Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Greetings From the Horn

 Upon landing in the thin air of Addis Ababa and taking that first breath of fresh air after a long flight, one finds it even more challenging to the lungs by perhaps the most lax emissions environment I have ever experienced. The dry mountain air seems almost schizophrenic as you walk through cool, fresh breezes into dusty patches of African sun. Smells of coffee, spices, fresh injera and seasoned meats fill the main streets of my small “off the beaten path” neighborhood. One is instantly reminded not to breath too deeply as it only takes a few steps off of those main streets until a less welcoming scent begins to permeate the air. A scent that seemingly begs you to acknowledge the stark economic disparity that is the reality of Addis Ababa. The lights of Bole, the cathedrals, the architectural relics of Menelik and Haile Selassie; each part of the beautiful face of a city seething just below the surface. Of a people so purely Ethiopian, so charismatically Habesha, that they are at the cusp between prideful acceptance and (perhaps revolutionarily) demanding more.

As for Habesha people, what could I possibly do but sing their praises? Gracious and welcoming in every situation, guests are always taken care of first and respected in the highest. I end up wondering when or if the guest label is going to wear off!  At times it feels like a barrier, an invisible veil separating myself from next level of companionship and cultural richness that “guests” don’t get to experience. I feel it lifting at times; when I’m no longer offered the sugar first, when I get laughed at for something that isn’t simply pronunciation based, perhaps I feel it most when I am no longer warned that what I ordered may be “too hot for a ferenji.”
The work is great. Coming into the office everyday to be served the warm caffeinated beverage of your choice? How come nobody told me about that perk? (Not to make you jealous, but it happens at 3:00 as well)

From first arriving at the GETF offices in Arlington until this very morning, I am continuously motivated by the energy of those around me. There is spirit amongst all in the field of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) that connects them to a common goal. I feel thankful to be part of that team.

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