Traveling Ma Visits Me in Ethiopia – One Day At A Time

My mom left for the Netherlands yesterday after being in Ethiopia for 2 weeks. There were many emotions felt within those two weeks but ultimately, it was an overwhelming joy in being able to truly be myself with someone who knows me. Having a family member join you in sharing your world overseas, feel the things you feel and meet the wonderful people who have shaped your experience is such a blessing. My mother wanted to visit last year but because of scheduling conflict, it wasn’t able to happen until this year. At first, I thought that it would be a hassle because I didn’t want to be anyone entertainment, nor did I want to be responsible for being a good host, but honestly, my mother, Ruth, is such a trooper. She handled the long bus rides like a champ, she handled the shint bet (bathroom) like a true Ethiopian and she found ways to entertain herself.


During her time here, we spent a few days in Hawassa, the regional capital of Southern Nations, eating fish and accustoming her to the people, the customs and the food. Ma arrived during the week of Timket, so we got to experience the festivities together. We visited Butajira to see my host family, the family that I lived with during my three months of training, and finally, we headed to Chiri where we got to spend 5 days with the people I cherish most. On the last day before heading to Addis, my counterpart and friend Brihane and Imme helped (or rather made) doro wot as a goodbye to Ma. I helped to cut the onions and as the tears came, Imme put a small onion piece behind both of my ears, which helped with the crying.

Having MA visit was both amusing and tiring at the same time. It was tiring in the sense that I had to be double vigilant for the both of us, I had to communicate between three different languages (English, Spanish and Amharic) and most often I found myself thinking in the wrong language, having to talk down prices due to locals trying to take advantage of us being ferenjis (foreigners), and because of her bad knees, we had to walk extra slow and make sure that her knees didn’t swell up. It was amusing having an American currently living in the Netherlands, both developed countries, coming to a developing country with issues in water, electricity, poverty and transportation. Phrases like “there is no wi-fi in the room, why are there so many mosquitos and cockroaches, is there air conditioner in the room, how much further and finally, why are there so much rocks and dust in your town” were often said.

Ma and I spoke of the similarities between countries like Honduras, other developing countries, and the United States and we came to a census: the media does a terrible job of portraying all the negatives about a country but leave out all the beauty. A person can be mugged just as much in the good old USA, people will try to increase the price to foreigners like in Latin American countries, foods can be hot or cold and poverty is seen worldwide. Each country holds it’s own unique beauty and views and it’s important to enjoy the scenery for as long as it lasts. Living in Africa, a continent that is portrayed badly in the news by showing poverty and famine, garbage, bad infrastructure and overpopulation in a country – it’s really just a continent like all others who holds good and bad things. Ethiopians are proud to be Ethiopian, and most want a better life – just like my mother did when we were in Honduras. What makes a country better than another? Is having reliable transportation, fast internet, infrastructure and having a high GPD all what it’s about? All that really does is set aside the most precious things about Ethiopia – the way that some people will go out of their way to welcome you into their homes through their bunna (coffee) ceremonies, the way that people look out for you in smaller towns and the sense of community, especially in little old Chiri, my beloved town.

I love Ethiopia (even though I can really hate it sometimes) and I am extremely happy that my mother got to experience the things that I have felt for the last year and a half, both the good and the bad. It was an amazing feeling hearing someone say that they respect all the work that goes into traveling in this country and the difficulties one faces by being here. It was nice having someone from home come to Ethiopia who didn’t judge me when I didn’t shower, wore the same clothes again, or who was so cool with the inconsistencies of power outages and it was super awesome to see her bond with all those who have become family to me. Having a family member join me in my country of service is best in getting me excited for the future, in finishing out strong, and in living presently because it’s a reminder that my service is thankfully and regretfully coming to a close. 


2 Comments Add yours

  1. John Tierney says:

    Three languages! Most folks have trouble with just two…I could tell by the end of your first paragraph you were having care not to mix them up and having trouble doing so.

    Been there, done that, bought the T shirt.

    Try separating English, Viet and Chinese some time.

    You will get back to Delaware and folks will look at you oddly, and ask what that word means, And repeat something in Amhari. You’ll blink, realize only then it is in a language they don’t understand, and repeat in English.

    Delighted you have this experience. Eventually, people who couldn’t learn even Spanish will think your an extraterristal. You’ll start concealing the fact that you’re multilingual. Everyone will assume you learned Spanish as a family thing, you can plausibly say it is so, but the Amharic will be difficult to explain; you’re too caloric to explain… Sent from my iPad


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