The view of Ethiopia through the lens of Rosa

wpid-rosa-1.jpg.jpeg
Rosa kept on avoiding the camera but Mitch had a way of capturing her. This was at Istanbul waiting for the connecting flight to Ethiopia

As one of the members of the ‘Africa Study Trip’ group heading to Ethiopia in February 2015 I, like many others, was unsure of what to expect once we arrived in Addis Ababa. Whilst the trip passed relatively smoothly (excluding our interesting return journey), our first bit of drama occurred before we’d even left the confines of Addis Ababa airport with one of the group (I will mention no names…) being given an Ebola warning card. Once we’d navigated our way to the guesthouse and spent a day exploring Addis Ababa we went straight into our first meetings.

wpid-rosa-2.jpg.jpeg
Just finished balancing accounts. I guess i deserved a bite of Oreoes

One thing I observed was the lack of obvious corruption and bribery occurring at the street level. Of course this is not to say that Ethiopia is corruption free, but I personally saw no evidence of overt bribery or petty corruption with state officials as I personally saw whilst living in Cameroon and have heard is endemic of many African states. However, we were made aware of the fact that the state have their arms deep within Ethiopian society, controlling many areas that would be considered private in the Western world. The first few days in Addis were spent deliberating whether our communication to friends and family back home was being monitored. After several days of paranoia and the sending of carefully worded emails (not to give away too much detail about who we were visiting and when), we concluded that the Ethiopian Government probably had bigger things to worry about than a dozen University students asking some awkward questions. Despite several days when it went down, I was very impressed with the wifi in the hotel which directly contrasted with other experiences I have had with internet connections in Africa. However, the same cannot be said of the mobile network which was very patchy. We learned that this was due to the government stranglehold on telecommunications, preventing competition and maintaining control over their people.

Beautiful sunset on the way to Hawassa
Beautiful sunset on the way to Hawassa

After a busy first week of meetings I think we were all really pleased when we got the opportunity to travel outside of Addis to Hawassa in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR). Had we not had the chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital we would have failed to see any other versions of Ethiopia. Ethiopia, like most African countries, is extremely diverse and I’m pleased that we were able to experience another side to the country. One of the most obvious differences was the temperature in Hawassa- much hotter than in Addis. It was also nice to witness some of the scenery on the long bus drive down, we even managed to catch an amazing sunset. Other than taking some relaxation time out of our busy schedule, we had a meeting with The Regional Council of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s. We had a lot of time there to talk through a variety of issues but expectedly ethnic federalism was discussed in the most detail. The Regional Council painted a very positive picture of the ethnic federal structure, explaining how it maintains stability in the country as local grievances can be dealt with at a local level. However, some of the students we met from Addis Ababa University explained how difficult it is to identify yourself as of one ‘nationality’ when your parents are from different regions and you may have grown up in a different region entirely. Although I could see some flaws in ethnic federalism, I did appreciate the importance of each region promoting and practicing its own language, culture and customs. We were fortunate enough to visit a museum at the SNNPR Regional Council, learning about their culture. We also visited an amazing restaurant in Addis which showcased song and dance from across Ethiopia whilst eating some tasty Ethiopian food for the last time. Some members of the group also enjoyed trying Tej, an Ethiopian honey wine. Some in the group witnessed a ‘Tej-effect’ yet everyone was pleased to notice the absence of a ‘tej-over’ the following morning.

This is our fickle attempt at trying the neck dance we watched at the cultural centre
This is our fickle attempt at trying the neck dance we watched at the cultural centre

The experience was really eye-opening and I feel I learned so much more from being in Ethiopia than I could have if I’d spent the two weeks in Bradford non-stop reading about Ethiopia. We were incredibly lucky to have two students from the Institute of Peace and Security Studies at Addis Ababa University who were on hand to answer our many questions about Ethiopian politics and beyond.

Rosa 11
Nwanne di na mba

The study group are now all busy doing further research for the essays which we are all writing for the study trip module, so are engrossed in their specific aspects of Ethiopia. I would encourage anyone reading to speak to anyone who came on the trip about their area of research as by the end of the process, we should be much more informed. There have also been discussions about putting our various findings together in a presentation or document once finished, so look out for that!

wpid-rosa-9.jpg.jpeg
This was our not so good return experience. She ended up pushing me on the trolly. This is what happens when you have to spend close to 4 hours of delay at the airport

***

I gave Rosa the name Nwanne di na mba. It’s an Igbo word that means my brother/sister in the diaspora. I wish I got a video of her speaking Pidgin and I mean Cameroonian pidgin or when she was dancing to the entire songs on the P Square Invasion Album. She even updated me on the names of some Nigerian artiste that I danced to without knowing their names. Rosa made the trip fun for me and I kept on teasing her that she’ll marry an African preferably a Nigerian. She forgot to mention her new found love in Ethiopian coffee. I hope you enjoyed reading the post like I did.

Rosa 10
Her new love – Ethiopian coffee with Sayaka

Loads of Love

JMAD

Advertisements

A walk in the park

image

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Over the weekend I recorded another ‘first event’; I joined a team from my local Church to invite people for our Special Easter service. Our target area was the City centre, it was pretty interesting. First of all I was intruding on people enjoying the beautiful weather; some were having lunch while others were just spending quality time with their families. I had to remember to smile, to be polite, answer a few questions and to say thank you to those who wouldn’t take the flyer. But thankfully a few indicated interests in coming and a particular couple I met asked if there was going to be food, I think I said hopefully (I wasn’t sure) all the same I took down their numbers and told them the Church bus was going to pick them up on Sunday.
image

On Sunday they were ready before 10 am; and someone else picked them up. But somehow I sensed there was something about them, on my way to Church with a few friends I brought up my concern of them been homeless and asking for food too. One of my friends asked why everyone always expects to eat in Church every time they are invited. This led to different people expressing their view on the issue. Well I got to Church, met them and at the end of the service I found out they were really homeless cos’ they came with their entire bags and the man told me too. They finally asked me for food, although we didn’t have cooked food in Church that day but we had 2 separate bags packed with canned food, pasta and some other dry food. Thankfully the Pastor asked me to give it to them.

I had to paint this story to point out something about the Church. She was born to cater to the needs of people, the early Church shared all they had and gave to anyone in need. Looking back now to the episode on the bus I remembered a few things, my coordinator in my Church in Nigeria said something profound, she’s one of the youngest in her family yet when anything happens and there is a monetary contribution they expect her to give more but you know what, she prefers to be on this side where she is giving than the one asking for money. A pastor I respect always says ‘don’t tell me you love me, show me – don’t say it is well, God bless you when you have the means of helping the person’. I read a book some years ago ‘Church Shift’ by Sunday Adelaja ; it’s an amazing book and he was saying the Church needs to be active and meeting the needs in the society. The Church he pastors feeds 2000 people daily through the Stephania Soup Kitchen that caters to needy street and abandoned children.

I think instead of us complaining that people are only coming to Church to be physically fed, let us ask God to bless our hands so we can be sources of blessings to such people. Even Jesus Christ fed the hungry, he didn’t send them away hungry rather He met their needs. Jesus Christ is in heaven, He won’t throw food from heaven rather we are representatives of Him here on earth. As we remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ, let us remember love brought Him to the world, love led Him to the cross and that same love nailed Him to the cross. May this truth resonate within us as we carry out the message He entrusted into our care. Loyiso sums it up with this song ‘Jesus to the world’.

We are Your hands and feet

You are the Words we speak

Jesus to the world

Jesus to the streets

Jesus in my hands, meeting others needs

Loads of Love

JMAD