Thursday, May 29, 2014



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...

Belen's grandmother's amazing cooking!
Belen, her grandma and I, saying goodbye!

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