Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ethiopia #1: “I Don’t Know if You realize How Lucky You Are….”

Plane says we are about to land...
…these are the words my director, Josianne Gauthier, wrote to me as I was preparing to take-off for Ethiopia on Thursday. She continued, The story of Ethiopia is deeply connected to the story of Christianity, of human dignity, colonialism, revolution, and the failure of the 1980’s model of development aid.  They have never been colonized and you can feel it…The landscape, the huge variety of cultures and ethnic groups that live across the country…and the coffee, the coffee is to die for. The first thing you notice when you get off the plane in Addis is the perfume of roasting coffee…”
She was right on both senses. I could feel it and the perfume did fill my nostrils. We have arrived here in Addis Ababa on June 28th as a group of 11 people from BC, ON and QC on a D&P Solidarity Trip. Solidarity trips are a chance for our members to see firsthand the work of D&P and its partners around the world. There are three main partners that we work with in Ethiopia and during this trip we will meet and learn from all of them. On this first day we will rest from the 12+ hour direct flight from Toronto and the 7hr jump ahead in time. Ironically, by coming here we have actually jumped 8 years back in time. Ethiopia uses the Julian Calendar and so it is actually the year 2007!
First Views of Addis Ababa
“I spent time sketching the view from my hotel window,” says Michelle, “Corrugated tin roofs and satellite dishes dominate.” Urban poverty as well as underdeveloped infrastructure is easily visible here. Growth is also visible in the form of scaffolding on rising buildings. It is made of Eucalyptus wood and looks like giant wooden skeletons with concrete innards – not exactly to Canadian Code. “The growth is a lie in many ways,” someone tells me, “The buildings represent the wealth of very few people. Income inequality is growing rapidly in Addis.”

For security reasons we do not visit the famous Markato, but instead visit a local market…in the rain. June is the rainy season and we are treated to our first Ethiopian downpour. Curious children approach us and as our English meets their Amharic, we do our best to communicate. I give a young boy my phone and he takes a picture of his little group. His smile is as wide as our own. We have arrived. I realize how lucky I am.

 Part of a series on the D&P 2015 Ethiopia Solidarity Trip. Internet Access is unreliable. I will post entries as I am able to.