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Friday, June 7, 2013


After another camp season, I decided to take a vacation and visit a friend serving in Peace Corps Ethiopia. I was curious to hear about the Peace Corps experience there, as well as see how different life is in Ethiopia. My travels to Tanzania and Rwanda proved that even a bordering country can be vastly different in lifestyle.

Lucky for me, the African Union was in Addis Ababa for a conference, so the city was cleaned up and put in order. According to my friends, and what I saw on the morning I left, Addis Ababa can be just as congested, hectic, and over-populated as Kampala. 

50th Celebration of the African Union
My first goal for the trip was to get some good food. I was hesitant to try the local food, having had Ethiopian food in Atlanta (I was not impressed). That single experience in Atlanta shut me off to Ethiopian food; I rejected all the invitations to try Ethiopian food in Uganda because of this. Apparently, you need to go to Ethiopia for good Ethiopian food (who would have though?). The first dish I had was called sheero, which is a thick spicy lentil based dish. You eat it with njiira, the local “bread”. Njiira is more spongy and bitter tasting than bread, but it was delicious with the sheero. I also had a thinner version of sheero, which was even more delicious! It was hard for me to find a variety of vegetarian dishes because the Orthodox Christians just completed a meat-free month and now are eat meat ALL THE TIME (seriously ALL THE TIME). I was told that bayyanettu, a dish of various vegetables, would be ideal but it was really hard to find. We found it at a few places though, and let me tell you, it lived up to its expectations. Overall, I came to the conclusion that the local food in Ethiopia is leagues better than the local food in Uganda. There is more variety, more flavors, and more nutrients!


My second goal of the trip was to try Honey Meade, locally called Tej. Tej is quite sweet, let me tell you. You have to shake it up too; otherwise you’ll get a lot of yeasty taste in your mouth. They usually serve it in a beaker-looking glass, like you’re drinking something from a science lab. I tried it at a bazaar in Kambolcha, where they gave me the Tej in a plastic bottle I could take with me. It seems like they weren’t exact in their yeast measurements because the first one I tried was very yeasty. After shaking it up a bit, I tasted the full sweetness, but according to my volunteer friends it is usually much sweeter. The problem with local Tej is that the alcohol content isn’t indicated, so you don’t know exactly how much you should drink. I learned the lesson the hard way…but it was totally worth the headache in the morning!

Other stops included Lake Hayk, Kambolcha Beer Factory, and Desse. I got to meet PCVs and VSOs at all these places and it gave me a very clear idea that service in Ethiopia is quite similar to that in Uganda both in frustrations and triumphs. It is comforting to know that I am not the one volunteer having trouble finding work and feeling useful in my community. When interacting with locals who work with the PCVs or VSOs, I noticed they had nothing but positive things to say about the volunteer. It is interesting that we, as volunteers, often to do feel useful or impactful. In reality, the mere presence of a volunteer is impacting the community in so many ways. This experience definitely taught me to appreciate the little things I do in my community, even if it is just greeting a staff member in the morning or having a conversation about life in Uganda versus life in America. These little things create bonds that help break through differences and create understanding. This understanding is the real impact we have as volunteers.

On the days we were in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, I felt like a kid in a candy store. We had so much great food at our disposal including gelato, cupcakes, donuts, toasted sandwiches, salad, pizza, burgers, Lebanese, Sudanese, Chinese, and Italian. All this plus a 7-D movie theater (still not quite sure how all seven senses are involved). Addis Ababa is quite similar to Kampala in that it has all these great things available, but at a cost. Had I spent all my time in Addis, I would have used my entire monthly living allowance quite easily!
Everyone good in the world in one box!

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