Friday, May 1, 2015


In less than a day i'm off to Ethiopia! I can't believe this is finally happening. I have only been to Africa once before and that was to Egypt in 1995. Twenty years later and i'm finally heading back.
Like most people my age, my foundational knowledge about Ethiopia is from the images seen during the famines of the 1980s. Since then i have discovered Ethiopian food and coffee and have done enough reading about it to know that it is filled with wonders. And that was enough to book a flight.
Once i started looking into it i realized that there are so many incredible sights and experiences (historical, natural, etc) that i will have time for only a small sample in my 2.5 weeks. I am, for example (due to time/money constraints) skipping the Danakil Depression (google it - it's incredible) and the Omo Valley tribes, but i picked a few places that looked fascinating.

A few random facts: Ethiopia is big (bigger than British Columbia or Texas) and is landlocked in Eastern Africa, bordered by Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya, Djbouti, the Sudan, and South Sudan. The capital city is Addis Ababa (which i will not tire of saying in full, even though it is commonly shortened to "Addis"). Ethiopia has a population of just over 90M, for whom the average life expectancy is about 63. The literacy rates run at a little less than 50%. The main language is Amharic, which looks like this: አልገባኝም (which translates as "I don't understand", a phrase i am sure i'll be using frequently). The currency is called the Birr and for $4.90 US you get 100 Birr. Your dollar goes a long way in Ethiopia, with a coffee costing about 15 cents. The country is nearly 50/50 Muslim/Orthodox Christians, with the Christians slightly in the lead, numbers-wise. Ethiopia is also the rare African country to have never been colonized, although it was occupied by the Italians for a few years in the 1930s, which apparently only enhanced Ethiopia's existing coffee culture. This prevailing independence has, as i understand it, left Ethiopian culture largely intact.

Speaking of culture: Ethiopia has its own means of telling time. They start with sunrise each day as being at 00 and each hour after sunrise (until sunset) is counted from that point. So, one hour after sunrise is 1:00am, two hours after is 2:00am...get it? This goes on until sunset and then the evening/nighttime hours are counted from sunset until the next morning. Apparently this means that one has to be very careful when booking bus tickets etc as to whether it is Ethiopian time or foreign time that is being used. Oh, and Ethiopia has 13 months a year. They have 12 months of 30 days each and then a 13th month of 5-6 days.  As a result of this, in Ethiopia it is currently 8 years behind and it is 2007 there. Confused? Well, given that i still haven't mastered 24hr hour time telling and i'm not great at reading analog clocks to begin with, this could prove to be a special challenge.

My first stop is Addis Ababa, via London, where i have a layover long enough to afford me some time in the city, which i am looking forward to, but the real excitement is getting to Ethiopia and exploring.
I have a list of things that i want to do and see, but for the most part, i just hope to be surprised. I'll be blogging as frequently as the wifi allows. The next time i write i should be fresh from London and en route to Addis Ababa.  Happy trails to me.


Betty-Lou said...

Yes indeed, happy trails to you.

Melinda said...

We have had a sponsor child from Ethiopia for 7 years now. It is sad to say I do not know much about the country even having Ashenafi for so long and look forward to your posts.