Wednesday, May 25, 2011

And We’re Back!

All is well in Addis Ababa, where the coffee remains strong and the people as friendly as ever! The first week or so has been a fun time reconnecting with friends, finding a trusty vegetable vendor, and attending many programs (from here on, the word ‘program’ will be used to describe a myriad of activities, in true Ethio-style). A friend from AU, Alexis, and I travelled from DC together and were immediately taken to a lunch program at my good friends’, Teshager and Mame, house upon arrival. Their mom had piping-hot shiro ready and waiting, which is the only way to be welcomed back to Ethiopia.

(Alexis and I, as foreigners, paid 20 birr to receive these pink slips and gain access to a "rock hewn church in a cave." Clearly, this is just a very small rock hole, not even worthy of being called a cave. There is no church in this rock hole... in fact, the church is built above the hole. Not only was the advertising false, but the guys only had to pay 3 birr to gain access to the hole. So much injustice.)

(Alexis and I touring King Menelik and Queen Taitu's original palace outside of Addis)

Tesh, Mame, Alexis, and I spend most of the weekend with our great friend, Ermais. Ermi’s brother recently passed away in a bad car wreck and we arrived just in time to attend the 40-day memorial. Ethiopian funerals are done in stages, with the first ceremony immediately following the death, followed by more ceremonies 40 days after, 60 days after, and a year later. For Ermi’s brother’s memorial, we went to the church early in the morning, had a short service lead by a priest, and then saw the uncovering of the headstone. It was such a sad time and you could almost feel the death of this family’s son/brother become a reality to them. However, the priest gave a strong message, calling on the family to maintain faith and not focus on asking the ‘why’ questions.

After the service, we all went back to Ermi’s parents house for breakfast. Ermi’s parents are well-respected business owners and it was so great to see their community gather around them. Everyone sat around for hours, offering support, distraction, and of course eating food. I had spent some time with Ermi’s family when I was last here in December, so it was good to see them again even though the occasion was sad.

(Hanging with Ermi, Mame, Tesh, Ermi's brother Simon, some guy, and Tesh/Mame's brother Iskahun)

(Ermi's brother Yohannes, Ermi, Simon, Biruk, and their mom)

In sharp contrast, the rest of the week was spent preparing for a wedding! Over the past year in DC, I have become great friends with Meron through working with her at the IRC and attending the same program at AU with Alexis. The week was a mad dash, trying to get everything together for the big days (plural- so many programs). Meron’s husband’s family all came over from the States, so it was fun to hang out with them and see Addis through their eyes. This past weekend was full of much dancing, more food, and much time spend with Meron’s awesome grandma.

(Meron and Dave!)

(Grandma was trying to get me to sing... which wasn't going to happen)

This week, Alexis headed out to Southern Sudan to start her practicum and I started orientation for mine in the main office. On Monday I'll be going north to the refugee camp, which is in a region I've never been before. I’m excited get to work and start pulling together all the pieces of what people are telling me here. More later!