27 Things to Love and Hate about Serving in Ethiopia

To celebrate 27 months in country, I decided to write about the things that I love and will miss about Ethiopia but also the things that drove me a little crazy.

  1. Being called fat is a compliment. Being called “fat” means that you have the monetary means to eat healthy. Unlike the States, in Ethiopia, a well rounded individual is seen as beautiful and it’s nothing to be ashamed.
  2. The government’s control and oppression over its’ people, especially Oromians.
  3. 3 cups of coffee, 3 times a day. First, you start your day with 3 cups of coffee in the morning. Then another 3 cups right around 3 p.m.. Finally, around 6 or 7 p.m., take your final 3 cups.
  4. “Inibla!” No matter your age or religion, both Muslims and Christians have opened their homes to me. As a single woman in my 20’s, I receive a lot of invitations for food as I like to think that people watch out for me due to that fact. Inibla, or let’s eat!
  5. Injera is spectacular. I love when I tell people that I have lived in Ethiopia for two years and all they ask is “do you like injera?”. I don’t think I could have survived in this country had I not enjoyed injera.
  6. Greetings are unique.  

                         A typical conversation:

                              Andrea: Selam nih? How are you?

                             Person: Dahina igi’ziyabher y’imasgan.  Selam niš?  Thanks be to God. How are you?

                              A: Dahina naň. Sirah indet naw? I am fine. How is work?

                             P: Sirah arif naw. Anči? Betasaboch indet naw? Work is good. You? How is your family?

                              A: Tiru naw. Dahina nah? Great. How are you?

                              P: Selam. Selam niš? Peace. How are you?

                              A: Selam. Peace.

Frustrating when you have places to be, but greetings have to be done.

  1. The scenery, the variety of people, and historical places are breathtaking. Go north to Tigray and you will find desert like weather. Go north to Amhara and you will find a variety of skin colors, people and mountains that continue and never seem to stop. This is where people who think I am Ethiopian believe I am from. Go to Oromia, and you will find a variety of dress colors and dance music. Go south and you find green. Go to Axum, Lalibela, Mekele, Omo Valley to see tribes, Bahir Dar to see the Blue Nile Falls, Gonder for the castles and Simien Mountains, Bale Mountains and Sof Omar Caves!
  2. The hospitality of strangers. I will never forget my trip back from Italy. A friend had forgotten to book me a room and I landed at 1 a.m. to no place to sleep. I got a ride into a hotel, where I found out it was too expensive, so the staff tried to helped me locate a room around the area we were at 2 in the morning. When all the hotels were too expensive, the receptionist let me crash in the lobby. I was given a pillow, a blanket for the night and allowed to sleep on the couch. The staff wouldn’t receive any payment either.
  3. Transportation is awful. Ethiopia will forever be ingrained in my mind as the place where I threw up on bus rides over 10 times due to awful drivers, bad roads and just terrible bus experiences crammed with people. Also, some Ethiopians believe you can get Tuberculosis from open windows so windows are usually kept close.
  4. How misconstrued information is and bad spelling. Apparently a cold and TB are the same thing. Also, the most common spelling mistake is: WELL COME.
  5. My family and those who have shown me small gestures of kindness in Ethiopia.
  6. The way rain falls on tin roofs and candles burn during the night when the power is out. There is something so relaxing about falling asleep to rain on tin roofs.
  7. The poverty and homelessness.
  8. Feeling jaded by everyone wanting something. It was hard opening up sometimes. As Eminem said “I don’t know you, and no, I don’t owe you a motherfucking thing.”
  9. The constant change and struggle. A day consists of constant change and extreme emotions which meant that I got to grow as an individual.
  10. Cartoon Network lied. Tom from Tom and Jerry is not cute. They lied.
  11. Stranger danger and violence is non-existent or low. In small towns, everyone watches out for one another. Although there is robbery, I have only heard cases of theft happening in big cities.
  12. Children find ways to entertain themselves. When the power goes out for days, kids do not have electronics like Nintendo, iPhones or iPads around. They are inventive in their ways to make toys. Everything gets recycled if it can be.
  13. The lack of privacy. As Eminem also stated “I can’t take a shit in the bathroom without someone standing by it.”
  14. Feeling like a celebrity. It was nice to have people come up and fist bump me. People in the States don’t realize how much happiness I get from a fist bump but people here sure do.
  15. Having to explain time and again what the Peace Corps is. People knew I was a teacher but no, I am not here to give you money nor is the Peace Corps going to “sponsor” you.
  16. Having to learn patience when all I wanted was to punch someone in the face.
  17. Having to learn how to calm myself down during stressful situations.
  18. Having to learn to find the humor and not take things too seriously.
  19. Having to learn how to work with limited resources. It taught me the insignificance of material goods.
  20. All the free time I had to catch up on shows, read really amazing books that inspired me, and write in my journal.
  21. Being surrounded by amazing people who are responsible for helping me grow into a better and kinder person.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Anne Thureson says:

    Thank you, Andrea, for all your posts. Many adventures and insights. Welcome home,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s