Posts Tagged ‘Addis Ababa’

“In Ethiopia, if we needed to get the waiter’s attention, we simply clapped our hands loudly”

“I don’t think that would go over well in the Hotel Vancouver lounge” said my friend Anne. “Besides didn’t you say you had learned patience in Ethiopia?

“Yes, but I am home now! But don’t worry I will sit on my hands and wait him out!”

We shared a good laugh! But truly I did learn a lot, including more patience. After 5 months at home, time and distance allow me to notice shifts in who I am now as a result of my three years as a volunteer in Ethiopia. This experience really is a “gift that will keep on giving”. I have no doubt that it will be seeping through my spirit, heart and mind for the rest of my life. But the immediate part has come to an end and this is my final blog for Spider Webs Unite. As a person who needs closure I feel its time to wrap this up and tie it with a bow. Approaching the ferenji New Year of 2014, I find myself wanting to appreciate and give a “gift of thanks” to all those who enabled me to have this amazing experience.

IMG_7205A Canadian “white Christmas” snowfall delighted me a couple of weeks back

In November I attended a returned volunteers “re-integration weekend” in Ottawa designed to help the 24 of us who attended adjust to life back home. One activity toward the end of the two days was to write brief impressions on flip charts of what we had heard from others who had been to the other 7 countries represented in the group. The notes on the flip chart labeled “Ethiopia” showed me that I had presented a pretty balanced and positive impression of my experiences. This excellent activity was an experiential reminder that what we say is powerful in creating an image of the people we have met and places we have been. To me, this reinforced our responsibility to represent our experiences fairly and honestly. With this blog I have tried to do just that, selecting stories to tell and experiences and photographs to share that I hope have presented a glimpse into my life as a volunteer in Ethiopia, images of the rich diversity of the Ethiopian people I met, the fascinating history and culture and the stunning landscapes. The feedback from you, my blog readers has been invaluable. Your comments made my day, knowing others were interested and cared for me. Since I have come home, others have shared that, while they never commented, they did enjoy being on this journey with me. I thank you all!IMG_7132Thank you to all my readers from all over the world! WordPress tells me that this blog has been read in over 130 countries

  Who I am and how I am all began with my parents and I would be remiss if I did not thank them for giving me life and for setting me on a path that led me to have a sense of adventure (thanks Mom!) and to value lifelong learning and creativity (thanks Dad!). If they were still alive I know they would have been avid blog readers…

family pictures

·          The support of my siblings and their loving welcome home has meant a lot to me. Thanks especially to my sister Katherine who hosted an amazing “full turkey feast” for family and friends Christmas this year. Thanks to her, I have had a many “return to cheeses” moments since July!

persian restaurant group pictureChantal and my brother Ken, sister Kat and Zahed surround me at a holiday Persian feast! Brother Eric, his daughter Amanda and her son Keane also took part in our celebrations over the holidays…but in the excitement of the moment we did not get a good picture!

kat serves her turkeyKatherine announces the Christmas turkey!

scarlet empressWith reliable water and electricity and a great stove, baking has become a pleasure again  – this is my “Scarlett Empress” Christmas dessert!

·          I must thank Cuso International for selecting and sending me on this rewarding journey and for the excellent preparation, ongoing support and welcome home messages and re-integration weekend. The Cuso staff were professional and personally supportive from start to finish and I highly recommend Cuso for anyone considering a volunteer placement in a developing country. For those who donated to Cuso on my behalf I sincerely thank you. Each donation made me feel supported and appreciated. For others who may not have had the opportunity, please consider a donation – I set a goal of $5000.00 and am only $890.00 shy of that amount. If you are able to, please consider a donation now . Every bit helps, small or large and if you do it online TODAY your Canadian tax receipt will be immediate and it will multiply tenfold with matching funds!


·         Thank you to VSO Ethiopia, the organization that took good care of me in Ethiopia, especially the support staff who arranged accommodation and the program managers who visited and offered support and guidance. The “volunteer family” of VSOE, both staff and fellow volunteers from all over the world made my time precious and memorable.

coffee mugs

·         I am thankful I discovered the UBC Certificate in International Development that became an online lifeline for me this past year and a half. The combination of working three years on the ground in development and simultaneously learning and discussions online with people from all over the world means I now feel I have earned a degree in development that is rich and full. This combination has given me limitless opportunities to refract my learning through multiple lenses.

·         Finally and most importantly I must thank the Ethiopian people I met and worked with in Woldia and Addis Ababa. You gave me your trust, kindness, caring, honesty and willingly shared your culture with me – this is a gift beyond measure and I will cherish it forever. Betam amaseganalo – thank you very much!

my "harar" wallMy “Harar inspired wall” contains baskets and pottery to remind me of Ethiopia’s rich heritage

journal writing spotSitting on my sofa today sipping an Ethiopian coffee and writing in my journal, I look up and see the morning crows gathering on the treetops, having a rest on their way west for the day

crowsThese crows journey back and forth, my daily reminder that, even in a big city, the cycles of life continue

journals for EthiopiaMy journals will remain a place to dip back in to this experience. My daily writing practice of half an hour each morning has resulted in almost 50 “exercise books” full of my notes and impressions and personal ups and downs, a deeper and more intimate documentation of the full experience that will enable me to carry my learning forward.

abiy's paintings in vancouverArtist Abiy Eshete collaborated with me to create these fabulous paintings, using my photographs – Woldia images are on the left and Addis Ababa on the right – they now hang in my dining room as a visual reminder of my Ethiopian years

xmas self portrait

Thank you again for following me along on this journey.

May we all continue to learn, flourish and strive toward peace on earth in the new year!

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What can I say? The first time is the one you remember with the most fondness. Mine took place at the Waw Cafe in Woldia one sunny Saturday morning a couple of years ago when I was open to experiment and looking for some excitement. In my breakfast that is…!

waw cafe foul

So I ordered the Ful, spelled Foul on some menus, and pronounced as in “Fool”. “Normal or Special?”,  asked the waitress. “Normal I suppose”, I replied. Soon I was dipping my crusty bread in a piping hot,  spicy, tomato infused, garlicky, beany blend. Deeply satisfying! And less than a dollar for a nutritious start to the day. It became my regular treat in a small town not known for its’ gourmet offerings! Accompanied by a good coffee and conversation with assorted fellow diners, always curious to ask the ferenji why she was there, it was a pleasant way to while away a weekend morning.

Ever since, when I see Fool, Ful, Foul or even Full on a menu, I order it. All too often the traditional “not available” is the reply. Taking this as one of my many challenges living here, I have continued on my quest for the perfect fool! Naturally I document the ones I find, often amusing the other customers in the process! Here is a taste…

messi cafe foulThis is the creatively garnished Messi Cafe ful – a VSO favourite in the Haya Hulet neighbourhood of Addis Ababa.

The advice is to go to the cafe and order it, then do your other shopping and come back since it can take up to an hour to get it! Or take some reading material, sip coffee and practice your patience. It IS very delicious and you get a bonanza of vegetables on top!

The base of a ful is always beans, usually fava or broad beans but sometimes even kidney beans. You can buy them in tins called Ful Medammes but what fun is that?

foul with falafelShelagh came back to Woldia from a trip to Addis raving about a new Ful place by the Yonnas Hotel.

Amazing! It has falafel too! All this for about $1.50. Rumoured to be run by an Israeli man married to an Ethiopian woman. Truly it was a special, special ful. At least I tasted it once and got to document the great presentation… Alas, it disappeared a few months later!

foul at no-name cafeHere you see one of those run of the mill “special fuls” that small cafes serve.

Basic, cheap and tasty enough but not fully satisfying. Why is it called “special”? It means it has scrambled eggs on top! And often some awaze paste and chopped onions and hot green peppers. I think the secret is long slow cooking of the beans with plenty of onion and garlic…and this one seemed thrown together at the last minute I am afraid.

Paris Cafe fulThis nicely presented ful is served at the Paris Cafe on Djibouti Street where the French decor includes pictures of the Eiffel Tower but sadly, no crepes on the menu…

gondor avocado foul.JPGOn the other hand, this was one big fat VERY SPECIAL  ful.

Yes indeed – big tomato flavour and it even had avocado and chopped tomato along with the onions and peppers on top! And yes, there was even a swirl of yogurt! Lip smacking good! Found in a cafe on the piazza in Gondor, facing the newly erected statue of Emperor Theodros for a little taste of history with your breakfast.

Foul arabic breakfast at Fusion BistroSwanky Ful all dressed up with feta, olives, pita and falafel at the Fusion Bistro in Addis near the Edna Mall.

This cafe specializes in Middle Eastern dishes and is well worth visiting. Salads are great too! Naturally this ful is a bit more costly, what with the tinned imported olives,  fancy dishes and all.

Sudan ful

Back to basics – Sudan style ful at a super busy and  popular small cafe in Addis near Getfam Supermarket

This morning I woke feeling like today would be the day! “I am going to only have a coffee, leave early for my weekly VSO meeting and stop for Sudan style ful in that tiny cafe that I was told had the BEST Ful”, I told myself. And so I did! The ful was not a work of art but the bread was super crusty and the ful itself quite tasty, garnished with peppers, onion and hot sauce.

The place was packed and a pleasant man joined me at the table, ordered himself a normal ful and struck up a conversation. He had once visited Toronto and told me that he farmed sesame seeds that he exported to China. Globalization strikes again! I ate all I could and, realizing I needed to hurry on to my meeting, I called for the “heesab”. When my bill arrived he plucked it from the waitress and said “It is my treat for you”. Sweet!

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