Sofie Blom was awarded a mobility bursary to conduct research for her Master's thesis (supervised by Eve Annecke) in Northern Ethiopia. Others will follow in her footsteps. Here is her letter and photos:
My experience in Ethiopia:
In March 2013 my partner and I moved for half a year to Mekele, North Ethiopia as part of the TRECCAfrica programme. The experience was very special; I would highly recommend it!
Mekele is a city with around 200 000 inhabitants in North Ethiopia. The surroundings are hilly and rocky and it is quiet dry as all the rain falls between July and September. The city is lively and nice to explore on foot. Many coffee places, juice bars, market, cows, donkeys, goats, people and so on. Finding all your food means shopping at 10 different places as the biggest supermarket in town has the size of a small kiosk. The milk you buy is still warm from the cow and your stomach works hard to digest all the ‘injera’, a kind of sour pancake which is eaten all day long.
Traveling through the villages is very calming, no advertisements, only oxen, people walking and preparing food; only natural colours. The people are friendly and very hospitable which made my research experience very positive. Even when we just arrived at the schools without notice, they always made time for us and were willing to participate in the research. On the other hand, the people are not very direct and would not easily say what they really think about you or the issues you present. There is also a language barrier, as not everybody speaks English. The government is also very much in control so not everybody feels free to be critical of the state or big organisations.
Amanuel Zenebe, the coordinator of the TRECCAfrica programme is very hospitable as well although he is very busy. Amdom and Henok work also for the programme and will help you and you might even share an office with them. The university also offers courses, but unfortunately I was too busy with my thesis to take any. The university is less organised than in Stellenbosch so it can be a challenge to find out the courses and timetable.
Ethiopia is a very unique country and very proud of the fact that they have never been colonized. I loved the challenge of living in such a different place where you experience what it really means to eat locally produced food and where communication between people is mostly on a different, indirect level. There is an interesting mix between mainstream development and one that follows its own path.
I hope this gives you a feeling of my experience in Ethiopia and I hope it makes you curious to explore this unique place and people by yourself!
Please contact me if you have any questions.
All the best, Sofie