May 20, 2013
During the last two weeks of April, I was lucky enough to travel to Ethiopia for a Fulbright Enrichment Seminar. The Seminar lasted the better part of a week and I spent the week before traveling to the North of Ethiopia to explore a place coined “The Eighth Wonder of the World”. Both travel and seminar were absolutely refreshing and reflective experiences. Fulbright researchers and English Teaching Assistants from all over Sub-Sahara Africa were brought together to share our personal struggles, our intellectual triumphs and to be reminded of our purpose.
The conference and the trip, in general, allowed me to reconsider everything that I had been doing for the last 7 months in Rwanda. This place is a hard place to live in, but not in the conventional sense of being without creature comforts. The culture and the history have weighed on me, and other short-term travelers, even if its not always thought about in the forefront of our minds. Going to Zanzibar before and now Ethiopia, I felt a sense of release as if my psyche had been forced underwater for months and could take a big breath of air.
In fact, I have tried to ignore that weight in an effort to get to know people, not just memorials. And yet, that’s impossible. A history and its people coalesce organically and the separation of the two creates an even more stunted view of a such a unique, bewildering culture.
Upon returning to Rwanda in late April, I had a new understanding of, well, just here. My views of this place will be skewed with every passing day and it will take years after to grasp a mildly objective view. The people I met at the Seminar were an amazing bunch who were too intelligent and worldly to accept any superficial explanation of my experience, and I am greatly indebted for their patient listening. Vice versa, a banal conversation was nowhere to be found the entire week.
Ethiopia itself was a mysterious and wonderful place that I suggest everyone goes, whether they are in need of new eyes or not. Architecture, history and self-reflection were the themes of this quick trip; probably not a coincidence.
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher