It amazes me how easy it is to get caught up in the everyday stuff so much that you forget to stop and smell the roses. To just be still and look around you. To re-evaluate where you were and where you are now. It's weird how many distractions we have that are so oblivious to us. I never realized how chaotic and round-a-bout my mind was until I didn't have a choice but to be still.
The summer of 2008 changed my life. I had just graduated high school and got out of a 2 year relationship. It was a perfect time for me to get away and start a new chapter in my life. I had the opportunity to go to Ethiopia with my family and since, I have never been the same.
Every idea and picture in my head that I had of Ethiopia was the stereotypical one. Tukul huts, dirt roads, naked/hungry people, malnourished babies, scary bugs, etc... but I didn't care. It was finally my chance to see the country that I had only heard about but had a deep love for. I was very nervous, over-packed, and took way too many snacks in fear that I might go hungry. I didn't sleep a wink during our 20+ hour flight and watched every popular movie available. When we finally arrived in the country I could literally smell the spices overhead. It was a phenomenal experience. The country had its own smell. I immediately wondered, "What does America smell like? Burgers?"
We finally landed and received our luggage when some family members and friends, who I had no idea of who they were, screamed for us when we were spotted. They immediately took all of our luggage and hugged and kissed our cheeks all the way to the car. I looked out of the window in shock even though it was dark outside. I was finally across the world.
It all started when I was born to around 6 years old, old enough to understand that my family was from another culture and country. My grandmother would fly back and forth from American to Ethiopia and I hated it every time she left. She would always promise me that she would take me with her and hide me in her suitcase, but every year, she left without me. I would cry bitterly and look up at the sky hoping to catch a glimpse at a airplane flying overhead as I would scream "Ehmaye! Come back! Please!"
It was very emotional and it took me a long time to accept the fact that I wouldn't be going with her. Till this day ,I still look up at the sky and watch the airplanes. The desire and love for travel grew stronger in me every day.
As we arrived at the house we would be staying at, I tried to get comfortable on the cushionless bed and flat pillows. It was the start of my journey.
When I woke up the next morning it seemed like a dream. After breakfast I immediately ran outside and looked around. It was like a smack in the face. The people walking by and the dogs I wanted to pet so badly were not real, were they? It was a huge culture shock. Addis Ababa, the capital, had sky-rise buildings and foreigners walking around everywhere. There was a coffee shop on every corner, internet cafes, burger joints, bakeries that left your mouth watering after passing by.
I was blessed to also visit the beautiful Sheraton Hotel,
Debre Zeit, Sodere with a hot springs pool and monkeys,
and the breath-taking Kuriftu Resort.
What stood out most to me was the heart of the people. The churches were always full of people and prayers. The faith and hope of the people shocked me and left me in awe. With everything they had or didn't have, their faith was the largest part of them. It was both heartbreaking and uplifting to see the humility that they had for God.
The reason why I was able to enjoy every moment I had in Ethiopia was because I didn't have one distraction with me. My cell phone, laptop, problems, friends, worries, issues, television, radio, everything was left at home. It was really hard at first, but gradually I was truly grateful to be left alone. I believe that everyone should experience this.
Overall, this trip shaped me into the women that I am today. My love for people grew, my passion to help others and motivate others strengthened. My vision became clearer and the love that I leave behind is the only thing that motivates me. We are only here for a short period of time and how we choose to spend that time will determine the mark you leave behind.