Posts Tagged Center for Conflict Studies

Learning our way through Addis



Phoenix, Pushpa and I at the Bete Maryam Mausoleum





Driving around the streets of Addis Ababa

Our director, Pushpa, came in Saturday night. Since then, the 3 of us have been on the move. We have made our way though restaurants, markets, hotel lobbies, parks, squares and mausoleums. We have sat in UN offices, NGO offices, university offices and in plenty of traffic. We are mastering this ever growing city and it is only week 2! Mastering may be a strong word, but I am proud to announce Phoenix is the minibus master and that has to count for something (see his blog).







Countless of these buildings are being constructed as the city grows and expands.

Really, I wish you could see this city.  It is beautiful. If you talk to Pushpa and Phoenix, they will tell you I say “wow” almost every 20 minutes. I am in awe of the old architecture, the food, the people and the colors. The new architecture is equally impressive because there is just so much of it. Today we were riding around and to our right we saw at least 10 huge buildings under construction. Addis Ababa is a rapidly developing city and I have had several native Addis dwellers say to me that they drive around and always find new areas of the city because it is constantly growing. I think we, like these locals, will continue to learn and explore the city and keep finding new things.


Breakfast, coffee and a shoeshine at these street-side vendors











The usual bustle outside of St. Stephen’s Church

This investigation is already underway. We have made so many contacts these last few days and we will be doing quite a few interviews around the city and throughout the country. Our first one this week will be on Thursday. We hope to take pictures of people lining up for water because they have no access in their homes. This is in the far northern part of the city, and it is not an isolated case. We are learning more and more about how the rapid development of this expanding city is affecting the water supply.We have even heard of people who have been living for 5 years without water during the daytime. Water issues, it seems, are prevalent not only in the rural areas or drylands, but right here in the water-rich capital.




We are slowly learning our surroundings and about the water issues Addis is facing. Development is playing a role in this issue, yet the people seem hopeful for the future. In our upcoming interviews we want to look at how the water situation now will play a role in that future.


Looking out at the city from Meskel Square

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One Week

I just got done talking to Nebiyu, a journalist student working part-time at the hotel I am staying at. He has been nothing but helpful and hospitable. After I told him why I am here in Ethiopia for the next 2 months, he said, “The people are with you”.

I couldn’t have put it better myself. I have been here for one week now and Nebiyu is only one of many Ethiopians who have bent over backwards to help me, both personally as I set up my life here, and professionally with this research project.

This first week has been jam packed with coffee dates, dinner dates, meetings and any other form of gathering one can have. We have been here a short time and we could not be more pleased with our progress. Here was our week to help illustrate just how many wonderful people we have met.



Phoenix and I after a dinner with a new friend

Friday – Phoenix’s 21st birthday! We met some nice local guys who taught us how to celebrate birthdays Ethiopian style!

Sunday– We left our very nice hostel on the southern part of town to move into our new place. Joannes, the manager of the hostel was such a sweetheart!

Monday– I left the new place because it wasn’t a good fit. Our housemate Joel offered to take Phoenix and I around the neighborhood to look for new places. That night we had coffee at Kaldi’s (Ethiopian version of Starbucks) with a new friend Marta. She was kind enough to travel through rush hour traffic after a long day of work to make us feel welcomed.

Tuesday– A flood of amazing people entered my life as I moved into a small hotel  with a very friendly staff and I found 2 really great cab drivers. Our first big breakthrough happened when we met with the lovely Hermella that afternoon. Hermella and her team of volunteers started a local non-profit called Drop of Water. This organization builds water wells to help support communities who do not have access to clean water.

Wednesday– Phoenix and I finally had time to research water  organizations here in Ethiopia. There are a lot! For dinner we met up with Abby who is from the States and is working for International Water Management Institution. She was so helpful in telling us about IWMI’s work here and she gave us all kinds of tips on life here in Addis.

Thursday– We had two very successful interviews with Hermella and Joel about their connection with water here in Ethiopia and why they started Drop of Water. Two very inspiring young people! For coffee  we met Billene, who is a UPeace alum and inspiring in her own right. She gave us lots of advice and leads on who to contact for our research.

Friday– We spent the day setting up meetings for the coming week. Our director  Pushpa is coming and we are hoping to make a lot of connections with people who are working on water issues while she is here. Our search for housing continues but has led us to meet a lot of really great people, both locals and foreigners. Lucky  for us, a lot of these people work in international organizations and have given us leads on whom we should talk to for our project.

Saturday– I had coffee with a local masters student, Jerusalem. She just defended her research on water pollution of a nearby river. She has been very accommodating and knows a lot about the water issues in this country.


A typical day- eating and working


The people here have been so supportive of what Phoenix and I are trying to do. The two of us are quite hopeful about the stories we will be able to share with you in the coming months.



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Traveling to Addis


Saying goodbye to my David for 2 months

Day 1 06/06/14  Ciudad Colon (my home) -> San Jose -> Houston -> San Antonio -> Mom’s house
    Today was a big travel day. I flew away from my home for the last 11 months, from my friends, from my Costa Rican family and my husband. It is a lot to leave behind.
   I moved to Ciudad Colon 11 months ago with my husband to study at the UN mandated University for Peace. We had planned for 2 years to go to that school and now 3 years later it is crazy that this chapter of my life is over. I will miss waking up with the sun shining every morning and going to school excited to see the smiling faces of my classmates, who became my family. I will miss the discussions and being challenged, my friends and all the smoothies. I should have grabbed a smoothie before I left…
I am on the plane now from San Jose to Houston and it looks like I will be an hour or more late to arrive in Houston. I probably won’t make my next flight, I hope it’s not an omen for the long 3 days of travel I have ahead.
   A little over 2 months is a long time to be away from my husband and I will miss him a lot. Yesterday was our 4 year anniversary which means we have now been together for 9 years. Happy anniversary sweetie, I’m going to Ethiopia! Of course he has been nothing but supportive and hopefully he will join me for a few weeks to see Addis as well. Addis is becoming a reality. Phoenix is there and searching for housing. It sounds like he is learning the city and transportation quickly and I am excited to do the same soon. The list of contacts I have in the city is growing. The people I have connected with so far have been nothing but helpful and should be an invaluable asset as we begin to look at a water conflict and learn the city. With Ethiopia being the birthplace of coffee I am getting excited for coffee dates with my new friends and colleagues!
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Clouds over the Houston Airport

Day 2 06/09/14   Mom’s Home -> San Antonio -> Houston -> Airport Hotel

       In high school my favorite class was Astronomy. I loved learning about these far off things that affected us but also operated
completely separate from us. One day my teacher Mr. Atkins asked if we ever thought about the sun, if so what did we think of it. The smart-aleck cowboy in the class knew where our teacher was going with this and said “You know before now I only thought of the sun as that big bright thing that I curse every morning on the way to school cause my sun visor can’t block it out of my eyes. Now that I’m thinking about it, Mr. Atkins, I realize it is a big ball of burning gas that keeps us all alive”.

    Today’s travel day was kinda like that class. I am about to go off to learn about water conflict, look at the issues and how they affect peoples’ lives. Today, though, water affected me.  It affected me to the tune of $110 lost and 14 hours added to my travel.  Thanks universe for this lesson. The lesson is this: Water is important, water keeps us all alive but sometimes it is an annoyance and you just want to curse it. The region of Texas my family lives in is in a several-year-long drought. This is pretty normal; we say that in South-Central Texas the weather is drought followed by flood, but drought is never fun. When I got into San Antonio the other day I was surprised to see the grass and trees as green as they were. Blankets of yellow, red and purple wildflowers are covering the hills and it is quite lovely right now. The recent start of the hurricane season in the Gulf of Texas has brought much needed rain to the area and the people here are upbeat and hopeful with every falling ¾ inch of rain they get.
   Today a big rain storm came through the region which is not ideal for a 4 hour drive to Houston from San Antonio. Yet, who can complain when rain is so needed? I can! The rain made the 4 hour trip a little over 6 hours and my mom and I weren’t able to see my brother at his new job in Houston. At least we made it to the airport just in the nick of time. Checking in to my flight they informed me that my flight had been canceled due to softball-sized hail the airport received earlier in the day. They had no more flights out to DC and there was no way I was going to make my flight to Addis Ababa the next morning. I had a hotel reserved in DC to make my 12 hour layover more comfortable, but I lost the reservation and the money for it. My mom was kind enough to stay in Houston the night with me in a hotel near the airport, to get me off to my new flight in the morning which will get me to Addis 14 hours later, but still on the same day.
    In this fellowship we are defining conflict as the inability to reach ones goals. My goal was a smooth flight, but water in the form of giant ice balls in a drought-ridden landscape obstructed this goal.  My summer journey with water conflicts begins. 



In Transition

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Monteverde, Costa Rica


I think I am one of the last Peacebuilder Fellows to arrive to their country, so I have a bit more time before I head off to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I am thankful for my extra time as I just graduated from my Masters Program in Costa Rica on Friday and need to wrap up my life here before my next exciting adventure. I am writing this first blog of many in Monteverde, Costa Rica as the sun sets over a beautiful jungle-mountain landscape; fitting way to spend one of my last nights here. I am here with my husband and my mom who flew down for my graduation. It is one of the last short trips I will take in this country I have called home for a year now. In a week and a half I will journey home to Texas to drop off some things and then make the long trip to Addis Ababa.


These transition days are always hard for me. I always try to live in the present and enjoy the people and things around me, but when big life changes happen like this my mind is already in the next place. I have spent every free moment doing the necessary tasks for the fellowship and looking up life and culture in Addis Ababa. I am excited about the connections I have made there already through my friends and through my now alma mater. Having people waiting to show you around and give you the lay of the land in a new city always puts me at ease and is always a fun thing. Some of these contacts I have been meeting work with water issues and more general environmental issues. I can’t wait to pick their brains and find out more about the water conflict Phoenix and I will be looking at. Water issues are so important in Ethiopia, as they are everywhere, and I am anticipating learning a lot this summer. I am especially looking forward to the conversations we will have with people. I think this fellowship is a unique experience in which we are encouraged to meet lots of people and hear stories of what is happening around this conflict.


I suppose my year at UPeace has been a type of preparation for the work I will be doing with Center for Conflict Studies and the Peacebuilders Fellowship. This year for me has been about Peace and Conflict studies, but within that I have learned the value of individuals who bring about peace in their own lives and in their community. Throughout this year I have been amazed at the capacity we humans have in being able to do great things, even (or maybe especially) in conflict zones. In my classes we heard story after story about individuals who despite their hardships and despite the violence around them, organized to make a change. My brilliant professor, Victoria Fontan, is on a mission to ‘decolonize’ peace. She spent the year telling the school, and especially my program (International Peace Studies- made up of 17 beautiful students from 14 very different countries), that this ‘decolonizing’ peace is about “making the invisible visible and transcending the universalism of liberal peace” . So often we think that places experiencing conflict are filled with victims and perpetrators and these places need to be saved. This year has been about looking at the solutions that are coming from the ground and amplifying those solutions and those people, recognizing that there are complexities to solutions which means there can never be a cookie cutter answer.


After a year of learning all this I am so lucky to be working with an organization whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless by telling the stories of people in a conflict. In Ethiopia, I will be listening to the voiceless and finding the invisible. I hope that in bringing their stories to you we can all become more aware of the specific conflict Phoenix and I will be looking at, but also more aware of those activists, teachers, religious workers, organizers, mothers and fathers out there who are tirelessly working for a better life, community and world.

I am honored to be apart of this first year in the fellowship’s history, and I am very much looking forward to what this adventure has in store for Phoenix and I in Ethiopia, as well as for rest of the teams spread out around the world. With a little over two weeks away, I haven’t experienced too much stress yet (I am sure it is coming). For now I am just trying to enjoy Costa Rica and life here, but I am also very excited about my time in Ethiopia. I am looking forward to learning more about water and the country’s history and culture, eating injera, and hearing lots and lots of stories!


Twitter: @KatiePetitt


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