Hello from Addis Ababa,
This would be the long awaited introductory post from Addis Ababa. After some craziness and some complications during the journey from Buenos Aires to Frankfurt to Khartoum and then here to Addis, things have finally started to settle down. Plus, I was able to pick up my missing bag at the airport today. Inside was the most crucial of all crucial tools, the laptop charger, so I am feeling good about having that baby back in my life. It’s the little things in life like chargers that are so essential in today’s world sometimes.
As for Addis, after arrival on Monday I was greeted at the airport by Landmine Survivors Network (LSN) staff and whisked away to the Ras Hotel where I was greeted by a photo of Nelson Mandela in the lobby. Apparently he spent a great deal of time here in Ethiopia during his years in exile. I will have to research more about that later. So much amazing history and culture to catch up on here. I’m thousands of years behind schedule!
After an initial day of substantial rest on Tuesday, I received a warm welcome from the office yesterday (wed.). We tossed around some ideas and the areas where I hope to be able to collaborate. The offices are quite professional and all of the staff equally professional and excited to host an intern from far away lands. We will be working on the localization process as the various Landmine Survivors country networks move toward higher levels of financially independence from the Washington head office. I will be working with them on setting up an independent web page, improving and producing documents that could be of value for potential donors, doing a techonology evaluation of the offices and hopefully joining the outreach workers on their counseling and peer support visits to landmine survivors throughout Addis.
Yesterday I left the Ras and headed deep into the mountains and outskirts of Addis, which is no small thing considering how sprawling and vast the city is. Upon arrival at the house of the brother of one of the LSN staff members, I was greeted by many children in the road and shouts of “FARANJI, faranj,” which means foreigner or white person in Amharic. The household was quite entertained with my attempts at learning the basics of Amharic, attempts which will hopefully bear fruit before too long…it is so different from espanol y portugues and I am kicking myself for not having studied more prior to arrival.
The Pen Moment
I will close this initial post with a funny story from the Frankfurt airport. After thinking that I had lost my pen after going through the first round of security (there are two rounds in Frankfurt’s cavernous terminals), I went into a smart looking bookstore where I noticed some pens loosely organized in an open pen box near the cash register. After reviewing the pens and the pieces of paper attached to them which I figured to be potential price tags, I decided to ask the cashier. In the process I made some small conversation with a woman who was waiting in line and just so happens that she was headed to Colorado. At that moment she was excited to be talking to a native Coloradoan. Then the unthinkable happened. I asked the cashier how much the pens were, pointing to them as we both walked toward the box to review the potential price. She took one look at them and said 75. I said “Wow, 75 cents, that’s great.” As soon as I uttered the word cents I knew I was in trouble….Her response was: “No sir, this pen is 75 euros!” In that moment I let out a deep burst of laughter (what we call a carcajada en espanol) that filled the bookstore and caused sophisticated world travelers to look up from their books/newspapers. After my laughter faded, she added “Sir, this is top German quality.” I kept thinking to myself…silly American, you continue to underestimate the power of the euro. Needless to say the lady who had been chatting with me just kind of turned red and then wanted nothing to do with me in conversational terms. It was time to move on deeper in the terminal to continue enjoying that moment.
Luckily, the Ethopian currency, the birr, is not as powerful, but of course inflation and the rising cost of food stuffs have created massive complications here for the average Ethiopian. More on that in the next post.
Posted By Lucas Wolf
Posted Jul 3rd, 2008