This year, my big motto was to not let fear get in the way of me doing new things. In the past, I had let it get in the way and had definitely regretted it. I want to be able to live my life without regrets (as much as possible anyway).
My five week trip to Ethiopia as part of AddisCoder was a life-changing experience. It really didn’t feel like I had known everyone for only five weeks; it was as if we had known each other for longer.
But let’s start at the beginning. The trip started on an ominous note– I missed the check in for my initial flight. I had half a mind to just cancel going right there (I was nervous about traveling to a new place), but I said I had committed and I needed to stick to my commitments. Plus, I couldn’t let the fear run my life.
I managed to rebook the flight through a very long phone call and very little sleep. By the time I got to the airport, I had no time for cold feet. I took a flight from Atlanta to Newark where I met Rupal. I’m glad we found each other before the flight because it made me feel better about the whole ordeal. The flight itself was nice because for 10 hours, I had no one beside me.
When we landed in Ethiopia, the process of getting my visa there was fairly quick, but it would’ve been better if I did the e-visa online first. Rupal and I then had the task of trying to find our driver. This proved to be super difficult and somehow we walked by him the first time without seeing his sign. Words of warning: if someone offers to help you at the airport and you take it, be prepared to pay. Additionally, the taxi drivers will hound you if you walk near them so if you don’t want that to happen, be careful.
We arrived at the guesthouse quite late. We were staying at a place called Mam Guest House which, from the outside, doesn’t look like a guesthouse at all. The room wasn’t quite ready yet, so we had to wait for about an hour before we could even get into the room. I later found out that our friend Dim was kicked out of his (our) room at around the time we arrived so they could replace the one bed in the room with two twin size beds.
I still couldn’t quite believe we had made it. We had no information about the schedule for the next day, so we went ahead and set an early alarm and got ready for bed. When we got downstairs in the morning, we made contact with Arash. He was really friendly, and as we sat talking, Daniel also made his appearance. Since no one was at breakfast yet, we decided to walk to the bank to get money since Rupal and I had no birr yet. Unfortunately, when we got there, we found out Daniel’s card had been blocked, so we returned empty handed.
More people had already gathered by the time we returned. We all ate breakfast together before the bus arrived to take us to our first day of work. The first thing we did was try to get SIM cards. However, the telecom was very crowded and we had no idea what we were doing. Somehow we managed to get SIM cards (which cost 30birr), but decided to come back another day to activate them (which doesn’t cost birr but requires a passport copy). By then, it was time to head to the school. The first entrance we tried apparently wasn’t the right one and we were directed to try one further down. The people at the gate had no idea who we were and even got onto the bus to make sure we didn’t have cameras or something.
“But all our phones have cameras!”
We finally got into the school grounds and met the coordinators of the program. We started by going to lunch because it was quite late by then. It was my first time having traditional Ethiopian food, and the injera was super sour at the school (this improved over time due to tolerance not a decrease in sourness). After lunch, we went to the labs for the first time. It was time to start setting up the computers. Unfortunately, the very first day, we started noticing something strange with the USBs. First, the front ports on the computers was manually disabled. We didn’t understand why until we saw an autorun.inf file appearing in the flash drives which caused all the files in the drive to disappear for a while at times. Apparently this was a similar virus to the one the TAs encountered last year when setting up computers. In an attempt to not spread the virus more, we aborted setup and worked on creating exercises while we thought of a solution for the virus issue.
It’s actually quite amazing that rush hour seems to be a universal concept everywhere. On our way home, there was actually so much traffic. For dinner, we had no idea where to go and decided to just walk down a street near our guesthouse. We settled on a place called Dakko Kitfo where we had a traditional dinner plus tej, which is a honey wine drink found in Ethiopia. You can think of it as just fermented honey. The dinner was actually so so good (Basi came in clutch with the ordering) and helped me get more accustomed to eating Ethiopian food. We had tibs, gomen besega, shiro, kitfo (cooked), and bayanetu. If you’re in Bole, I definitely like Dakko Kitfo for somewhere relatively cheap with decent food.