By Florence Gichoya
It was my first time to visit Ethiopia on 22nd January, 2012. I was eager to experience the most populous land locked country in the world. My first impression of Addis Ababa was beauty and warm loving people.
Beautiful scenery of distant mountains meets you as you drive from Bole International airport. The city has great warm weather during the day and it gets chilly at night. I was in the country for FK preparatory course training.
It was interesting to learn that Ethiopia is in year 2004! The country applies the Ethiopian calendar which is 7 years behind the Gregorian calendar that is mainly used by many countries in the world.
As we embarked on the training i got to meet other FK participants from different countries. We were all excited about our FK exchange opportunities. The home coming participants were also present and they shared with the new participants on their experiences with FK exchange in former host countries. It was a valuable session as they shared with us both the good and the challenges that they went through in 2011.
Having attended training sessions for the first five days, during the weekend the organizers Eminence Group organized for us a tour to various historical sites in the city.
The first was Menelik II museum; the shrine is located on a hill overlooking the Addis Ababa city in the valley. The scenery was breath taking. We learnt of Ethiopia’s hero Emperor Menelik II’s courageous role in the battle Adwa that gave the country victory over the Italians hence they were never colonized. The Menelik II museum consists of the original palace where the emperor and his wife lived in the 19th century.
Our guide also enlightened us on the history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church – which majority of the Ethiopians attend. Later in the afternoon we attended the Merkato – the biggest market in Africa. In this market there was everything and anything that anyone wanted to buy, from clothes, vegetables, livestock, vehicle spare parts name them all.
Ethiopia has a rich culture. It is evident in their tradional dressing, monuments, language which is mainly Amharic. The main local food is injera which is made of teff flour. Injera is eaten with spiced beef stew. Their weddings are also flamboyant with dances and traditional music. I was also shocked to know that raw meat is a delicacy for the Ethiopians!
The night life in Addis is vibrant. There are many night clubs that are frequented by the youth and young at heart revelers. Some clubs play hip hop, rap, rock and other western music. On the other hand there were those clubs that played Ethiopian music and served coffee instead of alcoholic drinks.
As the training concluded the deputy director FK Norway – Grete Thingelstand told us that the FK experience will give us an ‘extreme makeover’. That some of us will develop a bigger heart while for some we will develop a totally different mindset from what we had. Through these experiences we will be good change agents. She concluded with a quote from Nelson Mandela “a different world cannot be changed by indifferent people”
What i gained from the preparatory course in Addis Ababa was informative, educative and eye opening. I made lots of friends and realized that we’re all working towards the same goal and collectively real change will take place. And i concur with Grete Thingelstand that we will always remember the year we were on FK exchange.