Getting Started

This was written Saturday, July 5th, after arriving in Jimma.

I have now been in Ethiopia for over a month, and I think it is fair to officially declare this week as the beginning of real fieldwork. I am writing this from a hotel room in Jimma, having just arrived from a seven-hour bus ride (it was supposed to take four). We will be here for a few days meeting with an environmental activist before heading back to Addis. Then we’ll go to a town near Adama to see the water management techniques there. Then we’ll go to a village near Harar to see a well-building project. Then we’ll go to Mekele. Then Arba Minch. Then Bahir Dar. Then we’ll go home.

I’ve become a researcher all of a sudden, hopping from city to city, town to town to dig up stories. I spent a month as something else. We did a few interviews in that time, and spent plenty of time in meetings to set up future interviews, but my days seemed to be filled with activities primarily aimed at setting up a home base. It took weeks to find a house, weeks to figure out food, weeks to decide where to keep things on me (not in my pocket it turns out), and weeks to set up meetings. I have been less of a peacebuilder and more of a homebuilder. I’ve been an adapting species shedding vestigial limbs like eating utensils and a driver’s license.

Addis Ababa, the home base

Addis Ababa, the home base

Not everything is settled, but it is enough so that we can leave Addis. We needed to get everything set up so we could leave it behind. Now here we are in Jimma, preparing to meet an environmental activist in the morning to see his graduation before continuing on to the business at hand: everything water in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian club music is being blasted outside my hotel room door, the sink doesn’t drain, and I’m tired, but it’s good to be here. We’re here to dive into our work for the first time, and I can’t wait to start.

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