There are a lot of poor and sick people on the streets in Addis Ababa, which is awful to see. I had never been to a country before where the contrast between poor and rich is so clearly visible. If you go to a place like the five star Sheraton Hotel it truly feels like you stepped into a different world for a moment. Although there are many embassies situated in Addis Ababa, you don’t really see a lot of western people on the streets since they mostly travel in their own cars and don’t take the public mini buses. Because of this reality, we always got a lot of attention walking down the street and people would shout “faranji!” at us, which means “foreigner. But I never felt unsafe.
During my stay, there were interns from all over the world: Italy, Estonia, the US, Norway, China, Taiwan, Russia, Kenya, Brazil and more. After work we would often spend a few hours in our apartment talking about our different countries and cultures. AIESEC Ethiopia also organized a weekly happy hour for all the interns. We also went to events at embassies and international cultural institutes where we met many other foreigners who were working, studying or volunteering in Ethiopia.
Together with the other interns I made many trips to other parts of Ethiopia. I went horseback riding in Wenchi, fed hyena’s in Harar, admired all the beautiful rock churches in Lalibela and more. When you leave the busy city, you really get to experience how beautiful the rest of Ethiopia is.
What I didn’t expect was that I would also be going out partying during the weekend. But like any big city, Addis also has a great nightlife. There are big fancy looking clubs like H2O and Platinum but also tiny clubs like Le Tam Tam with only African music on their playlist. Africans are amazing dancers and I definitely learned some new moves that I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t see in a regular club in the Netherlands.
Nowadays I am still in contact with the school I worked at and many of the other interns I met during my stay. Overall, it was an amazing experience that I will never forget, and I hope I can come back to Ethiopia again someday.
January 10th, 2012 at around 3 am in the morning I arrived at Bole Aiport, Addis Ababa. I didn’t see that much on the way from the airport to Gotera Condominium where I would be staying for the next four months because Addis Ababa doesn’t have much street lighting. The only thing I noticed was the multitude of stray dogs and some kind of mechanism that the guards at the beginning of the Condominium used to keep out intruders, consisting of a piece of wire with clothes attached to it.
The following days more interns started to arrive, and I was taken to the school where I would work for the next four months. To get to the school you have to take three or four different mini buses. The first time I took the bus, I remember that I was told to “get ready to fight,” and that was indeed very wise advice. Mobs of people wait for each mini bus, and if you just stand still and wait to get in, you will definitely not get a seat on the bus. This made our everyday journey to school a lot more exciting than we had expect.
When I arrived at Fresh and Green Academy the kids came running up to me enthusiastically and started to ask me hundreds of questions. The first thing you notice about the school is the good vibe; it is truly a “happy place.”
The school was originally founded as a profit-making venture, but when Muday, the owner of the school, saw there were so many hungry children begging on the streets, she started to let them attend the school. The parents of the students who paid tuition fees objected to their children going to school with street children and pulled their own children out of the school. Nowadays the school relies entirely on donors. After a volunteer trip by a group of flight attendants to the school in 2008, Trish Hack-Rubinstein along with other volunteers decided to found “Friends of Fresh and Green Academy” as a non- profit organization, whose sole mission is to keep the school going. Today the school has also a ‘Mothers Cooperative,’ which allows the mothers of the children to make crafts and thus empowering them to earn their own money and feed their children and themselves.
Muday and the staff at the school made me and the other interns feel incredibly welcome and took good care of us during our stay at the school. In the morning we got tea and bread and at lunchtime they prepared injera for us, which is a traditional Ethiopian dish that you eat with your hands.