Monique plays with Burtukan, who shares one bed with her entire family.
Looking back at our trip it totally doesn’t feel like it was five months ago!
Everything about it still seems so real, and even now there are still things that I’m trying to process from what we saw and learnt.
One of the key things that hit me about Ethiopia was just how different it was to Australia, yet at the same time it could also be so similar.
When we first got there we were thrown into the big bustling city and went driving through this place called Merkato, which is the largest open air market in Africa. There were animals walking around in the middle of the streets, people chasing our car and everywhere we went people were yelling out "FERENJI" to us which means "foreigner".
Though those first few hours in Addis Ababa were seriously crazy, once we went out into the rural parts of the country our experience totally changed. People weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere, they would happily stop and chat to us.
But it wasn’t only the people that changed, the whole environment was totally different. Rather than having tall buildings, cars and tarred roads there was hardly anything. Almost everything was stained with this earth brown colour, which was the colour of the ground as far as we could see. There were no tarred roads, no tall buildings and there were all these animals just casually strolling down the street.
The sheer difference from Sydney to Addis was one thing to think about, but then being taken out to rural Ethiopia, Wukro, was something totally different all together.
Staying in a "hotel" with no actual toilet in my room and water only delivered every few days off the back of a donkey’s cart was something that took a bit of adjusting to.
At first we were all a little taken aback by the...primitive living conditions, but then after having the opportunity to go and meet with some of the local people we all just managed to take it in our stride. It became a bit of a "When in Africa!" kind of thing.
Once we had been out and met a number of people in the local community we realised just how blessed we were to even be staying in a place like we were. We were visiting families like Burtukan’s where they had four people staying in one bed. And this wasn’t even what the average Australian would consider as a bed. I’m talking compressed mud, covered with some animal skins. And all they had for a bathroom was just a walled off area with a squat toilet – that they shared with their whole village... That really put a stop to our complaints.
I had such an incredible time in Ethiopia, and I would definitely go back in the blink of an eye. The absolute best thing that I found was the people; they had such a different outlook on life to most Australians. They were some of the most joyous, loving and caring people I have ever met. Even despite the fact that they were living with what you or I may consider as nothing.
What we saw was heartbreaking, but also empowering, and it spurred us on to help people like these.
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