Beauty and Selfies


Running on the mountains behind Jomo, the same mountains many famous Ethiopian runners practice on!

When I first started my journey in Ethiopia, I expected it to be challenging and inspirational. In many ways, it’s been both of those things, and so much more. I remember the surreal feeling of actually being in the country I was born in for the first time in over a decade and the mixed emotions of excitement, nervousness, and curiosity.

I wanted to adjust to life in Addis as authentically as possible; I wanted to go out of my comfort zone and really make the experience about personal growth. I found that each time I left the house, whether it was getting lost and walking in the rain to get home from the gym, or learning the art of bargaining when shopping to avoid overpaying because I look “American”, or taking a taxi and having my phone stolen, there was always a new adventure awaiting me. In all the experiences I’ve had so far in Ethiopia, there has been a consistent theme of peace and community.

“Whenever I’m frustrated or miss the comforts of America, I’m reminded of the beauty around me in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes it comes in the form of a smile from a stranger, or the peaceful sound of the prayers from morning mass that carries over a nearby mountain. Sometimes that beauty comes in the kindness of a stranger that goes out of his way to find and return my stolen phone or in the laughter shared with family and old friends.”


The ILAE campus shared with a local nonprofit university, Hope University.

I welcomed every experience like I had chosen it and that has really allowed me to learn and grow everyday.

Each morning I get up and do a run up a nearby mountain, then grab a cup of Macchiato (coffee with steamed milk) with my breakfast and go to work. Each time I’m on that mountain looking over the city below me, I feel why I am here. I feel it as a deep knowing and that view outward reflects who I am back to me. No longer do the situations seem hostile or accepting.

They are as they are, and this knowing allows me to better serve my purpose in the work I’m doing as well as the relationships I’m building with a deep sense of connectedness with the people around me. The view from that mountain encompasses the journey it takes me to make it up there, and each time I do I feel that I am home.

Story time! In the spirit of EDF’s value of storytelling, I’m going to tell you about the time my love of selfies almost got me arrested in Ethiopia.


Me and the police guy after he agreed to take the picture…and not arrest me.

Anyone that knows me well will tell you that I love to take pictures. Especially the infamous selfie. I’m even contemplating getting a selfie stick …but that’s another story! During the first month of my stay in Addis Ababa, I went sightseeing with my aunt and cousins. As we were driving, I took pictures of the beautiful city and people around me. Then, when we were stopped somewhere I saw a policeman outside of the car and, not thinking it was a problem, I took a picture of him. I soon learned it was definitely a problem! He took it as a threat since he didn’t know what I was taking the picture for, and even though I tried to reassure him it was just a picture, he removed me from the car and finally made me delete it! Even after I showed him the picture was gone, he threatened to arrest me.

The whole situation escalated to the point that my aunt had to call my uncle, who had was able to calm the officer down. In fact, the guy felt so bad when he saw my genuine fear (and confusion) he ended up taking a picture with me afterwards. The irony. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I wasn’t with my family, but I’ve learned my lesson.

Don’t underestimate the power of the selfie.


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