The First Days

It started with a phone call. Carly calls me from the airport in Istanbul

“I’m boarding now! See you soon!”

“Wait what?! You are coming in tonight?” I shouted

“Yeah Tuesday at 12:15 A.M”

Typical. Tuesday at midnight is not Tuesday night but Tuesday morning.

Yeah I went to College. No big deal.

I wrapped my head around the fact that I was about to see Carly for the first time in 7 months. Of course I would mess up the time. Imagine if she had landed and I wasn’t there to pick her up. No phone. Yikes.

I was about to send my parents to the airport in a cab. Instead I went with them. I would have to wait all night in the airport for Carly to land.

6 LONG hours later her plane landed. I had contracted some new friends to take pictures of when we first saw each other. The pictures turned out great. But these pictures were nothing compared to what was to come.

WeI had a day to kill in Addis Ababa. A city whose story I can’t presume to tell. It’s a gritty place; full of people, poverty, dust, and off-color tin fences. If you want to understand this city, you need only look at her photos. They blew me away. She’s become so good that her photographs are no longer just pretty. They are storytellers.

Our first adventure was to my host family’s house in Addis Alem. Culture Shock. The Ethiopian lifestyle is a great contrast to life in America. Lots of love. Ten minutes of greetings. Everything is shared. Every movement is watched, studied.

The sun sets in the small town and she gets her first glimpse of an Ethiopian sunset. This place is a photographers dream. The sun here is powerful. As it rises and sets it latches on to faces, streets, rivers and trees, the sides of houses. The sky turns into gold. It was the first time of many that she could not contain her excitement and bewilderment.

“Oh. MY” She would say.

Click click click. Click. Clickclickclickclickclick.

“This is not real. This lighting is AMAZING”

And we had no idea what was in store. Over the next three weeks, Carly and I would see the biggest crocodiles in the world, catch some unbelievable sunsets, and see life changing surgeries in Jimma. We would hang out with my kindergarten class, Hike through the rainforests in Bonga and enjoy being together in a country with less things, more happiness.


Time Traveling with Mom and Dad

When is Ethiopia?

This is a great question.

When I look back on my parents visit, I can’t help but think of time.

Everyone notices it: When you travel to Ethiopia you travel back in time. My brother and I wondered if it was like the middle ages or the early 20th century. It can appear as both. In some places, life goes on as it has for millenniums. The houses, clothes, customs are the same. Some Ethiopians did not know they were Ethiopian 50 years ago. They have never seen modern civilization. Many may have never seen a car or a light bulb. But the vast majority of Ethiopians are somewhere in between. The roads are getting paved. Satelite dishes hang on top of mud thatched roofs. Yet the local traditions remain the same. What crazy world is this?

It really is fascinating.

My parents and I went to Lalibela — a series of churches built 900 years ago into the rock. Yet people live basically on top of this historic site. Because its not like the Coliseum in Rome or the Acropolis in Athens. It’s living and breathing. Priests live there, chanting through the night as they have for almost a thousand years. Our tour guide explained that one crevasse in the wall is where 16th century priests from Jerusalem were buried. Sure enough, protruding from the crevasse are human skeletons, ragged clothes still on their legs.

We went to Bahir Dar. I asked my parents what the most memorable part of the trip was. My mom loved having traditional meals and meeting the people in my town. She loved walking around Bonga and felt that she was in a scene from the Bible. My Dad said the most memorable moment was three minutes we spent on a bridge.

We went in the early morning to see the hippos from a bridge. The bridge was really crowded. Little bajaj’s (3 wheel taxi’s) whirred by, fighting for room.They were fighting shephards, horses, cattle and traders going to the market.

Hippos, herds of cattle, rural shephards, and taxi’s. Welcome to Ethiopia. The land that time forgot, my dad said.

During the trip my dad told me about a friend of his. He’s young, wife and kids, and was just diagnosed with Dementia. He does not have health care. He’s losing his mind and his memory. The long goodbye. It truly is heartbreaking. It makes me think. He’s running out of time. The only currency truly worth something. There is a saying in Amharic:

Geezay Wurk No. Literally, ‘Time is Gold’

I guess nothing gold can stay.

Another reminder that, in the land where time forgot, time is all you have. I will try and take it less for granted. It all reminds me of a quote I saw somewhere. In the first person it said,

“Working at a hospice, I asked a woman, ‘what’s it like to know that you are dying?’ She responded, ‘what’s it like pretending that you aren’t?’”