You Probably Wonder How I Ended Up in Ethiopia

Greetings from a Time Traveler,

The memory of the expression on my mother’s face when I shared my decision to travel to Ethiopia is still vivid in my mind. It wasn’t just her reaction that struck me, but also the reactions of everyone I confided in about my upcoming journey. I’m sure they all had a burning question in their thoughts: “How did you end up in a situation where you had to go to Ethiopia?”

What I can say is that this adventure had its roots long before I set foot in Ethiopia.

It all began while I was working on a short informational video for ProQvi’s Uganda project. The project’s mission intrigued me to such an extent that I started yearning for a similar experience myself. When Tania introduced me to the opportunity in Ethiopia, my mind immediately drew parallels to my previous volunteer work in the aftermath of the Turkey-Syria earthquake. I realized that getting involved in this project had the potential to teach me about my own limits and enable me to discover uncharted facets of myself in entirely new environments and challenging conditions.

Following extensive project planning and trip preparations, our journey to Ethiopia began. Despite having read extensively about Ethiopia in advance, this voyage marked my first-ever visit to Africa, casting me into the realm of the unknown.

Upon our arrival at Addis Ababa airport after a lengthy flight, I couldn’t help but notice the vibrant posters and decorations celebrating the Ethiopian New Year “2016.” In that moment, I couldn’t help but think about myself as Time Traveler, the enigmatic protagonist of H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine,” a book I had read.

It was nearly dawn when we left the airport. A gentle breeze carried a sweet scent, while the first rays of the sun eagerly awaited their emergence from behind the cloud cover. The birds sang more jubilantly than I had ever heard before. In those initial moments, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had entered a realm entirely distinct from all my prior life experiences. We continued to relish this serene atmosphere while waiting for our shuttle, surrounded by bustling crowds eagerly anticipating their own shuttles or drivers, and for a moment, it felt as if we had stepped into another world altogether.

As the sun gradually ascended in the sky, our exploration of the city commenced. Despite the early hour, the streets teemed with people, and the city’s lights shone even more brightly than the day itself. It was as though the city was a masterpiece of collective art, where every detail stood alone, unique, and yet somehow harmoniously out of place with one another.

As we drove into the city, the sun’s soft emergence marked the beginning of our day’s adventure. Remarkably, even in the early hours, the streets were bustling with people, and the city’s lights outshone the natural daylight. It was as though the city itself were a living masterpiece, where no detail adhered to a specific pattern or harmonized with another.

In the evening, we ventured from our hotel to dine at a traditional restaurant. The dining room’s ceiling was adorned with paintings that narrated the story of Queen of Sheba, creating an enchanting ambiance. Seated at a neighboring table, we encountered a family of young women and their mother. As our conversation unfolded, a deep connection formed between us. Through our interaction with these women, I gained my initial insights into the life of Ethiopian women. Their responsibilities and choices, from a young age, operated on a vastly different scale compared to the women I had encountered in my previous experiences, including myself. To them, these aspects were an inherent and accepted part of life’s journey.

Following our dinner, we ventured together to a performance hall to witness a mesmerizing dance and music show. This experience left me contemplating the vivid and expressive nature of Ethiopian art, mirroring the colorful and vibrant spirit of the culture.

September 17

It was my inaugural experience of savoring a breakfast infused with a tantalizing blend of spiciness, alongside the refreshing sweetness of watermelon and a soothing cup of tea. If I were ever tasked with encapsulating my journey in Ethiopia using just one of my senses, I would unquestionably opt for the sense of taste.

Later in the day, following our breakfast, we had a meeting with the local organization ELİDA to strategize for the kick off event of the “See the Girl” film festival. The question loomed large: What could captivate people’s attention and unite them for this event? The answer? Tango!

I had always been fascinated by the way Tania conveyed powerful messages through tango. What left me even more astonished this time was that the idea to incorporate tango came from my own imagination. It’s fascinating how spending time with someone can influence your way of thinking and inspire creative ideas to emerge.

Following the meeting, we departed from the hotel and made our way to the monastery of the Franciscan Sisters Missionaries of Christ, where we were to be accommodated for the duration of the project. As we arrived at the monastery, we were welcomed by a grand entrance gate that concealed a garden resembling a piece of paradise. Stepping into this garden felt akin to discovering a small oasis within the desert, offering respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

As we waited to meet the nuns, they graciously offered us papaya. It was a peculiarly fragrant and incredibly delicious fruit, unlike any I had ever tasted before. Ah, papaya!

One of the highlights of my stay at the monastery was undoubtedly mealtime. The dishes prepared within those sacred walls were some of the most delectable vegetarian offerings I’ve ever had the pleasure of savoring. What made the experience even more special was the shared meals and conversations among the nuns. It truly felt as though we were being embraced and welcomed as honored “guests of God” within the monastery.

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