Tag Archives: expat

Another Day in My Life

23 Sep

So I’m slightly over half done my stay here, and I think it’s about time for another update on my day-to-day life.

I am now pretty comfortable in the city and for the most part, I can find m way around. I use the mini-busses when I know exactly where I’m going, but otherwise I use a contract taxi. The mini-busses are super cheap (usually just a few birr, a matter of cents), but you have to listen as the attendant hangs out the window and yells out where it is going. Then you need to know where you want to get off since there are no appointed stops – luckily I learned how to say “stop here” in Amharic pretty early on in my stay! The contract taxis are nice since they will drop you off exactly where you want, but they can also be a hassle. I have a few drivers in my neighbourhood that I like and trust, but otherwise it is a huge pain in the butt to negotiate the price. Some drivers are honest about the pricing, but a lot of them initially try to way overcharge (especially foreigners). Knowing a little Amharic helps a bit, and using some Amharic and making a joke about “forengi prices” usually helps me to drive the price down.

However, my Amharic is still very limited. I know the basics and can even have a short conversation, but usually I run out of Amharic and end up staring blankly as the person I’m speaking with overestimates my abilities. The kids in my neighbourhood are actually my best teachers though! They are also very sweet. One of them even invited me to her home for New Years dinner! Since it was so special, I have written a separate post about it.

I am still very much in love with the food and coffee here. In fact, here are some things I have learned about food in Ethiopia:

  1. Get over trying to ever look cute or nice while eating with your hands.
  2. Food WILL get caked into your nail beds.
  3. If you are a sectional eater like me, get over it. You can’t do that here.
  4. Food is for sharing. The portion sizes are for sharing, everyone eats family style and even if you think you ordered your own dish – you didn’t.
  5. You should eat A LOT. And if the people you’re with don’t think you are eating enough… well, it’s not unusual for them to just feed you. And when someone does this, it is very rude to reject it.

Overall, my experience here has been quite wonderful. I think it might be time for me to spend some time in Canada when I get back, but I wouldn’t hesitate to come back here if the opportunity presented itself.

Advertisements

More Than Just a White Girl

28 Aug

I had a really hurtful incident happen to me Saturday. I process things and organize my thoughts best when I write them down, so I decided to write about it. I was unsure about whether or not I wanted to publish this, but a friend of mine told me that I write about hard things well and it is an important topic, so I have decided to share it.

One of my closest Ethiopian friends sent me this text message Saturday evening:

“Sorry Kyla, I can’t see you anymore because I don’t want to hang out with white girls for next eight months.”

My heart jumped to my throat and I immediately started to cry. For those of you that know me personally, you know that I do not cry often or easily, but I just couldn’t even process those words when I read them.

When living abroad it can be hard to find new friends, especially friends with whom you can be completely comfortable. This is especially true since sometimes there is the opposite of this text message – there are some who befriend foreigners because of perceived status. But I truly thought that I had found a good, genuine friend who liked me for me. We would spend lots of time together, he understood my sense of humour and he would even call me for support when he was having troubles in his personal life.

I am flawed, but I do think that I am a good person and a good friend – and I am DEFINITELY more than my skin colour or my gender. I am more than just a “white girl” and like everyone else, I have a dynamic and unique personality. There are definitely reasons why some people won’t like me. Don’t like me because I’m super sarcastic, or because you hate my politics, or because I tend to talk a lot and sometimes overshare; I’m a big girl  woman and I can handle (and even expect) that.

But I try very hard to educate myself about issues of gender, race, and other types of discrimination, and try even harder to only judge people on their ideas, their actions and the way they treat others. To have someone I care about tell me they don’t want to hang out with me anymore because I am a “white girl” was one of the most hurtful things anyone has ever said.

I am hesitant to call it racism, but I don’t know what else to call it. I am a firm believer in not blaming the oppressed for their oppression (e.g. not blaming women for a system of patriarchy), but the truth is that I personally experience prejudice every day here for being a “white girl.” Sometimes it works in my favour (such as security not being suspicious of me in the supermarket) and sometimes it makes my life more difficult (such as being yelled at on the streets and being given unfair prices). But these are all things I take in stride from strangers that only know me as a “white girl.” My friend knew my personality, my goals, my humour and my secrets, yet still chose to exclude me from his life because I am a “white girl.” It hurts my heart.

There is a chance that the man that said this to me will read this and I hope he does. After I received that message I asked him to explain but he did not reply. He wouldn’t take any of my calls. But he should know how he made me feel.

I am confident in myself and I know that I am more than what he sees. If he can’t see that then I feel sorry for him because he is missing out on some really great people by excluding all “white girls” from his life.

Forgiveness has been the hardest lesson that my faith has taught me, and I am struggling with it now. The wounds are little too raw for me to forgive right now, but I will forgive him. I will forgive him and I hope he finds the strength to apologize to me and to overcome his prejudice.