Blog

  • Lead. Serve. Create.

    Welcome to the Fellows' Blog

    Every other week from February through June meet us back here to find a new post by our 2018-2019 cohort of Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows.

  • Our Fellows

    Meki Shewangizaw

  • Our Fellows

    Rebekah Tsadik

  • Our Fellows

    Feven Abiy

  • Our Fellows

    Edom Wessenyeleh

  • Our Fellows

    Samrawit Tamyalew

South of Addis

By Feven Abiy

Due to a series of random events and last minute decisions, I had the opportunity to travel out of Addis Ababa twice in one week. Both trips required a drive southward on the expressway to cities in Oromia, the largest administrative region in Ethiopia. The first was to Adama, or Nazret, where Edom and I attended the 30th Annual Ethiopian Public Health Association Conference. We left early on a Monday morning with another coworker and traveled about an hour and a half before reaching the conference center. This year’s theme was “The Impact of Climate Change on Public Health: Ethiopia’s Challenge in the 21st Century”. The two-day conference was filled with panel discussions, poster exhibits, and breakout sessions all focused on answering the question of what Ethiopia can do to mitigate the public health challenges of climate change. It was an exciting conversation to be a part of. 

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Amharic Olympics

Amharic Olympics

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Typical line of contract taxis in Piassa

It was a breezy afternoon drive on our way back to the city from Gullele. I accompanied our taxi driver, and his fatherly aura, in the front seat, and was deep in conversation with fellows Feven and Meki in the back. 


In a matter of minutes, our driver’s smile spread from ear to ear and he began praising us for speaking in English. He assumed we were students at Nazareth, a private school that excels in languages, but we explained we had come from the US to work in Ethiopia for the next six months through a diaspora fellowship, which invited an equally positive reaction. He told us about his two children who attend government school, but are encouraged to speak and read in English in their free time. He was proud of us for returning to the motherland, and deeply supported the dual Amharic-English linguistic identity we’ve nurtured for so long as Ethiopian-Americans.

Not all other taxi drivers and passersby have had the same reaction. As a diaspora, your Amharic is either too good or not good enough, and no one shies away from making their opinions known. Random strangers’ critiques of my Amharic have taken the most creative forms. Instead of feeling insulted, I can’t help but laugh along with the poetic diss they’ve just served. A few of my favorites include:

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To Get To The Other Side

By Meki Shewangizaw

I have a fear of getting in a car accident. Not a two-car collision, but a fear of getting hit by a car while walking. I don’t know where it came from, or when it manifested, but whenever I cross the street–there’s a short-lived sense of panic until I make it safely to the other side.

Now imagine me crossing the street in Addis Ababa.

In this city, crosswalks are few and the drivers who obey them are even fewer. Family and friends can sense my level of discomfort without me having to vocalize it. From people like Sami, a member of my EDF cohort (who often tells me to get on the other side of her so that she can be facing traffic), to my cousins who laugh while explaining that cars don’t stop for people here.

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A Big Fat Ethiopian Wedding

By Samrawit Tamyalew

It’s January in Ethiopia and you know what that means – wedding season! Unlike the US, where wedding season is in the summer, in Ethiopia, it is at the beginning of the year to precede fasting season. Many Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia partake in a two month fast prior to Easter, which usually starts in February. They are vegan for those two months, which means they cannot eat meat–a large part of celebratory feasts. I was fortunate enough to attend a wedding within two days of landing.

Because of the communal culture, I went to the wedding of my father’s best friend’s niece who I have never met, and it was amazing.

I have attended Ethiopian weddings in the U.S., but they were the same as American weddings except with different music, (hundreds) more guests, and a much longer ceremony. I had the opportunity to learn so much about our culture from this six-hour event.

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