Overwhelming – Needs abound here unlike anything most people experience in the developed world. Take one step onto a street in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and you are likely to see unmet urgent medical needs (at least in a Westerner’s perspective), subtle and overt child abuse (again, in a Westerner’s perspective), heart wrenching poverty, and stares so intense that you wonder if your soul is exposed.
Humbling – Despite the extreme poverty faced by most Ethiopians, you can expect to be an honored guest whenever you visit an Ethiopian’s home. Whether you want it or not you will be served their best food, provided with a beautiful coffee ceremony, and provided with any comforts they can find in their humble homes. Usually I leave such experiences blown away by the hospitality that abounds in this amazing country.
Confusing – Going to any government office to seek help (for instance, trying to inquire as to why your water is not working) will make your head spin. Not only is there no designated place to ask questions, but there are also no such things as lines here in Ethiopia. You may think you are the next person up, only to become severely disappointed when you are quickly passed by a little old lady desperate for help herself. The amazing thing is, this is not rudeness or selfishness oftentimes, but rather a mere difference between Western and Ethiopian cultures. Who am I to fault this person who has never had to stand in a line her whole life? Isn’t culture funny?
Convicting – At one moment you may be complaining that there is no electricity at your house, only to feel severely sorry for such an attitude when you see a child asleep on a street corner. Coming from a country like America where anything you need is at your fingertips makes transitioning to life in Ethiopia a struggle. Nothing is easy and often you go without, but that “without” is often meager in comparison to what your new neighbors have never had – running water, electricity, for some, a roof, and the list goes on.
Fun – Ethiopians know how to have a good time. Whether it’s joking with your friends while having a cup (did I say cup, I meant cups) of coffee, playing football (soccer) in your small front yard after dinner, or participating in an off the cuff fashion show with the neighborhood children, you’re sure to find yourself laughing a lot here in Ethiopia. I’m beginning to believe that God gives us laughter to deal with the difficulties that life often brings. Maybe that’s why Ethiopian’s are so good at laughing – life for them is very difficult, but they still find joy in the small things.
I thank God for my life in Ethiopia. I believe I will be a better man and a better follower of Jesus because of it!