My view of Ethiopia

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Departure at Manchester Airport

In February I went on a two weeks African Study Visit with eleven students to Ethiopia; a Japanese and a British have both written their experience. I had been procrastinating but I’m glad I’m finally writing. The aim of the visit was to broaden our understanding of Peace-building in Ethiopia. It’s a module for Post-Graduate students in Peace Studies. What made the trip more interesting was the diversity of all of us; we had people from the US, Japan, Canada, Germany, UK, Kenya, DRC, Czech Republic and Nigeria.

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Ethiopia is in the East of Africa also known as one of the countries in the Horn of Africa; it’s bordered by Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia. It is a unique country in Africa; civilisation dates back to over 2000 years ago, the only country never to be colonised apart from an Italian invasion of 5 years. They have had their fair share of conflicts ranging from internal conflicts to external conflicts. The two main conflicts were centred on Land Distribution and Identity; the Derg military regime that took over by a coup dealt with the issue of land although down the road gross human rights violation occurred. A guerrilla force known as Tigrayan People’s Liberation Force [TPLF] eventually took over power from the military regime which led to a democratic republic. The political wing of TPLF known as Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Front led the country in 1991 and is still ruling the country now. They resolved the issue of Identity by the establishment of an Ethnic based Federalism where ethnic groups are allowed to govern themselves at the local level as well as the ability to be taught in their native language while making Amharic the official working language of the country.  This system has brought relative peace but the question remains if the peace will be sustained. We had interviews with Government and Non-Government agencies and all I can say is Ethiopia should be studied as a country. Let me take you through the entire journey.

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Arrival at Ethiopia

We arrived Ethiopia in the early hours on the 7th of February to be shocked to the chilly weather, apparently Ethiopia has the Highlands and Lowlands. Addis Ababa which is the capital is in the highlands hence the weather although during the day it gets hot. Did I mention one of us was held back at the airport on the suspicion of Ebola as a result of a high temperature. I knew we were going to have fun; that had to be the beginning, but thankfully was released and given an emergency card to call just in case their suspicion was valid. We checked into a descent place called Yeka guest house; thank heavens I was able to skype on some days because we were all concerned with the Internet before we arrived. I think the breakfast in the guest house was pretty good with the freshly squeezed fruit we were served every morning; I think I miss that a lot. We had most of our dinners in different continental restaurants except on two occasions where we had our meals cooked by the ladies and the men. I think seeing the men cook was pretty interesting accompanied with their ‘Everything is awesome’ song they danced and sang to from the Lego movie. I’m currently nodding to it while typing this post.

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At this point i needed to command the tortoise to stop chasing me
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While some people were trying to get a good shot
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I think this is cute
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Our first lunch together

All through the week we had interviews, meetings with some really hard questions we threw at them; I must commend the research everyone made because the questions put them on their toes but I can say we all left each meeting either more confused on what to believe or puzzled. This was reinforced when we met each evening with our lecturer to discuss the day’s activities as well as get an update on the activities of the next day. Once again I’ll say this Ethiopia as a country needs to be studied.

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Ethiopian Birr
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Apparently I was made the finance minister, balancing accounts
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Coffee ceremony at the guest house

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Highest point in Ethiopia, according to our tour guide Panoramic view

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Our first cooked dinner
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We had to smile after walking for almost an hour to find the Church, only to find out it was less than 15 mins from the guest house
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The smile of those who just defaulted

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Our first taste of Injera

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A depiction of how people were tortured during the Derg military regime. The stories we heard here was heart-wrenching.
National Museum of Ethiopia.
National Museum of Ethiopia.

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Finding reception.
Finding reception to watch the finals of the African Cup of Nations.
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One of our meetings at the end of the day

We were really excited when we left the capital city to have a weekend getaway in a village called Hawassa. On the way we stopped at a strawberry and raspberry farm where we bought fresh smoothies with a mixture of yoghurt and experienced the beautiful sunset. Our first night had us eating in a recommended restaurant; I was excited when I saw Indian chicken curry on the menu, I ordered for that, did I enjoy it? Let’s just say it came 30 mins after everyone had eaten and it wasn’t anything close to Indian curry. The next day we were hosted in this outdoor seat-out with the view of the sea; the avocado-mango smoothie served was life-changing and the food was good too and some of us went on a boat cruise. Later that night we visited Haile Resort which I can recommend, top-notch services and a good place to getaway, we had fun that night while the world was celebrating Valentine ’s Day we had ours together.

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On our way to Hawassa

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Amazing mango and avocado smoothie

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And this monkey hops on tables and takes food.
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We had to try a lot of times to get this concept.

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Haile Resort
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Sharing our love
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Cos he’s the only guy

On our way back to Addis we stopped at a place known for its Rastafarian heritage called Shashamane; from the tour guide telling us they take everything fresh (weed) to some guys smoking cigarette outside professing marriage and to the fact that we were told we needed to change our clothes to enter into a sacred house (which we declined and left); it was an interesting place to visit although I can’t say I didn’t have a good laugh. We visited Lake Abiata where we saw Ostriches and falcons. Headed to Lake Langano; where we danced to some good music and some of us swam in the private pool and then we headed back to Addis Ababa.  Even though we had one meeting  we still had an amazing time.

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Shashamane

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The meetings, interviews and questions continued and by Wednesday we were rounding off and took a day off to visit the market; I was often referred to as Habesha (which is equally known as Abyssinians, a group of people in Ethiopia). Going by what I saw and what I’ve heard Ethiopians are good-looking; now I’ve this wide grin on my face if you understand what I’m trying to say. And by Thursday we had our last fun by visiting the Ethiopian Cultural Centre. I think that was the climax of the visit for two reasons; the local food that is popular is Injera and I had eaten it a few years ago in Nigeria and didn’t quite like it, tried it again in a restaurant for dinner and I wasn’t convinced again but this cultural centre raised the bar. There was something different of their own Injera; it tasted better and I learnt a few lessons. Never write off anything in a hurry, look at the current president of Nigeria he had contested for the office of the president on 3 occasions and lost and still tried again, yes my experience is food, his is political and yours could be anything. Secondly I had the dance of my life with the entertainers; I have a huge smile just thinking of that night.

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This was just hilarious, that’s supposed to be Okra with some sort of bread.

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The warrior song
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Our last dinner
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Our two official photographers
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The mint toothpick gang
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That’s how you seal an international deal
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We just had to make faces

We finally packed our bags and headed to the airport Friday night; let’s just say the whole experience wanted to ruin a great trip. We had a flight delay of 4 hours in Ethiopia, 2 – 3 hours in Istanbul and finally arrived without our luggage; talk of Murphy’s law but everything is awesome. We got them a few days after, we’ve all written our essays on different topics; gotten the scores with the feedback. Regardless of our individual performance I can say it was an experience of a life time. We were able to see Africa through a different lens for those who haven’t been to Africa before and for those who are Africans could draw some parallels with their home country. I can say beyond the stereotype associated with Africa; there’s a lot that is not been reported in the media. You may not be opportuned to make a trip like mine but you can educate yourself and never limit yourself to just one opinion. Research from different sources and ask questions where necessary.

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Rosa 9

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The look you get for a 4 hour delay
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And some had to play cards over their suitcases

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She can’t be bothered
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The delay at Istanbul
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Rocking our Ethiopian Tees

AMASEGANALEHU which is thank you in Amharic.

JMAD

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The day I take over the world

I recently wrote a post on an exciting weekend trip I had, you can read it up here. What I didn’t mention was the award I received days before I made the trip. A Peace Ball was organised by my department to end the semester, a couple of awards were up for grabs based on a voting system. For some funny reason I forgot to vote but had in mind likely winners. I dressed up that day, looking all glam and ready to dance the night away and have fun. And then it happened; the award for ‘The most likely to take over the world’ was called, my eyes were darting all over the auditorium when I heard my name. I think I caused a scene when I walked up to pick up the award, I kept on laughing cos’ I was shocked.

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I couldn’t stop laughing, even the lecturers couldn’t help theirs too.
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I think this is better but like a friend said, i’ll be more prepared when I receive the Nobel Peace Prize

 

I wish this post was all about reeling off my manifesto of my 7 point agenda when I take over the world but before I get there, let’s talk about something else. Towards the end of the event when we were all discussing and meeting new faces, a colleague in the department who is in the same society with me said something very profound and if you ask me it was the climax of the night. He said to me I like the way you freely talk and write about God and went further to say he thinks everyone should do that freely. These few words meant a whole lot to me; I had often wondered in the past how I could stand for what I believed in the midst of people who had a different belief. How can I be relevant in the world and still be associated with Jesus Christ? How do I share my belief without infringing on people’s space? Please I am not referring to the concept of religion for that is the bane of many conflicts in the world, so yes it is not the solution but it’s still part of it. Its part of it cos’ regardless of what you believe in, you can only address what you understand therefore we need to be literate of other religions.

I recently watched a documentary of a group of missionaries who went to a city very hostile to Christian missionaries. They didn’t go screaming on the street, REPENT!!! Rather one of them who’s a guitarist, started singing and playing his guitar on the streets, this attracted people gradually and one of them started off discussing with different people and prayed with them. Wisdom is important in our walk as Christians; I have often said we should look out for bridges between people if we want to share the good news of Jesus Christ. People are generally defensive these days cos’ they feel you are bringing the message of condemnation. We need to leave the four walls of the Church and reach out to the world; Paul said he became all things to all men that he may win some. We need to stop recycling Church members during evangelism and reach out to others. While I may not be the greatest evangelist, nor do I totally understand everything in the world but one thing I know and I’m certain of is JESUS’ love to the world. This love is not picky; it is for everyone regardless of our belief.

So back to my manifesto… Well to be honest I don’t have any now, but when I do take over the world I want to be known and remembered for showing the love of Jesus Christ to anyone I come in contact with and that’s a great way to change the world.  I know, not everyone reading this has a relationship with Jesus and if you desire one we could pray together. Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your love which is poured out for all of us through the death and resurrection of Your Son Jesus Christ, I present Your child before You and pray You forgive his/her sin and let them be filled with Your Spirit. I join faith with them and believe they’ve been forgiven even as they start this journey with You. You can join a community of believers close to you to help you grow; get a Bible with a translation you can understand. Welcome to the family.

Loads of Love

JMAD