Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Part 2-Leaving Ethiopia
Missing friends, ful; not pining for scattered hooves

(GONDAR, ETHIOPIA and PARKVILLE, MISSOURI USA)—As I sit in my home office in a comfortable lounge chair looking out on our freshly mowed back yard, Gondar seems a world away—a place literally and figuratively distant.

Yet, even just a few days after my return home, I am already finding myself missing some, but definitely not all, aspects of life in Gondar, Ethiopia.

First, what will I miss? Here’s a partial list:
-Vegetarian foods (fasting plate of vegetables and injera; ful—delicious spicy beans; shiro--the bubbling, orange kind)
-My infectiously energetic seventh graders
-My journalism department colleagues at the University of Gondar
-The beautiful views of, and from, the University of Gondar campus (pictured)
-Visiting different scenic Ethiopian cities, especially Bahir Dar and Hawassa (hippos!)
-My American family in Ethiopia—Fulbrighters, senior scholars, and their families who welcomed me, always made sure I was fed, and created a real sense of community,
-Donkeys. They hang out on the road just outside our apartments. The babies are surprisingly cute. They all seems oblivious to the traffic speeding along the road, and I was always worried that I would see one of my donkey friends waylaid by a passing motorist. Fortunately, it never happened.
-Salam, my friends’ new eight week old puppy, who is almost as cute as the baby donkeys. I must admit to having called called the dog Saddam, due to the fact that he leaves “weapons of mass destruction” scattered on the apartment floor.
-Ethiopians. Most of them really are very nice. They always made me feel welcome.

Of course, there is no yin without a yang, so here are the “won’t miss” items:

-Days without running water. I discussed this in a previous blog, where I insisted that even on “no water days,” my glass was still half full. After taking any number of two liter showers and “flushing” with a jerry can, I’m not sure if I believe my own previous cheerful assessment. There’s no getting around the fact that it literally stinks to not have running water.
--Scaling a mountain to get to work every day. And then upon arriving at the journalism building on top of the mountain, walking up six more flights of stairs. And then when reaching home in the afternoon, climbing up five more flights of stairs.
--Animal parts (mostly lower shins and hooves) scattered about. I’m not kidding. It’s common to see goat or sheep hooves, and occasionally a bigger mystery bone, along the road or a path while you’re walking. Despite my incessant questioning, no one seems to have an explanation regarding these scattered parts.
--The absence of my favorite vegetarian dishes in restaurants after the pre-Easter fasting period.
--Bureaucracies and red tape which turn even the simplest request or transaction into a soul-depleting ordeal. While visiting one office, I commented to a friend that they office workers were all vying for the title of “least helpful employee.” 

Despite the pitfalls, on balance, Ethiopia was a good experience for me professionally (see previous blog) and personally. It is always an honor working with U.S. Embassies and the State Department. My stint in Ethiopia was four months productively, and interestingly, spent. I look forward to my return, which can hopefully include running water and ful while excluding scattered goat hooves.

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