One thing I am sure of is injera will never taste the same!
When I arrived in Ethiopia I had no real idea what the life was going to be like. I knew that it might be very basic (and beautiful), I knew that there will be things I would need to get used to (like local spices) and that the local culture would seem different and surprising at times. I was happy coming without any real expectations of what my life would be like.
I don’t really know where to start… Life and work in Ethiopia is very different. The picture that people at home painted of Ethiopia was very far from the truth. Although this might be very obvious to everyone, people who have never been to Ethiopia – for longer than just holidays – can’t really relate to what life is like here. I am very sure that the six weeks I have lived in Ethiopia was also not enough to fully realize the difference.
“Cheger Yellem” is the number one thing, which I learned in the very first week; it’s an expression in Amharic that means “no problem.” I understood very quickly that no matter what happens here, it is always “cheger yellem!” Forgetting the disadvantages that our faranji-mind would associate with it, it’s a beautiful mindset.
There is so much less to worry or to be angry about when there is never a cheger (problem). We faranjis (foreigners) are used to rushing to appointments, expecting busses and trains to come on time and things like internet or cars to always work perfectly. Whenever something silly happens like a bus delay of 10 minutes or the favorite bread being sold out for the day in the supermarket, we get upset, which not only influences our day or current mood but also the people around us. In Ethiopia I had days without Internet, nights without electricity and hours without tap water; well guess what… cheger yellem! I wish everyone had a little bit of the cheger yellem mindset.
Another thing that I will miss is the great people that I met and was fortunate to work with. The Yaya Girls staffs were always motivated to give 100% and no one would ever think to count the hours we had to put in. Working with people like this only motivates me to give and to do more. I learned a lot from them and I hope that I was also able to provide a valuable input for them and for the organization. The staff from the hotel turned out to be great at Wednesday football games, while also always very friendly and helpful.
Finally I’ll also miss the Yaya Girls that I had the pleasure to teach English and show the faranji style of doing certain things… Hearing from the girls before I left that they had learned a lot during the English classes and that they can now understand so much more was extremely rewarding. It was also nice to learn from the girls that they loved seeing a man washing dishes, helping cook and preparing coffee. It was a great cross-cultural exchange. One thing I made sure to do was to always be as positive as possible around the girls, imbuing them with a more optimistic outlook on day-to-day life. Someone told me before I left that the more I can leave behind from what I have done, the more I will take with me… which seems very true thus far.
I could write forever about what I am thankful for or what I will miss when I am back in Amsterdam (coffee and fresh juices being top two on the list) but this is a blog post and not a book… Many people in Ethiopia kept asking me when will I come back. Unfortunately I don’t know for sure, but something tells me that I will be back and whether it will be for work or just holidays, I believe I have now one more place in the world that I can call ‘home’ and always go back to.
Ciao, ciao Ethiopia!