Emily just got back from a lovely vacation to Vienna, organized by her equally lovely friend Catt. Thanks, Catt!
Here are some reflections Emily sent about the experience along with some photos:
One main thing for me was being able to walk out the door without thinking too much about what I was wearing and if it was conservative enough. It just simply did not matter. I did not realize what a stress that was for me until I did not have to do it anymore. Women in the Western world take a lot of these basic freedoms for granted. They can socialize with males and not be judged. Live in an apartment without your family. Smoke a cigarette and drink a glass of wine. Go out at night past 7 pm!
I also noticed how the children behaved differently. In Ethiopia, they carry wood and water, run small shops, go to market, do errands for their family and neighbors, handle money, cook and clean, take care of animals and make games without using any store-bought toys or materials. The children I saw were a lot more sheltered and depended on material goods to function. I missed the Ethiopian children and their capacity to be creative, hard working, bright and out-going. They will have a conversation with you and not fear that you will harm them.
I also missed how local the food was at the markets in Ethiopia in comparison to Vienna. There was a lot of local, organic food, but there were also fruits, nuts and spices from other countries. Things like giant bananas, mangoes, kiwis and avocados seemed out of place in the market stall boxes. It was also funny to see the price difference. One mango in Vienna was 22 times as much as one mango in Masha. The same was true with a lot of the spices, too. Cinnamon, chile powder, cloves, turmeric, black pepper corns and other such spices were 5 euro a bag as compared to 5 Ethiopian birr (Laura’s note – I believe the conversion puts that at about 0.22 Euros in comparison).
When it came to medicinal plants, it was amazing to see the pharmacies carried herbal teas that had the number of grams of each herb listed on the side of the box. There is a market for them there that I was happy to see. Yarrow, red clover, nettles, St. John’s wort, elderberry, chamomile and other herbs all grow there. I saw yarrow growing wild everywhere I went; sprouting out of cracks in the cement, covering a small patch of green between two roads. It was wonderful!
After many nice cheeses and fresh berries, great company, art and architecture, swimming in rivers and long days of sunshine, I was ready to return to rainy Masha. Here, at least half the people you pass will greet you or return a greeting with a big smile, despite the damp, cold air and muddy tromps to get from here to there.