Rumble: Back from Addis

A view from the officeWhile I work for an aid organisation, the past years I was based in Dubai and Rome. Made me quite fortunate compared those based “in the field”, in the places where we do the actual work. Quite challenging also, as it is difficult to stay in tune with the real work we do, the work that matters.

It has been a while since “I have been to the field”. Sure enough, I spent a total of probably 3-4 months in Brindisi, our emergency depot in South Italy, but one can hardly call that “the field”.

Back in 2006 I went on missions to Khartoum (Sudan) and Kinshasa (DRC). Some people would rightfully argue this is “not the real field”. Enrico wrote an interesting story about “what is the real field”. But still, it was good to get my feet wet for a few days in Addis Abeba, this week. It was nice to feel the real buzz of the operations, certainly in one as active as the Ethiopia programme.

It was also a good reality check of our life back in Europe. The small annoyances that make a difference. The confusion of the pickup when I arrived, having a hotel room with mildew all over the wall, the problems paying with credit cards (“Sorry sir, but it is raining, the telephone line does not work”), the erratic mobile phone coverage, toilets without toilet paper, limited Internet connectivity (I have better and faster connectivity at home than the whole office has),... All very small inconveniences...

The new Addis airportOn the positive side, I had not been in Addis since 1999 and was pleasantly surprised to see the big changes in the city. The new airport building, all of the construction and business which started since then, the major upgrade they have done on the economy…

It also reminded me what a wrong concept people often have of Africa: the images of the heat, the drought, the savannah or jungle... At least that is what I had in mind when I came to Africa for the first time: Angola in 1994. How I thought to work in the bush villages, by campfire, looking at the stars, hearing the lions roar in the background.
Instead, then, I was housed in a small apartment in Luanda, with the only noise I could hear at night was the machine gun fire and exchange of rocket propelled grenades as the civil war raged on in the street.
Instead, now, I was in the middle of town, and it was cold, gloomy and rainy.

At least that, we did not have here in Addis. Streets were safe and the only risk you run, is getting hit by a car...


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