I went to a Broads Abroad meeting for expat women this morning and met some really great women from all over the world (in fact, I have a lunch date tomorrow with a Nigerian woman who is going through her first expat experience). The meeting topic was an introduction to Ethiopian culture. There was a very brief overview of the history of Addis which I found fascinating. No, I didn’t do my research before moving here. I was busy with the baby and stuff. I know, I am the worst. It’s a relatively new city, founded about 125 years ago due to the proximity to Mount Entoto, hot springs, and available firewood and water. After becoming the capital of Ethiopia, it grew quickly (prior to that, the capital changed frequently). Okay, that’s about all I retained. Pathetic, I know. I seriously have to go read some more about this place.
The part of the presentation about Ethiopian culture was very basic (to be fair, I had to leave halfway through to go home and feed Willa, so I probably missed all the good parts). It was really more geared towards someone who has never lived overseas. For example, “relationships are everything in this culture.” Well, that’s pretty much the case everywhere outside the United States. “People here are responsible for their whole extended families and are expected to share the wealth.” Sounds a lot like ubuntu to me. One interesting tidbit of information was that there is no word in Amharic for cousin; they refer to cousins as brothers and sisters, illustrating the importance of extended family. But when I asked my driver about this, he disagreed. He said immediate family is far more important than extended family, and that he doesn’t support anyone outside of his immediate family. Obviously, generalizations are extremely helpful when trying to understand a different culture, but it’s important to remember that they don’t apply to everyone.
My favorite part of the presentation was the discussion about household help. The leader encouraged everyone to call them “your Ethiopian family,” as opposed to workers or help. I know many expats who would be really annoyed by this advice (and I can totally understand why), but I loved it because it’s how I feel about the people who work in my home. I do feel responsible for them and I care very much about their well-being and their future. The leader gave us lots of examples of how we can support our Ethiopian family beyond just their salaries. It was really encouraging to hear this perspective.
The meeting was on the other side of town, so I spent an hour in the car each way. I brought along my iPad so I could take some photos from the car window. These are not the best photos, but I think they will give you a pretty accurate view of what I see every day when I’m driving around. (Or being driven around, rather. I don’t think I will ever feel comfortable driving here. Nope, I’m not very brave. But I’m also not the greatest driver, so…) The only atypical thing about these images is the cloudy sky. It’s normally sunny every day with big blue skies this time of year. It’s been dark all day today and even rained for about a minute just now. Very rare in the dry season. Anyway, enjoy! Click on the thumbnails to see the larger images.