Sunday, May 26, 2013

Coming In (Expectations)

For a while I've wanted for my first post on this blog to lay out some expectations I have for my experience in Ethiopia going in. My reasoning goes that if I come back later and say "here's what surprised me; here's what didn't," I want to have a credible record of my preconceptions. (I suppose that's the consultant and empiricist in me.)

I'll admit that I'm cheating a little in writing this, though, since not only did I receive a lot of advance guidance on what tends to strike or surprise newcomers, but I'm also actually writing this on the evening of my first day in the country.

So what sort of guidance did I get? Newcomers to Ethiopia (and Addis Ababa in particular) should apparently be aware:

  • The barriers of bureaucracy are substantial
  • You'll find that people are friendly, but don't always say what they mean
  • The city is at high altitude, which means it gets cold, also rainy
  • Certain things you might not think of are difficult to find and/or expensive (e.g. Diet Coke, home appliances, fitted sheets)
  • It's not a particularly dense city, from what I've seen so far. (This probably means there are parts of the city I'll rarely if ever see)
  • You don't necessarily have a sense that you're "in the mountains" as the immediate locale is flat
  • I'll have to figure out how I personally want to balance eating the local cuisine vs the (rarer but not impossible to find) international options

And I guess that's it for now. No deep lessons today, as I recuperate from my frantic packing and lengthy flight, and anticipate my first day at work tomorrow.
These points don't encompass everything I've heard coming in, but they're a few that have struck me for various reasons. A lot of my personal expectations are set by my experiences in India as well, so expect some compare-and-contrasts coming up later on.

Here are a few superficial impressions from my first day in Addis, that don't integrate at all with the points above:

To learn more on Addis Ababa, the wikitravel page may be helpful. To learn more on what I'll be doing, Google "Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency." To learn more about my goals, intentions, etc. for this year, stay tuned. I'm hoping when I next get a chance to post that it will be something of a follow-up/response to my 15 minutes of NPR fame.

If you're reading this, definitely let me know what sort of questions it raises or what you'd like to hear about my time here. I'll plan to get some pictures up once I have some, (as well as a sense of what might be worth seeking out to photograph -- I don't yet feel that the city has a visual ethos). I'll also try really hard to be funnier, but it probably won't work.

Oh, one last thing before I forget: If you're reading this and you've previously expressed interest in visiting, I may have told you that you'd have to get a visa in advance. This turns out not to be the case. A Tourist Visa can be bought on arrival, although the line I saw for this might make you wish you had gotten one in advance.


Anonymous said...

How good is the Internet there?

MJK said...

Well, anonymous, right now I'm in what I'd call a more or less mid-range hotel and getting decent Internet: it cut out once or twice today and it and can stream short YouTube clips but probably not HD video.

Mobile data has reached Ethiopia in recent years, and it'll be interesting to see how well that works once I get hooked up.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response.

I have heard how mobile banking has become very popular in recent times in Africa, especially to make small transactions or recurring payments. As part of a future post, I wonder if you would be able to update us on the status of this in Ethiopia.