Letter to my sons

Last Saturday I took part at an event called “Poetic Saturdays” (www.facebook.com/poeticsaturdays), that was created by some very gifted poets to create a safe platform for all kinds of poets and performers. It’s held every first Saturday of the month at Fendika Gallery in Kasanchis. Last week was the second time I attended. After I have been there last month I decided to take this change to encourage myself to start writing again. So I wrote a letter for my two lovely boys. This letter I read last Saturday in front of all the people who attended the poetic Saturday and to my surprise, the people really liked it. So I decided to post the letter here. Originally, I was inspired to write this letter through my brother and his wife, who just had their first baby 4 month ago, my beautiful niece Millie. They had a welcome ceremony for her in August and asked all the family members and friends who attended the event to write down some thoughts and wishes they have for their baby daughter. So after that I decided to write something for my sons too.

 

 

Letter to my sons

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Dear Ilai, dear Naim

Raising you two boys is for sure the greatest challenge of my life.  But also the greatest honor and joy. Although I am confident that love is the key to a happy childhood and upbringing, I would like to share some of the lessons I have learned in my life with you:

 

  1. Be open for love

Even tough love can hurt like crazy sometimes, loving someone and being loved back is the most beautiful thing in the world. So don’t be afraid of getting your heart broken. Time heals all wounds and it is totally worth it.

 

  1. Have at least one best friend

Someone with whom you can share your fears, your happiness & your sadness. Friendship is the most unconditional and lasting love you can experience.

 

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  1. Be curious and open-minded

Curious about your surroundings, but also the far far away, and open-minded towards your neighbor, your friends and even strangers.

 

  1. Never forget where you are coming from

Embrace your African & European heritage. Learn from me and your dad about our culture and traditions and listen to the stories of your family.  Feel proud to be Ethiopian, feel privileged to be Swiss, and feel happy to be “Macchiato”.

 

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  1. Dream big and don’t be afraid to fail

Only if you try, you can succeed. And success only means that whatever you do or whatever you achieve makes you happy.

 

  1. Never fear to express your feelings

Boys DO cry! And when you are falling, I will always be there to catch you, to hug you and to take your feelings seriously.

 

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  1. Love & respect each other

Brotherhood is a very valuable thing, cherish and take care of this special friendship. You can grow and learn from each other. Just don’t try to team up against me…that is a lost war!

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  1. Treat every woman & every man as you would want to be treated

We are all equal and we all deserve respect.

 

  1. Do what you love

No matter if you want to be a dancer, a doctor, a poet, a lawyer or even a superhero, I will always support your choice as long as you do it with love and passion.

 

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  1. Be true to yourself

Never think that it is necessary to hide a side of yours. Be who you are. My love will always be unconditional and I will always be proud.

 

  1. Be kind and patient with your parents

No matter what we do or say, it is all coming out of love and we try our very best every day. And if you don’t hate us at least once in your life, we most probably did something wrong. Just don’t forget, you two are our most precious gift and all we do is to protect and support you because we love you.

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  1. Read

Books, newspapers, magazines, poems, blogs and whatever you can get your fingers on. Reading is learning, experiencing, opening up to the world and diving into adventures.

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Last, but definitely not least:

 

  1. Watch Star Wars

Ok. To be honest, I will anyway force you when you are old enough. But you will thank me for it…promise.

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Yours always

Mami

 

 

6 years Mama Africa!

Past month, it has been 6 years that I first stepped on to the land of Mama Africa. In May 2009, Ethiopia became my love, my home, the place I want to be. With all my love for this beautiful country and its people there are always things that bother me or even sometimes drive me tinish (a little bit) crazy. So I want to contemplate about this a bit.

Normally I get a bit fed up with Ethiopia or Africa just before I am about to leave for my summer vacation to Switzerland. Once a year I just need a break from everything here and refuel my energy by seeing my beloved family and just enjoy all the things that you cannot find here. So usually, shortly before I leave, all the negative things about Ethiopia start to bother me more than usual. For those who don’t know what I am talking about a few examples:

  • No electricity: for days in a row, or for some hours everyday or exactly then when you have a Lasagna or a yummy cake in the oven.
  • The rain: In June (sometimes in May already) the rainy season starts in Ethiopia and this means heavy rains at least once a day. When I got here, 6 years ago, I always laughed about Ethiopians who would not leave the house or place they are because it rains, but now I do the same. Because it is really difficult to get around in the heavy rain. Also the rain is depressing, as the sun slowly starts to disappear and says goodbye until September.
  • Disappearing food items: No, not because of rats 🙂 Certain items just sometimes disappear from the shops, such as sugar, milk, butter, coconut milk.
  • Certain behaviors from Ethiopian people: As a Swiss it is sometimes hard to accept certain behaviors such as constant lateness, staring (especially being stared at), egoistical driving behavior in traffic (you cannot imagine how upset I get while driving because 80% of all drivers in this town are eccentric selfish bastards).

I will be leaving to Switzerland in 16 days, but this year somehow I am not yet in the stadium of being bothered by any of the above mentioned things. Funny. I am wondering why. I mean I am really looking forward to my vacation and I can’t wait seeing my family, my godson and my friends. But this year it seems, I am at peace with Mama Africa. In May, it has been 6 years that I am in Ethiopia and maybe, maybe, it really needs time to get used to everything here. Or one just adopts. Or, these things I mention above are just minor things for leaving a happy life? I don’t know. Or maybe things just are getting better. I will try to explain:

Electricity: For those who are friends with me on facebook might already be bored about my posts, because if I post something on there it is usually complaining about having no electricity. Sorry for that by the way. Three weeks ago we moved into a new house, in a new neighborhood after, what I thought living in the worst neighborhood of all in Addis regarding electricity. We should have known why the house had candleholders on every wall in every room. Anyhow, I was looking forward to the move until we found out that this house, where we live now is even worse. From the first 10 days living here we had power cuts for 9 days. Funny thing, our neighbors (and owners of our house) had always power during these days. So their electrician had the best idea ever and connected our house to their power grid. Meaning, if we don’t have electricity we just switch to their grid and voila, there is light. SInce we have that switch we had power every day. So seems, no more complaining needed 🙂 Or maybe I wait until the owner wants to share their high power bill 🙂

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Me trying to call the Ethiopian Electric Power Cooperation!

Rain: Yes, the rain started already. But the first time in 6 years I am actually happy about it. This has 3 simple reasons I guess. Number 1: I am pregnant and the last couple of weeks it was unbearable hot in Addis and I am already fighting my hot spells due to the pregnancy at normal temperatures. So I am happy about the coolness the rain brings with it. It smells great and is so refreshing. Number 2: Our roof in the new house is not leaking. And number 3: We have cars, two to be precise, and even though Tsion (that is my 40 year old VW beetle) has no functional windscreen wipers, at least I don’t have to wait in the rain for a minibus.

Rainy Addis

Rainy Addis

Food items: In my new neighborhood lives a thai family so the local supermarket always has stock on coconut milk 🙂 I know other things might be more important than coconut milk, but who doesn’t love a good curry. Also our nanny knows all the places where to get the difficult items such as sugar etc. and even goes and stands in line for us at the Kebele shops. And if one day there is really no milk, we and also my son got used to powder milk, which is better than nothing and even the smallest kiosks always have.

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Precious sugar

Waiting for sugar at the government shop

Waiting for sugar at the government shop

Being late is not in my blood, nature or education, however, this is Africa and I think I will get more and more used to it with every year I am here. One just has to rethink the situation. So when my nanny for example is late half hour every morning it means she will leave at least half hour later in the evening.

Being stared at or being called a “ferenji” (foreigner) almost every day of my life is still not my favorite thing in Addis, but these days I just smile, stare back or I am just so amused about the fact, that despite of so many foreigners living in Ethiopia there are still Ethiopians who don’t see forenjis every day and just have to stare. Somehow cute in a 8 Million international city. Also staring sometimes just means you are seeing something beautiful, so I should feel flattered. My son, for example loves to stare at Ethiopian ladies in public, sometimes he even comments their beauty with a “wow”! And these ladies are always flattered 🙂

Eccentric drivers. These people drive me crazy. I guess that 99% of all traffic jams in Addis are produced because of egoistic and stupid drivers. Everyone want’s to be first (and still everyone comes late) and create 3 lines in a one line road. I can go insane while standing in a proper line when 10 cars try to sneak in from the sides. Anyhow, my husband, my midwife and my friends told me that it is not good for my baby to get upset and angry while driving so I try to relax and take my friend Sarah (also a VW beetle driver) as a role model. She is so cute when she drives. When stupid people cut her way, overtake her from the wrong side or don’t stop at junctions and just speed ahead she just stays calm and says quietly to herself “Wieso denn bloss?” (translated “why oh why”). And this is my new mantra 🙂

How people here in Addis drive into a roundabout :-)

How people here in Addis drive into a roundabout 🙂

So all in all, it seems I am quite content with Mama Africa and in general I am still very happy here. And because it is my 6 years anniversary post I want to shortly list all the things I love about Ethiopia and Mama Africa.

  1. My son Ilai, the offspring of the love between Ethiopia and Switzerland
  2. My husband Rami, the most beautiful, loveliest Ethiopian man and father
  3. My great Ethiopian friends, who became my family
  4. My great ferenji friends, who like me choose to live here, and know exactly what it means to be here and are more than just a huge support group
  5. All the other people who surround me with their smiles, their respect, their childish wonder, their thirst of knowledge, their love for children, their overwhelming helpfulness, their beautiful traditions, their diversity, their ambitions, their love for life, their loyalty, their sense of family and so much more.
  6. The vibe you get when passing through the city. The “this is Africa” vibe.
  7. The beautiful products coming from this country (apart from its people). Number one being coffee!!!!
  8. The almost 13 months of sunshine that wake you up in the morning.
  9. The amazing sound of all the beautiful languages spreading through the city.
  10. The pretty colors shining through even during the rainy season.
  11. The most beautiful sceneries as soon as you leave the city.
  12. The diversity of this land, people and cultures.

All these points would require their own blog post so I will leave it like that for now. After contemplating my past 6 years in beautiful Ethiopia I can still say Ethiopia is my love.

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What to expect when you are expecting in Ethiopia

I didn’t write on my blog for nearly 6 months. This has of course several reasons. The main reason however is, that I had only one thing on my mind since last June and it was a little too early to write about it. The thing on my mind the last 6 months, currently and for the rest of my life is that little thing growing inside me.

I am in my 30st week of pregnancy, meaning in the middle of the 7th month.

A year ago, when I started to think about living in Ethiopia, of course I was also thinking about how it would be to have children, a family in Ethiopia. I was totally able to imagine myself having children here and I was not worried at all. The funny thing is, that I never imagined being pregnant in Ethiopia, which is kind of a necessary step for having children. J Sometimes it is better just not to overthink things and just do it. So that’s what my husband and I did.

Of course most women who experienced pregnancy will say that this is one of the most important and one of the best experiences you ever may have and that you feel so female and so happy about what you will achieve at the end of the 9 months. I don’t deny the feeling of pure happiness and great anticipation, but here comes the but…BUT, there are also things that make a pregnancy sometimes difficult, no matter in what country you live. Anyhow, I would like to write today about the experiences I made so far living and being pregnant in Addis Ababa.

What you might be feeling during the first trimester (month 1 to 3):

  • You are freaking out because your period didn’t come and the 3 pregnancy tests you did showed a negative result…that’s why you spend the first weeks googling the reviews and critics of pregnancy test which are sold in Addis Ababa…
  • Finally you make an urine test at the hospital and receive the good news from a lab worker who tells you in front of several people and you cannot even hug and kiss your husband properly because that would be public display of affection…
  • You are realizing that Ethiopian hospitals (even if you choose the best one in town) are so different from any Swiss hospital you ever saw. And then you know, that you are so spoiled and that it is just normal to wait hours before you can see a doctor because nobody can make an appointment and first come first serve.
  • As you should not tell anyone before you complete your first 3 months you are glad that in Ethiopia people don’t just pop out the question “are you pregnant?” when you deny a glass of wine or a beer. Most of all you are you don’t have to face your mother who lives thousands of kilometers away and would know from the first sight that something has changed…
  • But then you start crying because you are realizing that your mother is thousands of kilometers away. Of course you start crying about so many things (e.g. watching how Jennifer Lopez adopts an Ethiopian baby in a movie) because the hormones mess you up…
  • You might stop using the public transport for a while because the heat and the people in the minibuses trigger your motion sickness…then you realize that your heightened smell makes it also difficult to walk around in Addis, for example passing all the public urinal areas at Tele Bole without wanting to through up…
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16 weeks

What you might be feeling during the 2nd trimester (month 4 to 6):

  • You are really happy that you passed the first trimester (the vomiting, the crazy hormones, the sleepiness) and that your baby is healthy and growing and starting to look more like a human being than like a worm and that you can finally tell the whole world why you are so happy…
  • You are nervous to tell your Ethiopian in-laws because you are not officially married yet. But are so relieved when their reaction is priceless and your mother in-law sings “ clap your hands if your happy, clap your hands”…
  • You get married and are overwhelmed with happiness and joy…
  • You are starting to show more and more, which has advantages and disadvantages. On one hand you can start using public transport again, because the yound nice habesha men give up their best seat in the minibus for you (thank you soooo much!) on the other hand you are of course center of attention, so it’s good if you are already used to the staring 🙂
  • As you start wondering about the sex of your baby you also think that the ultrasound doctor made a pact against you and is not telling you the sex intentionally. Even though you don’t see anything on that old ultra sound machine and always have to ask your husband to point out where the baby is on the picture and a few hours later tell your friend what she see is the spinal cord although it is a thigh bone…
  • You start looking for names for your baby and realize how difficult it is to find a name that both your husband and you like, that both your and his family can pronounce properly and a name that is not taken yet by any of your husband’s clan member (approximately 30’000 people because all Adari are kind of related)…
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Our wedding day…

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Our baby…

What you might be feeling during the 3rd trimester (month 7 to 9):

  • You start wondering about labor and birth. The good thing is, that our hospital offers prenatal classes, even for couples and apart from that you can read a great amount in books and online about giving birth. The bad thing is, there is no book about giving birth in Ethiopia and all the forenji books you read have an entire chapter dedicated to pain relief medication. So you read about it and you start thinking that you are totally going to survive this thanks to modern painkillers, and then you find out that in Ethiopia you only have the choice between a 100% natural birth or a c-section. Hm. So, good bye painkillers, hello pain. At least I know what I am signing in for…
  • You are eager to see the hospital and the maternity ward to know what you will expect. Now the number one thing about giving birth in Ethiopia: here you don’t have to be a millionaire or have a special very expensive insurance to get the best single room in the hospital! The rooms are big, cosy and really nice, with tv, sofas and their own bathroom. And all this for only 35 dollars per 24 hours, including food and care. Cheaper than most decent hotels in Addis Ababa…

At the beginning of my pregnancy I was a little afraid of what to expect when you are expecting in Ethiopia. But now I am just very thankful that I am not like the white massai trying to give birth in a hut in the middle of the bush. I am thankful that I am in Addis Ababa, the city I love, at a great hospital having an experienced midwife and a good doctor on my side and overall being supported by the best, loveliest, most patient and adorable husband in the world…

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My love…

STOP SMOKING ALEX!!!

After fifteen years and four unsuccessful attempts of stopping, I came to decision (once again) that I want to be a non-smoker once and for all. The question is why do I want to stop and why now. After spending a lot of time thinking about these questions I came up with 8 good reasons for setting an end to my smoking self. Here they are:

1. As a behavior change expert, I know that changing a life circumstance also helps changing old unwanted habits. So starting my new life in my new home in Addis Ababa is a turning point which can help getting rid of the bad smoking habit.

2. I want to be healthy – yeah, I know, stupid to come to that conclusion after 15 years of damaging my lungs, but it is true. I have enough, enough of coughing my guts out every morning, enough of the headaches and enough of the hard breathing and and and. All smokers know what I am talking about.

3. I feel very odd smoking in public here in Addis. The only place I feel comfortable smoking is within my own four walls, at Champions, Platinium or H2O. As a woman, smoking in public, you get this really unpleasant looks here. People stare at you or even comment on you: “did you see that girl?”, “oh my god, the forenji is smoking”, “only prostitutes smoke”, “you should be ashamed” and so on. You get this mean remarks from people you don’t even know. And still, it bothers me and I care, because it makes me feel uneasy. So every time I am out of the house, going somewhere, I am always in this awful dilemma: I really want to smoke, because I am craving for nicotine but on the other hand I want to avoid people’s stares and unpleasant comments. This dilemma causes internal stress and therefore I want to smoke even more. It is a doom loop.  So, one more reason to stop.

4. Even though I always knew about the consequences of smoking, it never affected me personally. It is really shity, but sometimes you need to see the awful things happening to someone of your close circle in order to realize how damn stupid you are. I always said “everyone has to die eventually” but contracting lung cancer involves not only yourself but also all your beloved ones. And maybe now is the time to start being less egoistic.

5. I don’t want to stink anymore. Hehe. To all non-smokers: I am so sorry what I did to you when for example mounting a full loaded bus at 7 in the morning after just having a cigarette. I hate stinking people in the early morning, I hate stinky people no matter what time of the day and I don’t want to be one of them anymore.

6. I know, everyone is waiting for another obvious reason: the money. In most  countries in this world this must be one of the number one reasons to stop smoking. In Switzerland, for example, I would spend around 8 dollars per day for cigarettes, if I would continue smoking 1 packet per day.  That means I would spend 56 dollars a week, 224 dollars a month, 2688 dollars a year. That is an awful lot of money. However, here in Ethiopia the money is not the number one reason for quitting. Even though the prices for cigarettes are increasing almost every year, 1 packet of Nyala is still only 60 cents. So here I would only save 200 dollars a year, 2500 dollars less than in Switzerland. But since I only moved to Ethiopia 2 weeks ago, I spent half of my life spending money for cigarettes in Switzerland.  Imagine, the last 15 years I spent around 30’000 dollars on my stupid addiction. Crazy and sad at the same time. With that money I could start my own business now, maybe my own NGO, or an own project. But that money has vanished into carbon particles. Bekka, no more wasting money.

7. I want to be a good example. My friend’s son is almost 2 years old now and I don’t want him to think of aunty Alex as a smoker. I want him to think that I am healthy and good-smelling. I want him to think I am cool, because I don’t smoke and because I have a lot of tattoos, bring him the coolest presents and because I know everything about Star Wars. 🙂 And one day, I want to be that good example to my own children too. Which leads to ultimate and final reason why I want to stop smoking…

8. I want to be able to have a family.

So, I am writing this blog, because I stopped smoking a few days ago and I am still tempted every moment to go to the Zuc around the corner and buy cigarettes. Now, that I have made a list with all the reasons why I want to be a non-smoker, I can read it whenever I need it. And more important, with this post…

…I commit myself in public not to smoke anymore!!!!

(Thats the psychologist in me)

Live in the place you love

Around eight years ago I was in London in a bookstore and I found a book that is following me since then. The book’s title is “101 things to do before you die”. I bought two books, one for me and one for my best friend Bettina. It is kind of a bucket list with things that would be nice, crazy and adventuress to do. Bettina and I were eager from the first moment to tick off as much things as possible over the last years. There are some things we accomplished and some things that I am still working on for us both. To give you an impression I list some examples from the book:

  • Write a bestseller (working on it ;-))
  • Milk a cow (I am Swiss, so check!)
  • Leave your mark in graffiti (check! You will find it in Bern Bümpliz)
  • Get arrested (hm, we were hoping to achieve that when spraying the graffiti, but unfortunately I have to find another way to get arrested, any suggestions?)
  • Spend Christmas on the beach (check! Was wonderful.)
  • Bungee Jump (check! Would never do it again though!)
  • Get a tattoo (6 times check and still not completed)
  • Be part of a flash mob (check! We organized one by ourselves)

There are also some indecent things that I am not going to mention, so you have to look them up for yourself.

However, yesterday I was looking through the book again, checking if I completed any new things since the last time I checked and there I saw it:

Number 58 on the list: Live in the place you love!

I am happy to tick off that one. I love Ethiopia, especially Addis Ababa and this is where I am moving now. I am excited and can’t wait to start my new life here and adventure so many things. These new experience I make might not be on my bucket list but what the heck, the book has empty pages at the back where I can still add things to do, as for example:

  • Drink the best coffee every day
  • Take care of two sweet and wonderful dogs
  • Make new and deep friendships
  • Experience the African way of living
  • Be part of a great community
  • Learn Amharic
  • Find a job you are passionate about
  • Be happy every day of your life
  • Fall asleep and wake up every single day and night next to the person you love

Let the adventure begin. I am ready for it.

Sleepless nights…

Beginning of this week it started. I cannot sleep anymore. Some years ago I experienced insomnia for the first time. As a psychologist I of course know the reasons for sleepless nights – stress. Anyhow, it started again. I am physically nearly dead and only want to sleep, but my mind is not able to log off and let me sleep. It is really annoying and after lying hours awake in your bed you go crazy. From my former insomnia phase I know that the best thing is to get up and do something. So I get up, at 2 or 3 in the morning, start reading again, make a cup of hot milk and after some time I go back to bed again and try…but of course nothing. I know I have to relax because if I freak out I enter to that vicious cycle – freak out that I can’t sleep, can’t sleep because I am freaking out.

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Anyways, I am still alive, even though I didn’t really sleep the last days. But of course it makes me thinking. And my only plausible explanation is the following:

I am six weeks away from moving! In six weeks I will be leaving Switzerland and move to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As you might know, it’s been approximately one year now since I decided to emigrate after finishing my PhD. However, I started to plan and organize my moving only a few weeks ago.

As one of my first steps I went online to look up on the homepage of the Swiss migration what kind of information I can find on emigrating. My country indeed provides a lot of information. One thing I found was a checklist for things to do before you move to a foreign country. The checklist is divided into two chapters.

  • Chapter 1: 1 to 2 years before you move
  • Chapter 2: 3 to 4 months before you move

When I read this I really had to laugh out loud, but my laughing was more from hysterical nature than amusing. I was just thinking that this is typical me that I start to gather information few weeks before I actually leave. But I found out quickly when reading the checklist more carefully that it is also typical Swiss to plan everything, every single step, in detail and great amount of time ahead.

Just to give an example from the to do list, in chapter 1 (1 to 2 years before you move) it says stuff like:

  • Visit the country you want to emigrate to once or twice! –> check!
  • Try to find out more about the culture there!  –> check!
  • Visit a language course to learn the local language! –> tinish check!

And so on…

However, there were also a lot of things listed there, that I didn’t even think about before. The point I want to make is, that emigrating is not as easy as I might have hoped it to be. Switzerland is a definitely a very bureaucratic country – also very safe though – and therefore the paperwork, which has to be done before you can officially “unsubscribe” yourself is huge.

So all this must be the reason for my current insomnia. Of course I should maybe also mention that in 7 days I want to hand in my doctoral thesis and it is not really finished yet. So finishing my thesis and planning and organizing the moving is all very stressful, and that makes me sleepless. Logical. No?

And still, knowing all this, realizing and reflecting it does not help, because still, I cannot sleep. So yesterday, when I came home after having dinner and some beer I knew I need a better plan. Someone (I don’t want to name 😉 gave me the idea to smoke before I sleep, what I of course tried immediately. I know, sorry, drugs are not the solution, but I was really desperate. So after I finished smoking, my flatemate Jasmin, in a quite tipsy condition (sorry Schnüggeline), looked at me and said:

“It must be incredibly hard for you to realize day by day that you have to say goodbye to everything you have built up during all these years, all your friendships and the relation to your family. No wonder you can’t sleep.”

In vino veritas. All the stressful things going on, writing my thesis, filling out hundreds of forms and organize insurances and all, of course are not easy but are not the reason for my insomnia.

I went to bed, cried, took a sleeping pill and slept. I need all the energy now to be with my beloved ones.

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Power cuts…

Yesterday, 11:06 in the morning in Zürich. The city went dark and cold. Unusual but true, Zürich had a power cut for about 2-3 hours. And yes, this event made it on almost every front page of the newspapers this morning. “Black Thursday!”

Front page news about power cut

If you live in a developing country how might this sound? Can you believe, that a power cut is the most interesting subject on the news? First I really had to laugh when heard about it. Incredible how normal it got here that there is always electricity and at the same time while being in Ethiopia it is just the opposite, because I am beginning to get really used to living without it once in a while.

Coming from a developed country like Switzerland made it really hard for me in the beginning living in Ethiopia. During my first stays in Addis I had a really hard time accepting the almost daily power cuts. This had mainly two reasons:

1)   I had a really bad laptop, which after a year had a battery life of about 30 minutes. So whenever the power went out in our apartment in Sostegna I knew that I cannot go on with my work. And if you really have to fulfill deadlines or prepare important meetings or workshops this really sucks.

2)   Our condo apartment had several inhabitants when we moved in (mainly cockroaches but also some very ugly spiders) and the only thing that was keeping them in the kitchen and preventing them to come to my room was light. So when the power went off during nighttime, I would really freak out and install my mosquito net in my bedroom even though there were zero mosquitoes.

Our beautiful condo

But as time passed, yes, I got used to it. First of all I decided to buy a new laptop (not just a laptop but a Mac Book), which has a battery life of 10 hours and would be more than enough for holding through a power cut during daytime. And second, thanks to Kalifa, we got rid off all our inconvenient flat mates after a poisonous “kill it” spray attack in the kitchen. These were the practical adjustments I made to overcome power cuts.

Now, that we live in a big house in quite a good neighborhood, the power cuts got less (maybe once or twice a week). Not only the situation changed, but also my attitude towards moments, minutes or hours without electricity. Power cuts during daytime I don’t even notice anymore. My laptop would never die, we have a gas stove for preparing food and the zuc (kiosk) around the corner is always open, power or not. So, even if we are having friends over for dinner, we keep on cooking, just have a candle light dinner and instead of listening to music enjoy listening to each other. One night last November we threw a big party at our house, Caribbean Night, which we carefully planned and to which we invited a lot of people. Just when the house was full of guests and people started dancing the power went off. Yes, that sucked but what to do. These are the moments when you hear “TIA”, “THIS IS AFRICA”. And everyone would laugh and then just think about alternative plans (like listening to music from my Mac Book) and enjoying the bonfire and conversations instead of dancing.

Candle light cooking at home

But coming back to daily life in Zürich. Swiss cities are not prepared for power cuts. Not like Addis, where almost every bigger shop or restaurant has a generator. When the electricity fails in Zürich, shops go dark, automatic doors shut and you are locked in/out, the trams and buses stop running, elevators stand still, cash tills don’t work, offices and houses get colder and colder, ATMs don’t spit money, street lights are going crazy and and and…and then…people get angry and impatient. I understand, this is an unfamiliar situation in such a organized Swiss city. But still it makes you laugh when you think about the shortness of the event. I know it is not the same as in Addis and most people may not find it romantic or funny, but who knows, maybe in one elevator in the big city a girl and boy got stuck together and fell in love 😉

A pharmacy yesterday in Zürich

However, the uproar through the media made me thinking about particular moments I got angry and impatient during a power cut. Everyone who knows me and worked with me will have an idea what I am talking about. One moment that made me really angry:

Seven o’clock in the morning in Ziway (rural town near my project site). The whole town without power. 30 minutes before departure to a hard interviewing day in the field. Bunna yellem (no coffee)!!!! This moment is not only hard for me, but believe me, even harder for my colleagues and my team (I am really sorry guys, I am working hard on my coffee addiction). But yeah, what I love about Ethiopians, they will always find a way to cope with everything. The next morning they came prepared, with a thermos bottle full of fresh coffee…just in case. 🙂

Beloved morning coffee

So, what can I conclude: power cuts are different if you’re in Zürich or in Addis, that’s for sure. In Ethiopia they sometimes can be scary, annoying or life threatening (without coffee :-)), but other times they can be romantic, peaceful and specially joyful.

 

 

 

Friends…

Five days ago I came back to Switzerland (my original home). I have spent the last 3 1/2 months in Ethiopia. As you know I decided to leave Switzerland and live in Ethiopia because I fell in love with this country and its people. So this will be my last stay here in Switzerland before I pack everything together and start my new life in my new home by choice. Before I left Ethiopia I decided that I have to enjoy my last time in Switzerland and make the best out of it. Of course I am also aware of the fact, that I have to start saying goodbye. I want to enjoy my people here, my family and also my friends. I want to suck them in, all their love, their ideas and their advice so that I can start my new life having all these moments in my heart.

My family, especially my parents and my brother, are so supportive. I know that they are having a difficult time accepting that I will be gone for so long without knowing when and if I will come back. But still, they are 100% supporting me with my plan. This is so important to me and I think it would be a lot more difficult for me to leave if they would not stand behind me. I am so thankful for that. I know I can be happy to be part of such a family, but honestly, I always had this unconditional love and support from them. This is different within friendships. And this is actually what I want to write about today. What happens to friendships when you leave? How do friendships develop if you live between two countries, two homes and how do they change when you choose to settle somewhere else?

My dad always tells me that I am a lucky girl, that luck finds me and I always find luck. So to start with the subject “friendship” I can say I am very lucky. I had the chance to learn what unconditional love in a friendship means. I am the happiest person in the world and so grateful that my best friend was not only my best friend but also my soul sister. But this post is not about her. I need more time before I can write about her. Lets just say, that I know that our two souls were, are and will always be connected, no matter where we are, no matter how far I go, she always will be waiting for me.

Now back to the present situation. As I said, I am a lucky girl, I have very close friends here  in Switzerland and every one of them I love very much, but all of them in a different way.

Some of my friends I know for many years, I grew up with them, friends from my hometown. Of course our relationship changed the last 10 years because we all moved out from home, moved to different cities, made new friends and saw each other less at the end. But still, I don’t want to miss these kind of relationships. Still I feel “home” and safe and understood whenever I see them. No matter how long we don’t see each other or even don’t talk to each other it is always great to see them again. I know I will also miss them when I move away, but it is somehow different. I think this kind of friendships can survive and last for a long time without much effort and contact, because no matter how long we’re gone, we will always embrace each other with all our hearts when we meet again. The exact same I know will be true with my friends I found here in Zürich, during my studies. Even though we all live our own lives after we graduated, we still spend time with each other and share important things. Of course living at the same place and being part of the same social group draws us closer and we don’t only share daily “less” important things but also major life events.

And then there are my closest friends. I know that we will always stay in contact even if it is hard and even if we are apart for long distance and time. Those who make my heart ache when I think of leaving them. They make it hard for me to leave because I am scared of the thought not having them close. It makes me sad knowing that I cannot share everything with them anymore, no matter if it is a birthday, the first step of their children, sad moments, difficult challenges, or happy life events. And still, I know that they always will be close in my heart. I realized that it is very difficult for some of them that I am leaving and one reason for that is because it is my choice and they didn’t have any chance to be part of that decision. I choose to leave them behind and focus on my own life, my future, I focus on me. This makes me look very egoistic. I can understand their feelings, but I cannot change them. I wished that everybody accepts my decision moving away but I realized that most of all I have to accept to live with the consequences of my decision. I am leaving and I will not be part of their daily lives anymore. This is hard but it is my choice. However, I will enjoy each minute left with them and I know that I will do my best in keeping the contact and stay part of their lives. Because I cannot imagine not having them in my life anymore.

To all of my friends and my family:

Each one of you was, is and always will be part of my life because you shaped me and because of you I am who I am now. I want you to know that leaving is not at all easy for me, mainly because of you. I am thankful that you let me say goodbye and that you let me suck you up before I leave, because I know it is not something I can take for granted. I love you.

The first snow of the year…

Of course I don’t want to only write about Ethiopia and about the reasons why I want to live here but also about my origin, where I come from, what I will miss the most and what I will never forget.

This time of the year it is obvious what I miss when sitting here in Addis at my house, enjoying the warm sun in the morning. I will never forget how it feels like when it is about to snow for the first time in the year. Usually I know when the snow is coming, because I can feel it. Nearly 10 years ago, when I was snow boarding in the Swiss mountains with my family, I had an unspectacular accident. I fell and bruised my shoulder. Since that day I can feel the snow coming in my shoulder. The physical feeling I experience is usually painful, however, what I really feel when that happens is pure excitement. I feel like a little girl again because I cannot wait to witness the first snow.

Normally, the snow starts coming over night and covers the city in white. So when I wake up in the morning and peak out of the window everything is light. I love this. I get up very fast to get ready for going out, I will wrap myself in warm clothes and good shoes and just jump out of the house. The first step I make into the snow is the best. The sound of my shoe squeaking in the fluffy snow I really love. But what I love the most is the silence. Even in a big city like Zürich, you can not imagine how silent it gets when the first snow is lying on the streets. It is like the city bows out of respect to nature. The peacefulness of that moment is purely beautiful. 

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Whatever happens that day, if I have a hard working day, annoying emails to answer, public transport is not working, someone is rude to me, whatever…nothing can make me feel bad that day because I just look at the snow, breathe it in, and am at peace with myself and world surrounding me. The first day in the year with snow is always one of my most peaceful, calm and happiest days.

This year I missed that day, and the following years I will probably miss these days too. But when I talked to my mom on the phone a few days ago and when she told me about the first snow, I could feel it all over again. And the good thing is, here I cannot feel the pain in my shoulder. So I only have the positive memories and even though I am far away I still can feel the excitement.

The beginning…

Since two and a half years I am coming to Ethiopia for work. I always stay for around 2 or 3 months and then go back to Switzerland. But recently I decided that I want to live and work here so I am moving here for good. I decided to take up this adventure and to share my experience in a blog because moving here is evoking many different feeling in me, physically but more over emotionally. So writing and sharing this feelings might help, for me, but also for my loved ones I leave behind at home.

Now I think it is worth it to think about why I decided to live here. How did all begin?

In April 2009 my former professor offered me a PhD position at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science. I was just about to finish my Master and I was planning to get married and leave the university and look for a job. So, it never occurred to me to continue with my studies and I definitely never had the ambition to do a PhD. But when my professor send me the project proposal and I read that the project is going to be in Ethiopia, everything changed. I am a scientist, but what follows now is not rational are explicable, but I want to share it with you. When I was 16 years old I met this old lady in the train. She was a palm reader. She took my palm and told me a lot about myself. She was pretty good in reading my character. But she also told me one thing, that I thought is kind of crazy by this time, she told me that my future lies in Africa. Hm. I forgot about that totally, until the day I read the project proposal of my future job. I was convinced very fast, that even though I don’t want to have an academic career, I had to take this chance and go to Ethiopia. Two weeks later I sat in a plan flying to Africa for the first time in my life. I was nervous, confused, happy, afraid, but also full of positive energy. I came to Addis for the first project meeting with all local and international partners. I only stayed 10 days in Ethiopia, but these 10 days were the beginning of my future.

Have you ever had deja-vus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Déjà_vu)? I am sure you had. I had them like once in 3 years or so. Something very seldom. But wow, when I came to Ethiopia, I had maybe 10 deja-vus in 10 days. It was incredible and amazing. Everything I saw, everywhere I went, everyone I met seemed so familiar. I felt instantly safe, as I would be coming home. I know it is strange. But if the Buddhists are right and if our souls lived before in other bodies, then I am sure, whatever I was in my former life (a human, a cow, a bird, an ant) I was here in this country. I know it sounds crazy, but I never experienced something like this before. I knew that something great is starting and when I left after 10 days I could not wait to be back and continue learning more about this country and its people. To enforce my somehow crazy point I need to add a small story. Around 3 month ago, when I was in Zürich, I met an old friend of my father. He is an artist. Unsurprisingly, artists are always somehow a little crazy. This man I always respected since I was a little girl but I have to admit that since a few years he seems not from this world anymore. He began to study the world before evolution (millions of years ago). I don’t remember details but anyway, I think it is his intention to travel back in time to understand the cosmos. So when I met him 3 months ago he was telling me about his ideas and then suddenly he looked at me very closely and said to me (without knowing that I am working in Ethiopia) “you are the one who lived in Africa in one of your former lives!” 🙂 So, who knows. Maybe he, the palm reader in the train, and my deja-vus are indicators that point here. And maybe, we just live in a matrix and the palm reader and my artist friend got crazy seeing that. However it is, I am here now.

So, that’s how everything begun. But of course it is not the only reason why I decided to live here…but it is the beginning.Image