Thoughts from Ethiopia

Thoughts from Ethiopia

By Lydia Haile ’19. Art by Angie Kang ’20.

fire hose

Addis Ababa is cramming my culture

down my mouth

with a fire hose.

and I am drinking but

maybe I like the watered-down version better

easier to digest — westernized, mixed with English, flattened

what does that say about me?

that I can not hold this down

this place is wonderful but definitely not comfortable.

things I have seen

desert, stretching on for forever

glimmering lakes, gaping caverns, dense lush tropics

trees that flower brighter colors

coils of highways, bridges and smooth gravel

stone neighborhood streets, high heel-proof and consistently uneven

sleek hotels clustered together, with fast wi-fi and good security

towering concrete shells held together with sticks, construction promises left unfulfilled

roosters ambling around corner stores, their webbed feet pattering on rock — crowing to wake me up in the mornings, awaiting their purchase

all the people walking home on Christmas morning, chicken necks clutched between their fingers — the feathers, lolling lightly in the wind

oversize shopping malls — stores stacked up for stories, the clothes just as expensive in dollars as in birr

mansions you would never find in the states

houses that would never pass fire codes in the states

homes like blown up storage crates, all sheet metal and caked dirt

a sea of Toyotas crammed onto the roads, car-door to car-door, their horns singing

horse-drawn carriages, sheep and donkeys walking beside them

skyscrapers next to huts

lighter, less sour injera, more kitfo than I will ever need

burgers that don’t taste like burgers

East and West, clawing at each other, collapsing into each other

neither really winning.

my first good shower in Ethiopia

I prayed before I turned on the faucet

very fervently, very well

and God provided.

hot water is a blessing, a real soul cleanser

or at least a delicate product of water heaters

you turn the handle, but not all the way

and that makes all the difference.

I am a handle that is not all the way turned — not belonging but also not apart

my skin is dull from a year in New England

my Amharic is new and rusted from disuse, mushy and thin-lipped

my feet are always cold in the mornings

and the mosquitoes love me

I brush my teeth with bottled water

there is a richness of culture I can’t fully taste — history and subtleties and nuance lost on my tongue.


At the end of the day, the doro wot tastes the same.

The coffee beans are fresher, but still brew in the same Gebena.

I know how to walk on the cobblestone now, from home to church and back.

I read the street signs passing by and make conversation.

I am not confused all of the time.

I am slowly turning open.