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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Please ask that question

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When was the last time you travelled, what excited you and what were your expectations? It’s been said people on a journey often look out for the destination and hardly take note of the experiences on the road especially if the trip was by road; not many people can remember the cities they passed through. I recently went on a trip with my friend that ended up becoming a weekend to remember and to think it was just a night beats me.

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We had set off by train and for some funny reason when we got to the last stop we stayed back thinking it was still going further to the final destination which was in the same city, while we were still wondering the train started going back. You don’t want to know how confused and funny we looked, while my friend went online to find out, I quickly asked the lady sitting close to us and she explained what happened and advised us to get down at the next stop to join another train. We eventually got down in a place that looks like a hunted place and did I mention we were the only ones at the station but after about 30 minutes a train came forth.

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That moment nothing on the board makes sense

 

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Please look beyond the smile on my friend’s face and look at the surroundings. Doesn’t it look deserted and No i wasn’t smiling, that was a confused face.

 I will spare you the entire story of the trip but will highlight something really important. It’s okay to ask questions when you are in doubt; in my native language it’s said this way onye ajuju anaghi efu uzo (Someone who asks questions never misses the way). Imagine for a second we chose to keep quiet and act cool. No one knows it all; you may just be an information away from that job, scholarship, business funding etc. Ignorance shouldn’t be an excuse in this era we are living in; this generation is referred to as Generation X and it’s not a mistake.

I remember watching a programme where the mistakes done by medical personnel was highlighted and one of the advice given was to always ask what drug was been administered. I can’t forget the woman whose breast was removed; not 1 but the 2 as a result of a mix up of a cancer test result, apparently the result of another person who had cancer was given to her.  There are many more mistakes that have been made in the past and who knows another one could be taking place now.

I would rather been known as the person who asks lots of questions than the one who dies in silence out of ignorance or the fear of asking. So can we go out there and become better informed by asking the required questions. While you are thinking, take some time to be grateful you’ve a roof over your head, everything may not make sense now, you may not have achieved your life’s goal for the past 5 months but be grateful. We got teary-eyed over the weekend when we passed some homeless people protesting.

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Loads of Love

JMAD

N/B: Nigeria just successfully and peacefully handed over to another government that will be led by President Muhammadu Buhari. I pray for wisdom upon you Sir, the entire world is watching and hoping for a miracle. The task ahead won’t be easy but I pray you surround yourself with wise counsellors. God Bless Nigeria

Muhammadu Buhari

Photo Credit : Reuters

Close to the edge

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I am a firm believer in looking beyond the surface; the earth was created in a way that prompts our instincts to act without prior knowledge or experience. I watched a documentary where an Eagle made the nest uncomfortable for the Eaglets at the top of the mountain and eventually made them take a dive from the top. They had never flown before it was a scary sight just watching them fall from there; some of them let out their wings and started gliding while others died by crashing at the bottom.

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I recently went on a Walking Trip to Malham Cove with an organisation Sharing Voices Bradford I’m volunteering with ; it was an interesting journey. I never knew Penguins are faithful partners; I think humans should observe them and probably learn from them how to remain faithful to one partner, the female Octopus dies after her eggs hatch, there were other stories of other animals and their behaviours that is rated PG18 for this blog. Thanks Saba for the enlightenment.

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But this post isn’t about animals, on our way to the fountain we saw this massive tree that had been cut many years ago. It had many coins stuck into the body; I’m guessing it has to do with people making a wish but the remarkable thing about the tree was that it was still alive. I just said it is close to the water and it can never die and another person responded ‘Isn’t it like the verse in the Bible, a tree planted by the riverside shall never wither ‘. We finally got to the fountain and my daring self climbed up to the top, although it wasn’t so high but a lady taking a walk got scared and called out ‘Be careful, you are close to the edge’. I smiled, looked down, took the pictures and went down.

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imageIn a space of less than a mile I had experienced two scenarios of staying at the edge, one was the tree at the edge of the running water from the fountain and standing at the top of the fountain. Going back to the tree at the edge; it will remain alive so long as it remains close to the water, regardless of what happens around it, if the water remains its source it will never die. As humans we all have our individual sources, no matter how much we claim to be self-sufficient we can’t live without the Source. The question is what is your Source? Have you cut-out supply from the Source?

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Getting to the top of the fountain wasn’t like climbing Mount Everest but at the same time, not many of us on the trip climbed that far. If the woman had told me while I was on the way to the top that it wasn’t a good idea, I probably would have listened to her but she told me when I was already there with all the excitement. I may have gotten nervous and who knows something crazy would have happened but I just calmed my nerves down and looked down which made it less scary. We all get to the edge once in a while in life. You climb the height of success in your career, just when you are about to take another leap to the next phase the voices either in your head, through friends, associates or family start to go off giving you reasons why you are not capable or inadequate. You experience a life threatening situation, it gives you the option of either holding onto what you believe or jump off the cliff to an unknown territory, hoping you’ll find solace there only to find out at the end, it was never really worth it.

imageWe can’t predict how our lives turn out neither can we successfully plan to stay off the edge but we have control on how we react when we get to that stage.  The strong spirit of a man sustains him in bodily pain or trouble – Prov 18:14a Amp. I may never know your Source but it’s what you’ve drawn out of that Source that sustains you when you get to the edge. Guard your heart, for out of it flows the issues of life.

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Loads of Love

JMAD

The journey to the top

When was the last time you did something for the first time? People often ask me what I do for fun, at the end of the day some end up saying it’s a boring life I have but I knew my view of fun was the unconventional type. I recently asked a friend Kolo on mountaineering some weeks back and he threw it open on Twitter; he did some research on the mountains in town even climbed some on his own.

The adrenaline rush just from the thought alone was extremely high, a few people turned up and we moved from knowing ourselves online to offline at least it’s not a case of @Royalamebo scam.  We were scheduled to meet at 7 a.m. after a little delay we headed off feeling all fly only to be stopped at the entrance. I never knew people own rocks in Abuja, like seriously… the man said we didn’t inform him before coming; we should come back later in the evening to discuss our plans with him *smh.  Our spirits were already getting dampened but Kolo suggested another mountain. I’m extremely glad we went on this adventure. Let me let the picture tell a better story.

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In high spirits
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Waiting for Kolo, Oma (L), Chika (R)
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First site we visited
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From Left Me, Attahiru, Chika, Segun, Kolo. We were feeling like tourist… this was just before we were evicted for “trespassing”.
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The excitement of finding another site……
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You can tell I was pretty excited
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Oh yea, we made it … that’s what the picture says
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More laughter
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Beautiful view of Abuja
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How can a selfie be missing from the many shots?
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The climax
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Started at the bottom and here we are….. at the TOP!!!
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Caption this
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Jabi Lake behind
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Oma and I were smiling, but we couldn’t get to the edge
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Kolo and Segun went a step further, my adventurous spirit couldn’t go beyond the rocks….. maybe next time
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On our way down
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She’ll definitely be a good brand ambassador for tooth-paste
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Boss lady
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We felt like kids here…. our journey to the bottom
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Keep walking

 

I hope you enjoyed the story told by the pictures; we are planning another trip, probably to Gurara Falls or some other mountain. We keep on procrastinating, giving excuses why we can’t do something new. Truth is, there’s never a perfect time, the year is just starting and you may have made awesome plans which is very good but I hope you can make out time to have fun and do exciting things. You don’t have to own a bank or save up to go to Malta or the Bahamas (Although it will be fun places), look around you and you’ll definitely find out there’s something you can do alone or with people that will put not just a smile but laughter on your face.

Loads of Love

JMAD

N/B : This post was scheduled for the end of last year but events took over but I had to stay true to my words….