Well not really! I am originally from Zimbabwe and in Ethiopia for the summer, so technically no, but in a lot of ways yes! I have not seen my family in Zimbabwe in 4 years. However from the moment I arrived at my terminal at Dulle’s airport, I started to feel right at home! From the insane amount of luggage that people had, (where 2 of the bags are usually your fellow countrymen using you as a courier service), to parents threatening a beating to their kids who were running around the airport, and the chit chat all around me in languages I did not even understand, I felt a sense of familiarity with my surroundings! At that point it did not matter that I was not going to Zimbabwe, but to Africa, my home!
|Solyana and I just off the plane!|
On the plane I made an Ethiopian friend, Solyana, who was on her way to visit her family in Addis.A recent graduate of UC-Davis, Solyana is on her way to public health school ,so we had a lot to talk about right from the start! To add to our great chance encounter, no-one claimed the seat between us so we got to occupy a prime piece of real estate in the plane; a 3 person back seat that we took turns to stretch our legs on and steal a few minutes of sleep over the course of our journey! In addition, courtesy of Solyana, I breezed through immigration and customs, because she knew where exactly I should be at any point in time, from experience and being able to communicate faster in Amharic. Solyana delivered me safely to my host Belen, a good friend from public health school back in Michigan who has been my host for the past 5 days.
Although my internship does not start officially for another week, I decided to fly in early so as to get a head start on getting to know Addis Ababa, get over jetlag and get a chance to experience Ethiopia though the eyes of its natives, Belen’s family. Belen “warned” me of the differences, like how many of her big family I would meet, and that I might be sharing everything including a bed, and I did not mind at all! Since I moved to America, I might be a visitor to Africa once in a while but I am no stranger to it, and its ways, something I have to keep reminding the people I meet of; at times unsuccessfully. At my last African summer in Capetown, no matter how many times I explained where I am from to my work colleagues at Tygerberg hospital, I was still known as the American and I entertained the nurses with my “antics” of taking public transportation and going to places in town they deemed dangerous for foreigners! In response I would tell them, you can take the African out of Africa but you cannot take Africa out of them!
|Belen and I!|
I have had the most wonderful 5 days ever with Belen's family! From the airport, Belen and her uncle had already planned out my day, complete with my first taste of Ethiopian coffee(which is amazing), procuring a phone and a sim card for me, and a hair appointment that her uncle had found someone to come to the house before my arrival. Nothing beats the warmth and skilled hands of an African on my head at a cost of about 400 Birr (about 32 dollars) as opposed to the $200 that bankrupted me every few months in America when I had to get my hair done!For the last few days I have fallen in love with Belen's family and the Ethiopian culture that they have exposed me to. I have already started to learn about healthcare access in Ethiopia from many conversation with different people who are so eager to impart their experiences to me. I have seen parts of the city from driving around it, and learnt a great deal of history about it from Belen's uncle. Most of all I have enjoyed some amazing Ethiopian home cooking from Belen grandmother which I already miss sitting in my guest house : (!
|Cannot get enough of this new hair!|
|Belen's uncle Assefa, our driver and historian!|
How much Belen’s family opened up to my presence is a yet another mark of African culture; amazing hospitality : )! In our culture, we are communal people who take care of their own, in this case a fellow African. Every African knows the experience of a relative visiting without notice and staying for months on end! Belen’s grandmother raised 7 children, and countless cousins who came in and out of her home in a 2 bedroomed house. No matter how little people have, it is always enough to go round for everyone in the house! We extend this hospitality to non-Africans as well! On my last day with them, Belen's grandmother sincerely told me she loved me, in her first full sentence of communication in English to me since I have been with them!, and it warmed my heart to the core! I cannot wait for what else this summer is going to bring for me : )!
Waking up to a cock crowing and breathing in the soil after the heavy rain of the night, one thought runs through my head...
I AM HOME!!
|Belen's grandmother's amazing cooking!|
|Belen, her grandma and I, saying goodbye!|