everything going on in other places and keep in my head all the people involved in so many responses at once.
Like I said, it was exhausting. And then I had a rotten cold and felt awful to boot.
Anyhoo, in spite of all this, Ethiopia is an utterly fascinating country and I actually really want to go back for a proper holiday sometime to see it all properly. They have incredible history and a load of ancient temples, castles and forts that look amazing (google Gondar if you don’t believe me), and they also have an active volcano that you can visit, not to mention various lakes and parks and plenty of wildlife to see. One of my best friends is also keen to go, so perhaps we’ll need to plan our next big holiday there!
The only thing that makes it slightly less appealing (aside from the recent plane crash, though that was the fault of the new airplane software not the airline itself, which has an impeccable safety record), is the recent rising crime rates. I believe this is mostly in Addis Ababa, the capital city so other parts of the country may be safer. However 2 of my colleagues have been robbed/mugged recently – one while walking her dog, was mugged at knifepoint, one was mugged at the airport heading home. There are almost daily alerts on the aid worker message boards of staff getting robbed as they get out of a taxi or outside of restaurants. So that is of course a worry.
But aside from the safety factors, here’s what else is amazing about Ethiopia.
They have around 72 different local languages or dialects, though the national language, Amharic is a root language for Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi and many other languages, and their written script, Ge’ez is one of the oldest known alphabets still in use in the world. It is also the place where we believe modern humans originated (after we evolved from neolithic people).
The Ethiopians use an older calendar system than our Julian one, which comprises of 13 months and their new year usually falls in September. More interesting is that in Ethiopia, it is currently 2011, as their calendar system is measured differently (meaning I travelled back in time and was 8 years younger during my stay!).
They also use a different clock system to tell the time, which at first was confusing, but after I thought about it was far more logical!
As they are close to the equator, they have roughly 12 hours of daylight and nighttime, so their clocks begin around 6am at sunrise and change at 6pm at sunset. Meaning at that at 7am, 1 hour after sunrise, is 1 o’clock. and 4pm would be 10 o’clock for them. At 6pm, when the sun sets, it starts the next 12 hour cycle. Which when you think about it makes a lot of sense – why does OUR day start at midnight, in the middle of the night?
Their food is unique too. Ethiopians eat injera, a weird type of sourdough flatbread made of Teff flour. It is damp and spongy, and slightly sour, and eaten with various stews made of meat and lentils or chickpeas using your hands. It’s nice, a bit strange, but I have never seen it in any other country as a staple food (apart from Eritrea).
One evening we went for a dinner together to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant and saw some amazing local dances from different parts of Ethiopia. Check these out they are genuinely amazing!
This lady’s head-shaking routine was INCREDIBLE
They have a pretty good local beer too!