Settling into Ethiopian life
It’s rainy season in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The day I arrived there were heavy downpours and thunderstorms so it’s strange to think this is the same country in which thousands of pastoral people are in a desperate situation because the rains have failed them.
The Save the Children office is bustling with more staff than usual. Extra people have been deployed to help with the emergency alongside the permanent Ethiopian team.
The first week in a new job is always a patchy time, asking hundreds of questions, forgetting names (Ethiopian names requiring even more effort), trying to learn the hundreds of acronyms and forgetting which floor you work on.
But I’m pleased to find myself contributing on day one to improving our maps of what emergency work is happening where, which also proves to be a great geography lesson!
I’m going to be working on communications related to our emergency work, as well as other projects and campaigns.
One project is a forthcoming conference on harmful traditional practices which are commonplace in this part of the world, such as child marriage — highlighting how so many girls are married at such a young age and the physical and psychological consequences of such practices.
My guesthouse is a one-minute walk from the office and I’m starting to master the hitched-trouser, tip toe walk to avoid the post-rain mud.
I’ve managed to get a place on the third floor – not an easy climb at an altitude of 2400m.
The coffee here is great which you’d hope for as this is where it all started. There are lovely tea ladies in the office keeping us topped up which feels like a real luxury! Not a broken coffee machine or nasty plastic lid in sight.
It’s cheaper to dine out than to buy and cook your own food, which I like for two reasons:
1. Ethiopian food is yummy.
2. It’s a great excuse to spend the evenings with interesting people.
The emergency team here spend time in all kinds of countries like South Sudan and Afghanistan and are full of stories of malaria and typhoid, nearly losing a leg to infection, sleeping under the stars with no electricity or water.
It’s fascinating to get an insight into the career they have chosen in comparison to my corporate background!
The national dish
Injera is a huge, slightly sour pancake of on which all kinds of wat (spiced chickpea stew, lentil dishes, salad etc) are placed.
It’s a communal dish and, as in many countries, it’s to be eaten with the right hand which makes my heart sink a little as a leftie.
But I give it my best effort. It’s really tasty stuff.
One evening I was invited to a traditional restaurant with a group of colleagues and their families.
I was in for a surprise as there was music and dancing to keep us entertained – and the dancing was like nothing I’d seen before.
Strange super-fast shoulder jerking and head movements, totally absorbing to watch.
With injera, heavy incense, and coffee ceremony it was a hit on the senses with all kinds of divine aromas.
This weekend it is New Year, and Monday is a public holiday.
Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar so it will be the start of their 2004. Meaning I am 21 again — I’m staying here!