After an uneventful but long flight we arrived in Addis Ababa late Saturday night.
Addis Ababa is a grand dame decked out for a party that feels like it's still going on. We missed the Ethiopian Millennium celebrations in September, but Addis Ababa remains dressed in her best with coloured lights wrapped around trees and suspended from tall buildings. The road from the airport is lined with lamp posts that look like ceremonial guards carrying lances of light. It doesn’t take more than a minute to have Ethiopia’s national colours – red, yellow and green – embedded in our minds. Our hotel staff glow with pride about the festivities.
Yesterday we woke up early, excited for a day of sight-seeing in town and meeting the CODE board in the evening at the hotel.
The hotel we’re staying at is so much more than a place for an outsider to lay their head - Ethiopians make full use of the lovely grounds - the full-sized Olympic swimming pool and health centre is bustling with people. The beautiful gardens are the perfect backdrop for bridal parties accompanied by drumming, dancing, lots of laughter and in true Ethiopian fashion- absolutely stunning brides. We stumbled upon them all morning.
Our afternoon was spent a the National Museum of Ethiopia, which covers a huge spread of history from the oldest human skeleton - found in Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley - up to contemporary works of art by great Ethiopian artists.
In the evening we enjoyed a meal with CODE Ethiopia staff and board members. CODE has been working with some of these people for more than 20 years so they are both colleagues and good friends. Everyone seemed impressed with their level of knowledge and dedication.
During the meal we had our first Ethiopian coffee ceremony, a customary event that often takes hours while coffee beans are roasted, ground and brewed right in front of you. The coffee ceremony is an integral part of Ethiopian culture. An invitation to attend a ceremony is considered a mark of friendship or respect. It is impolite to retire until you have consumed at least three cups, as the third round is considered to bestow a blessing. Coffee also plays an important economic role in Ethiopia – the growing and picking of coffee alone employs more than 10 million Ethiopians and produces more than two-thirds of the country’s earnings.
We finished the night off back at the traditional bar in the hotel with some sweet honey wine called tej, made from fermented honey and a special kind of hops called gesho. Ethiopians believe tej was the wine used for a toast between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.
IT's GREAT TO BE HERE
Our first briefing with CODE Ethiopia staff. We learn valuable info on policies and progress, statistics and other numbers. What we’ve heard is very promising, there’s been impressive progress.- Stefan Hensel
A coffee ceremony during a reception with Code Ethiopia staff and others interested in Code’s work, one was a wonderful local woman who writes children’s stories when she is not editing books for the Ministry of Health. Code Ethiopia helps her publish them. - Stefan Hensel