Day 1

We have had a busy two days in Ethiopia. We arrived at approximately 7:00 A.M. and waited in a long line to go through customs, and then waited some more to get our luggage. After we all had our stuff, we left the airport and were greeted by our bus driver who held up a sign that read “American Gewish.” He was very friendly and shook all of our hands individually to introduce himself, just like all of the other Ethiopian people we have met. We then boarded two buses and headed towards the Desalegn Hotel and got our first taste of driving in Addis Ababa. The roads are packed and there are no traffic rules; it’s crazy!

After some time to shower and relax, we then met up with the JDC’s Country Director of Ethiopia, Manlio Dell’Arcia, who debriefed us on the history of JDC’s work in Ethiopia. After getting some background, we finally had our first Ethiopian meal! Ethiopian food consists of injera, which is a sour, spongy bread used to eat everything here, along with various different stews. After a delicious lunch, we finally met the famous Dr. Rick Hodes, JDC’s medical director for Ethiopia. He is a true inspiration - dedicating his life to providing medical care to Ethiopians in his clinic in Addis Ababa. There is a very clear disparity of wealth in this country, and there is only one doctor for every 40,000 Ethiopians. Due to a lack of education, access to preventative healthcare and reliance on traditional healers, many patients come to Dr. Hodes with unfortunate effects from diseases that have been long-eradicated in the developed world.

Following our initial meeting, we all headed as a group to the “Mercato,” the largest open-air market in Africa. It was a loud, crowded and bustling market with various alleys and streets to turn. We all stayed as a group and followed each other through various paths and saw how people in Addis Ababa do their shopping. There were vendors for all sorts of items; anything from spices to trinkets to chickens. The narrow alleys were for two-way traffic and carrying large items, most often carried on vendors’ heads. We often had to dodge various items and make sure not to get hit. Everyone was very friendly and surprised to see so many Westerners at once. People often reached out their hands to greet us and were very warm and friendly. The market was truly a unique experience, so many sights, sounds and smells all at once!

After our time at the Mercato, we drove in traffic to a restaurant for dinner, where we had a traditional Ethiopian meal and entertainment. The restaurant was tucked onto the side of a busy Addis road, and the 20 of us emerged lethargically from our vans after a packed first day, unaware of the incredible evening awaiting us. A traditional Ethiopian restaurant, we sat around round tables just big enough to fit a tray of injira topped with vegetables and different classic Ethiopian dishes. We ripped off pieces of the bread and mixed it with the vegetables for an incredible meal. Soon after we began eating, three men in traditional dress began to play different songs for us and two male and two female dancers came on stage and began to perform. Over the next two hours the musicians and dancers performed different songs and dances from each region of the country. They also began pulling up members from our tables onto the stage to dance with them. What had begun as a weary group of travelers, we found ourselves dancing to the music, enjoying the beauty of traditional Ethiopian culture. 

 

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January 13, 2013 at 5:10 PM

 

 

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