Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I leave for Ethiopia yenega samint (የነገ ሣምንት, from tomorrow one week), flying through Washington DC on the way there, and through Rome and Toronto on the return. I booked this three-week experience (November 20 - December 11) back in early September, knowing I would need some kind of centerpiece to my language and culture project. Among other things, the trip will provide a much needed boost to my Amharic practice, which I have been neglecting lately.

In my last conversation with Jan, we talked about the importance of visualizing my time in Ethiopia in advance, in as much detail as possible, to maximize the outcomes of my experience. Naturally, I plan on letting serendipity play its important role, but I also want to practice imagining specific meetings with specific people (or types of people), which is a new approach to travel for me. Such visualizations will encourage me to come prepared with relevant vocabulary. 

To take the easiest example, I can visualize the ride from the airport to the guest house where I will stay for the first two days. I just learned yesterday that a man called Jon will be waiting for me just outside the airport in Addis Ababa, holding a sign with my name. Jon is the brother of Almaz Asresahin, the woman who runs the guest house. Almaz and I were connected through a mutual friend named Jeff Blair, whom I met earlier this year in Seattle through a friend that he and I have in common. Learning the vocabulary to talk about these friend connections could provide material for my first conversation during the drive with Jon.
Lulit tells me there is no term for "mutual friend," but there are several ways to express the same idea.
I also plan to know more about the area before I get there, which could also be a topic of conversation. Jan recommended spending time on Google Earth to preview the landscape of Addis Ababa. I just learned that the capital city has ten "subcities," and that Almaz's guest house is in the one called Nifas Silk Lafto (ንፋስ ስልክ ላፍቶ).
Nifas Silk Lafto is number 9 on this map.
The Nifas Silk Lafto subcity is not far from Bole International Airport.
Almaz told me she is a short walk from the Vatican Embassy. The Akaki (ኣቃቂ) River, a tributary of the Awash River, runs nearby. According to Wikipedia, however, "The city of Addis Ababa has made the Akaki its waste disposal site."
I have no illusions about the prevalence of English worldwide, especially among people working in the tourist industry. I will certainly meet many people who speak English far better than I can speak Amharic. Most likely, Almaz's brother Jon is one of them. But the more I prepare vocabulary, phrases, and even full sentences beforehand, the more I can forestall switching to English. After all, making progress toward language fluency is one of the primary goals of my trip.

**Another goal is to get to know the education community in Addis, starting with the International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia (ILAE). But that's a topic for another blog.**

Still another goal is to learn more about the imprisoned Zone 9 Bloggers. Just two days ago, the journalists reached their 200th day in Ethiopia's notorious Kality Prison. I hope they got some good news at their 11th court hearing today. If they didn't, and the government schedules another court date while I am in town, I visualize attending.


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