Farewell Ethiopia …

 
 

Nearly four weeks have passed and now, the moment to say goodbye has come. The pick up is waiting to bring us to Mekelle. I hate saying goodbye! I still do and am sure I will never learn it ... Let's get over this quickly! ...

After far too many goodbyes we, finally, hit the road.

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On our way to the main road, the students from my English classes run past the car and yell "teacher Mischa" (instead of the "Ferenji" some weeks ago!). The first few kilometres on the main road, everybody in the car is totally silent. We take in a landscape passing by the car's windows that was so new to us some weeks ago; now, it starts to tell stories to us, our stories! We pass by the crossroads leading to the foot of the mountain of Desta's village, we pass by the oldest synagogue in East Africa (no photo so far, unfortunately! ... we have to come back!).

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But we are on our way back home ... home? Yes, certainly "home" is still "home" for us, but here in Ethiopia we felt very much at home for the last few weeks as well! We came here to share knowledge and learn about the culture and now we will come back with an immense wealth of impressions, stories to tell, and what is the most important thing: we come home with plenty of new friends, even people who now call us their family members.

At one moment of the drive to Mekelle, Anouk is really annoyed because she does not have enough fingers to count all her new friends. Anouk states that this situation is hard for her, as she knows that it will be difficult to meet all these friends again, because it is not easy to get here. She says that she feels at home here and asks why we can't stay. Then, she starts telling us what she will bring for her friends when we come next time! Yes, we do miss Desta, his wife Elsa and son Stefan, Desta's extended family, his brothers, sister, nieces, the people from Zikalay, the staff at the kindergarten, Alam, Samuel, Kidane and his family, Beniam ... even the friendly people on the streets we will miss! It's hard to leave them behind - even for us adults! But they and the moments we shared will go on travelling with us where ever we'll go. But that's exactly what it is: wherever you go, it's not the sights that are important, but the people you meet and share time with.

A typical Ethiopian church ... not the one we were stopped at!

At a church, priests and children in beautiful clothes stop all traffic. A priest gives us Injera and two boys, one wearing a crown and the other with a beautiful turned-around umbrella, collect money for the church.

Later on, we pass a burial ceremony with a car bearing the Ethiopian flag in the lead and a long row of first men and then women in deep mourning following.

We pass a camel and a donkey caravan from the salt lakes of the Afar desert (another place that has to be visited next time!) bringing salt slabs to Mekelle for processing. We see - as usual - hundreds of colourful people on the road and drive through a rugged landscape with "table mountains", a landscape that is dry and stony, but still every single bit of land is used to farm something. It would be really wonderful to come here in the rainy season when everything is dark green as Desta had told us ...

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Ethiopia has stroked something in us, something deep inside of us, something archaic. When we think of Ethiopia, we think of people and encounters. During these four weeks we never, not once, encountered a negative, scary or even annoying situation. Ethiopia for us means friendly, open and life affirming people who are willing to share everything they have. Deeply religious people who seem to be living peacefully next to each other even though they follow different religious beliefs, religions that elsewhere are fighting turf battles about who will dominate the others. Ethiopia is immensely rich because of its people and their interhuman relations. Then there is the diverse culture, I should better say "cultures" deeply rooted in the history of all humanity ... and we have seen only an immensely small portion of it!

Let's hope that what we call "development" will not change the wonderful face of this country and its peoples to the negative or to a copy of what the western world implies as the "perfect" one! This actually makes me think of the so-called "Human Development Index": before leaving for Ethiopia I have read in some guidebook that Ethiopia is on position 173 of 187 countries on that index and is thus categorized among the countries with only "minor human development". "Human development index"? "Human"? What is wrong with our world??? On a real "human" development index, Ethiopia would score high, most certainly among the first few countries. Only from our western perspective that ranks material wealth, infrastructure and income higher than community spirit, openness and friendliness, this way of ranking countries (and thus people and cultures) is possible. But, this index, apart from including the average income also is including the other two "dimensions" "life expectancy" and "education". Certainly, there are a few steps to be taken concerning education and, even more so, in the medical sector! Still, we do not really feel confident with the title of this index!

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We reach Mekelle, step out of the pick up and say goodbye to Zagay, our driver. As we step out, some Ethiopian ladies who want to go to Adigrat jump into the car. African car sharing!

 
 

Flying across the northern Ethiopian highlands, we suddenly understand what all these yellow dots are that we had discovered four weeks ago when flying here: they are the places where the farmers thresh the cereals.

Yellow "dots" we could not interpret on our way to Ethiopia.

Yellow "dots" - the explanation!

The complete country is covered with these places. They indicate that nearly all farming is done by hand using the methods we have described in our post on the life in Desta's village. Thinking of the "Human Development Index" again, this shows that not only the term "human development" is queer, but also at least one of its three dimensions used to calculate it: if a large portion of the inhabitants of a country make a living based on subsistence agriculture, this means that they don't "earn" money in the western sense (no per head gross national income adjusted to buying power in US$ will work here!). The farmers simply use their own production and the little money they earn by selling their minimal surplus, they almost immediately spend on the same market where they sold their products to buy the (very few) things they don't produce themselves, such as sugar, salt, soap and coffee. They don't get any wages! As nearly everybody is a farmer here, nobody gets any wages! At all! This renders at least one of the three dimensions used for calculating the "HDI" completely unusable! Crap! Eurocentric, Westernocentric world view! Comparing apples with bananas, that's what it is, nothing more! Crap!

At the airport in Addis Ababa, we have to wait. Wait until we can check in our luggage. This means waiting for almost six hours. We sit in a cafe, drink coffee and talk about the impressions of our last few weeks. Soley is totally tired and we put her down to sleep on top of our luggage. Electricity fails, but everybody just goes on working as if nothing had happened!

After checking in, we enter the international area of the airport. Addis Abeba Bole International Airport is the hub airport of northern Africa, maybe all Africa. Hundreds and hundreds of people here are not visiting Ethiopia but just passing through! Cultureshock strikes without warning, without mercy! Everybody is in a hurry! We try to find Injera and avocado juice or at least some decent European food. What we get are french fries (cost: 110 Birr, 4,40 €) and a bone-dry toasted cheese baguette with acidy orange juice and an unbelievably expensive St. Georgis beer (5 US$ instead of 10 to 15 Birr, 0,40 to 0,60 €). In most shops only US$ are accepted. The prices are sometimes over 20 timer higher than on the Market in Adigrat, a city of 100,000 inhabitants (e.g. 10US$ instead of 10Birr for an accessory needed for the coffee ceremony)! Unbelieveable! A complete rip off! What does this do actually do to the sellers and the customers. Here, nobody is customer friendly, as we had experienced everywhere else in Ethiopia during the last few weeks! They simply don't care because they won't ever see their "customers" again anyway. The same is true for the people shopping, they act like people do behave when there is nothing to lose: impolite, rude and ruthless! The people working here most certainly will only get minimum wages in spite of the sky high prices! Shocked, we leave for the gate and sit down shaking our heads. Now, the only thing we want to do is board the plane and leave (or go back to Adigrat ...).

On our flight back, a protestant priest sits next to Anouk. He is on his way to Norway - further education. He flies to Norway every three months and has to leave his wife who is expecting their third child behind. We exchange emails and from now on will stay in contact!

Suddenly, Anouk has to vomit ... the french Fries from the international airport in Addis are back in daylight and don't look any better than before! Crap, crap, crap!

When breakfast is served she feels better and eats her pancakes with apple sauce ... I have to look twice to really realize it: the five year old girl who did not eat Injera even once during the complete stay in Ethiopia, now uses her pancaces to perfectly Injera-like wrap-in the apple sauce! Intercultural knowledge and adaptability! Wonderful! Well-bred European children don't do that at home! Thank God they do now!

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Back in Germany, we don't realize what's different here on the roads. Then, the penny drops: it is quiet, so very quiet. There is no music, everybody goes by car, it's cold and the streets are not filled with hundreds and hundreds of people wearing the most colourful dresses, talking, herding animals ...

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On the ferry to our home-island and at the harbour we meet friends and family members. Everybody is happy to see us and we feel more comfortable again. The evening ends with French cheese and red wine ... We show the photos we took and miss all the people in Ethiopia!

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Why didn't we use the time spent waiting for our luggage to be checked in to pay a visit to the German school in Addis?! One never knows!

 

Africanize dem!

 

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