What follows is my very first journal entry from Ethiopia, entered 7 June 2012 – the morning after our plane touched down at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. It was an insightful read for me while thumbing through my log, a wonderful gift from my step-mom-to-be before my departure. Enjoy.
Today I woke around twenty to six and wandered down to the lobby of King’s Hotel just as the staff was beginning to stir and prepare the grounds for the day, as well as our 6:30 group breakfast. I said good morning to the staff members, not yet in Amharic, and made my way through the courtyard and out into the gated parking lot that overlooks a large road that will be bustling within a couple hours. I simply wanted to watch this part of Addis come to life after the dangers of nightfall. I watched men and women shuffle by and even saw a couple people running. Seeing runners was an exciting sight seeing as my conversation with our acting country director and security advisor indicated that few people run in the capitol. It really is not a desirable place to run. There are people everywhere, traffic is out of control, farm animals roam the streets, sidewalks are not well maintained, and hazards of many other sorts greatly threaten one’s individual safety. I really was not surprised when the recommendation that came out of the conversation was to limit running to the early daylight hours, at least for now, and to only cover a small area with my treks. All fine by me, of course. I trust respect, and value their expertise.
This morning’s observation was partly to assess what I might face with an early morning run, but mostly just to take in some tiny snippet of life that I have yet to see in my twenty-two hours here. After taking things in out front, I went for a stroll around the grounds of King’s, where I got a closer look at the staff living quarters – tin shacks, mostly, that are clustered behind the hotel – an up close showdown (not really) with one of the crows I’d been checking out yesterday, and a chance to use my legs for no other purpose than to celebrate that I can. And now I sit on a bench on the north side of the hotel, with my first real opportunity to reflect on where I am and how I got here. But even in this state of reflection, it’s incredibly difficult to process it all, at least in a way that would make sense in words. I have thought that I feel like a baby must feel when going about the world. And even though I come here with experience and a knowledge base that a baby would not have, all of that means relatively little right now. What I’ve experienced here so far is simply so different from anything else I’ve ever known that all I can do is approach it with an open heart and as little judgment as possible – much like a baby (perhaps Sarah?) might do.