To Ethiopia we Ethi-go-pia

18 Jul

The day had come!  A hard trip!  It was time for me to embark on a 3-week adventure to Ethiopia (E-3week-opia, if you will — and you should if you’re gunna keep reading). The only hard facts I knew about Ethiopia were:

  1. It was the only African nation that wasn’t colonized by a European power.
  2. Its name lends itself to word play.
  3. And we needed to be prepared for kids to throw rocks at us.

Not a lot to go off of so you’d think I would have, at least, checked the weather.  But I didn’t.  As I boarded my international Qatar airlines flight…what was directly in front me captured my attention: The quality of this airline I’d never flown.

Attentive attendants? Great food? WONDERFUL MOVIES? By the end of my flight, it was clear that Qatar is a 10/10 airline. The only thing that I’m still not certain on is… how to pronounce Qatar. 

I landed 12 hours before Patrick in the Addis Ababa domestic terminal (not the international one, which caused some initial confusion).  I sorted myself out though, and headed to the very nice hotel (that I’d pre-booked) to get some sleep.



A place that calls to mind far away adventure!


The official language they speak in Ethiopia is Amheric.  Below is one of my favorite videos from this trip….Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You, in Amheric, filmed in the backseat of a moving vehicle on the streets of rural Ethiopia.  It was SO much fun hearing an English song in another language. Enjoy 🙂




View from the hotel, which belies how nice our hotel actually was.  Alternate caption: I should have brought a raincoat. There, I said it.


Once Patrick arrived, we went to the market and bought me an umbrella.



Speaking of Patrick…Here we are!


But I’m getting ahead of myself. A lot happened before my best friend, Patrick, arrived.  And by a lot…I mean I tried to get a Ghana visa at the Ghanian embassy. When I showed up, they told me I needed to show proof of my United States residency. You’d think a US passport would’ve been enough. You’d think.

 After they turned me away because it wasn’t enough proof (did they want a photo of the dream flat?), I ended up going to the American embassy to ask what else they thought I’d need. They recommended I show the Ghanian embassy my passport. After a quick facepalm, I abandoned my Ghana plans and decided to go to Togo (hehe). #naturalpun

So. Right. Now, back to me and Patrick 🙂 Walking around, we had fun noticing how reality met (or didn’t) our expectations. Thus far, I’d noticed a lack of harassment (compared to what I was expecting). It was there, but not as vulgar or persistent as I’d been bracing myself for. No rocks yet, either. It also didn’t stink as badly as I’d thought (except for in the markets. More on that after I show you my Ethio-utfit). 



Going for a “1” on the attractive scale.


The markets, while STIMULATING and interesting, were usually gross with uneven steps that added the possibility of stepping in sewer water. EWWW! There were limited fruits and veggies, lots of dried beans and dehydrated red peppers…and an odor. The kind of odor that one smells in almost every third world damp and musty market. The kind of odor that makes one think ‘Maybe it’s a good idea to avoid the meat.’ It was really overstimulating, at various points we wanted to sit so that we could remove one sense — moving. Overall though, it was enjoyable and the vendors were really nice.  Not as pushy as I thought they’d be.  One time, we overpaid for a skirt, and the woman gave us back the extra bill.

Other things we noticed:

  • Tuk tuk is a universal word (even if we don’t have it in the US)
  • In Ethiopia, the tuk tuks are more closed to protect from the rain, which was a pro (staying dry) and also a con (it trapped the heat).
  • The people were really friendly!
  • Patrick and I felt like celebrities with how many people were greeting us and checking us out in the streets.  
  • There weren’t as many stray dogs as we were expecting (although there were more in the west).
  • Even though this wasn’t something we witnessed, we learned that volleyball is their national sport. 
  • In Ethiopia, they say “yes” by breathing in like a gasp, and it’s a cool sound.

An unfortunate take away:

  • “By far, the dirtiest money that I have ever held”- Patrick
    It’s called bier and it is, essentially, cold hard trash.
    Just think of the dirtiest money that you have ever touched. Vietnamese dong?  ALL the money is worse than that. We had to check both sides to determine…money or garbage?   The kind of money you can’t tell “is it wet?” it’s so dirty.  

As we learned more and tailored our expectations with reality, we also learned some language. The first word we learned was “Amesegnalaw” (which means thank you — phonetically sounds like “ahmeh sar guh nar weh.” You’re welcome).

We used our new word HEAPS, especially when we headed out to eat at a traditional restaurant called Dashen where we exchanged our bier for beer and YUMMY food.  Like that giant shared platter we were supposed to eat with our hands. All I could think about was how I’d been touching the money (gross), and was pleased when waiters came around with at-the-table hand washing supplies. Amesegnalaw. 

The menu was enormous. We had to take a picture of it and then use Patrick’s phone to cross things off because there were SO. MANY.CHOICES.



Family Style-thiopia


We ranked each dish (of course), but our favorite was a cabbage dish that we never found again. Injira, we trust.

After dinner, there was a traditional after-dinner workout. We thought it was just a performance for the tourists, but boy were we wrong.  I’ve got two words (and two videos) for you: NECK DANCING




The next day, we visited the Ethiopia National Museum… and, not all national museums look as good as you think they would.  HOWEVER, this museum was were Lucy (discovered in 1974) and Selam resided.  It was really cool seeing the skeletons.



What’s left of Lucy.


After some bone browsing at the museum, we went to the Fendika cultural  center where we met the owner, Matteo.


Matteo is a dancer and raised himself on the streets. His story was incredible; we had an amazing time talking with him. 



 “What I love in life is when people take risks and go. That is life.” – Matteo


That night, we learned more Amharic words: “Bugzaire,” which is when you leave the table, and “Norrrn” (when you return). RIP Buen Provecho.

We also had quite the adventure.



Check to make sure the car looks like it’s in good condition before you get inside — Peace Corps


We heard music by a one-stringed cello, met a comedian (just seem to find ‘em no matter where I go), and hung out in the same vicinity as other foreigners who were visiting from Eritrea (first time meeting anyone from Eritrea!).  

Patrick and I felt safe and decided to accept beer whenever it was offered to us. We drank Habesha and, with Matteo, asked each other GQs — but soon upgraded to BQs (beautiful questions).

My best friend and I also spent the night coming up with (what we thought were) genius puns like: truethiopia, Ethijokia, uniquethiopia, clapthiopia. You get the idea-thiopia.

And we tried tibs for our first (and definitely not the last) time. Tibs is a cooked meat dish. Here, I took a picture of the rosemary tibs.


As you can see, it was a great start to the trip!


2 Responses to “To Ethiopia we Ethi-go-pia”

  1. deekerson November 6, 2019 at 12:30 pm #

    I enjoyed going to Ethiopia, vicariously. The dirty money dirty hands thing got me for some reason.


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