Life in Ethiopia through an American lens {A RE-POST}
By Joy Casey in Ethiopia
written on June 5, 2011

This last trip to Ethiopia has given me a new appreciation of what day-to-day life is like for the good people living here. The realization that I am spoiled (and sometimes a spoiled brat) has made me uncomfortable lately. I expect the phone, internet, tv, fax and car to work on command. I expect road construction to be short and sweet and the roads to be wide, spacious and smooth.

Isn’t it a good thing to expect excellence in all things?

Aren’t quick responses to all situations necessary?

Aren’t meeting deadlines a sign of integrity?

How can a country allow the internet and phone service to be down for weeks at a time?

Isn’t efficiency a good thing?

There is quite a lot I expect and if those things are not a reality, I catch myself grousing and complaining. Paperwork in “Adoptionland” is everything and I catch myself throwing little hissy fits if it is not produced on demand. I point my finger at someone to blame and demand it get fixed. Sounds like a spoiled brat to me! 

How can I, a spoiled American, visualize having to walk six hours to a village to get a document because there are no roads?

You mean there is just one person who can do this?
A document can be held up because the answer to that question is, “Yes, there is only one person who can sign this document and he is not available right now.” Officials do not keep regular office hours in Ethiopia. Makes me wonder, Where do these people go? Instead of a sign posted in a rural American shop saying, “Closed. Gone fishing,” in Ethiopia it more likely would read (if there was a sign, which there isn’t): “Office closed. Attending a funeral (or wedding or training). Minimehigit yellum.” Loose translation: Don’t worry about it.

Is this what “Shop ‘til you drop” means?
Monday, our Ethiopia rep Abebe (Ah’-buh-buh)) and I are going shopping. This will be an all day event and we both will be exhausted by the close of the day. I just hope we find what we are looking for, but there are no guarantees. Can’t we just get on the internet and compare prices and see who has what …. or at least, can’t we call shops and see if they have what we want and how much it costs? Not so fast, Joy! The small stores don’t have web sites and there is no phone directory. The other day we wanted to buy hard back Bibles for a church, and it took us several hours to track down a Bible book store that had what we wanted with the quantity we wanted. We had to drive from store to store until we were successful. I’ve shopped before …. I know what I am in for.

Aren’t we in the computer age?
Ethiopia is working hard to get the infrastructure in place for good internet service but I find there is a lingering distrust of the computer, probably not based on the computer itself but with the inconsistency of power. Doing something as simple as printing a document is impossible without electricity! I am amazed that most transactions are done by hand with a receipt book and carbon paper.

Minimehigit yellum. We’ll do it another day.

You can read Part 2 here!