Chilling in Addis

In Career Development, Ethiopia, International Development on August 21, 2011 at 2:24 pm


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Normally when I go on a trip I end up writing a lot about it, my impressions, etc.  But this trip is a little different, I’ve barely had time until now.  I’m actually working pretty hard.  My NGO doesn’t nearly have the same capabilities in Ethiopia as some other heavyweights that have been here for over 20 years.  So, if we want to make a difference we have to write a lot of proposals and find the money to start really working.  So, the first 6 days of my trip have been helping out with proposals.  I go down to Dolo Ado tomorrow, that’s where the largest Somali refugee camp in Ethiopia is.  We’ll be trying to work with Ethiopian host communities in the area.  With all the focus on the refugees, many of the surrounding communities, which have been suffering from a very bad drought, still need help getting back on their feet.  Hopefully we can offer some useful assistance.

In the meantime, this is my first time in Ethiopia.  I’ve always wanted to come here, although this time I don’t really have time to explore around or see anything touristy.  What I have done is eat some great Ethiopian food.  I haven’t been disappointed yet in that regard.   The weather has actually been awesome – very cool at night, maybe in the low 60’s; it rains in the early morning, stops by around noon, then it’s sunny and mid 70’s all afternoon.  Perfect actually.

So far I’ve spent my time in Addis Ababa.  It’s a big, bustling, dynamic city, with a pretty significant middle class – there are lots of regular Ethiopians out and about at many, many restaurants and shops.  That’s always good to see.  There is a ton of construction, from regular houses to massive skyscrapers.  The only thing that really bugs me is the pollution.  We’re up high at around 7,000 ft elevation, and we’re in kind of a valley surrounded by mountains.  It’s beautiful, but the smog is stifling.  The other thing is that there are these very smokey Lada Taxis driving around.  They’re actually very cool cars – apparently Ethiopia was close with the Soviets in the 70’s-80’s and they bought thousands of Ladas.  In true African fashion, the taxi drivers pimp them out with slick decals, tires, hubcaps, roof racks, etc.  I’ve had a few rides in these small-minivan buses that go up and down the main street… I obviously look out of place, but people haven’t really been calling me Ferengi (or maybe Frenshy… the word for foreigner) and I’ve only been overcharged once.

As I said, I get to the real work later this week, we’re actually going to be awarded some money soon, which will require a herculean effort to start spending.  But, this is my job and it’s why I’m here.  I’ve got my work cut out for me.


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