Posts Tagged Ethiopia

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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In Transition

Costa Rica1 683

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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