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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Blogging Updates

Hello, everyone!

I am slowly but surely trying to make this blog grow and became more than an journal entry every few days. I want to share with you a few ways that my blog has grown over the past few weeks!

First and foremost:

  • One of my recent blog posts, Report Cards, was a post about the stress I felt while doing my first set of report cards. This blog post received a fair amount of attention after I tweeted the link with the new teacher hashtag, #ntchat. The #ntchat moderator, Lisa Dabbs (@teachingwithsoul), saw my tweet and retweeted the link to her 23,000+ followers! A few different educators left me comments on the blog and/or tweeted support. It was pretty awesome! This support and feedback from fellow educators reminded me of why I started to blog - to connect with other educators. I have been following, reading, and commenting on several educational blogs lately, so I'm glad people are returning the favour. I'm thankful for my PLN (professional learning network!)

  • I have been tweaking things here and there with the blog, trying to make it look more visually appealing and professional. This includes all of the widgets I have been adding - the new header, the search button, the Twitter button, ClustrMap widgets, "Where I've Been" map, blog archive, and labels! I'm not completely happy with my header yet, but it encapsulates the "Emma in Dubai" title. I'm hoping to replace the spliced together photo with a real photo of me with Dubai in the background soon!

  • I completed my first series of travel recaps about my trip to Ethiopia. My blog is both educational and personal, and I really wanted to capture my trip through writing, supported by pictures. I put up several photos on Facebook and captioned them, but it's different. I am also really picky about who I am friends with on Facebook because it's so personal, so I figured that my blog would be a great way for people to read about my trip. I also have tons of friends and family who aren't on Facebook! I know I will be taking several more trips in the near future (I'm going to another new country in a few weeks!), and I hope to continue the recaps. I will, however, try to fit my new trip in only one or two posts, rather than a separate post for each day!
These are three of the ways my blog has grown lately. I know I would get a lot more views if I constantly shared my posts through Facebook, but I'm often annoyed when people share every single update via Facebook. I do share all posts on Twitter and some on Google+, but I think those are most appropriate venues. I do hope to blog more frequently about school-related things. I often have good ideas for a blog post but simply don't write a complete post. Here's to blogging more frequently. Thank you for following along on my journey! 

I leave you with a photo from last weekend when I spent the entire two days at school writing report cards. I had my shade pulled down, the AC circulating, and movie soundtracks blasting. I will be more prepared for the next round! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Amazing Race-Worthy Cab Experience in Addis Ababa

This is my final recap for my trip to Ethiopia over the Eid Break in October 2013. I know these recaps took awhile to post and they became quite lengthy. Thank you to those of you whose stuck with me!

I awoke on my last day in Ethiopia to the gentle sounds of children calling. I looked outside, and saw that there was a soccer game in full swing behind our hotel. The children were playing on flat dirt, and they had a full set-up with a referree, jerseys, and spectators. I watched them play for a few minutes, and the kids were good (side note: I attended a few FIFA Under-17 Soccer Matches in Dubai over the past month - these young kids were just as skilled!).

I met up with some of my new friends and we left to explore Addis, knowing that we had to be back at the hotel to catch the airport shuttle by 1:30 pm. After the complicated process of checking out and storing our luggage, we set off to find a cab. My friends had decided they wanted to find three things to take home from Addis: coffee, music, and honey. I agreed with this quest, and agreed to go on the hunt. "Coffee, music, honey" became our mantra of the day.

We had heard of an excellent coffee shop where you could buy coffee to take home with you, so we tried to get our cab driver to take us there. Seven of us piled in a taxi van, and it took off! We weren't exactly sure where we were going, and the guys driving weren't really sure where we wanted to go. Once we got out of the cab, we asked a few people if they knew where we could find "Tacomah", the coffee shop. We were met with blank looks. We eventually found a coffee shop where we could sit down and enjoy a coffee while we planned our next steps.

 Throughout this trip, stopping for a quick cofee was a common occurence. According to the coffee drinkers, Ethiopian coffee is absolutely delicious. It has a smooth and high-quality taste that beats out any other type of coffee. I quickly became addicted to the generic "Addis tea", which I would order in lieu of coffee. It tasted like a cinnamon-flavoured black tea to me - delicious with a bit of added sugar! This high-quality coffee was also incredibly cheap - we ordered 1 tea, 4 single coffees, and 2 double coffees at this shop, and it ended up costing approximately $3 USD.

After enjoying our coffee, our group split into two - one group wanted to go back to the Mercato market, while the rest of us decided to carry on in the hopes of finding the elusive "Tacomah" coffee shop.

Walking around Addis Ababa was the first time I felt like I was experiencing authentic Ethiopian cultuer. Yes, we were a target for beggars and salesmen. People were constantly coming up to us and trying to sell us something or ask for money. Children would walk closely beside us for blocks at a time, trying to engage us in a conversation so we would buy their products.  The mothers holding their babies were heart-breaking, but I have read enough on beggars and the cycle of poverty to know that handing over a few dollars here or there will not make a long-term difference. I also didn't want to become even more of a target because I was willing to give money, like my friend Rory, who kept getting swarmed by salesmen after he bought one map from one of them. I never once felt threatened in Addis - just slightly hasseled a few times. I had a strong grip on my purse at all times, yet I still felt safe enough to take my camera out and take a few pictures when we stopped walking.

We briefly stopped at the Taitu hotel, the place where we had eaten dinner and gone to the jazz club a few nights before. After asking several people along the way, we finally found the elusive Tacomah, only to realize that the shop is actually named "Tamoca!" No wonder no one knew what we were talking about! One gentlemen told us that Tamoca is the best coffee in all of Ethiopian (and therefore, the world!), and we believed him! We had another coffee (and tea!) here and bought coffee to take back with us.

A map of the coffee regions of Ethiopia on the wall of Tamoca! Coffee: acquired.

After this, we set out on our next quest: to find music. My friend Iulia wanted to buy some traditional Ethiopian music, similar to what we had heard on our first night. I agreed, thinking that it would be great to have an actual CD of traditional Ethiopian music. We finally found some music stores, but it turns out that no where sells traditional Ethiopian music. The stores kept trying to sell us Ethiopian "pop" music. I'm not exactly sure why this is. We finally made it to one music store where the gentleman was very nice and understood what we wanted. He told us that you can't buy traditional music on CD, because it would be so difficult to get everyone together to record it. I'm not how much truth there is to this. He let us listen to one of his CDs before we purchased it, which was very kind of him. It is sort of traditional music, but uses synthesized instruments, rather than actual traditional instruments. We decided that with our limited time, this music would be good enough and we bought it! Music: acquired!

A shot from the streets of Addis Ababa. We bought our CDs somewhere in this vicinity.

Our last and final goal of the day was to buy Ethiopian honey. We finally found a supermarket, but they only had 2 jars of reasonably priced honey left, and there were three of us who wanted it! I didn't buy it, but I was a little sad. We therefore decided to find one more grocery store, and I was able to find some! I had to wait in line for a very long time and got some strange looks from the people in the store - I was shopping at a legimiate grocery store, and I'm assuming they didn't get very many tourists in there! Honey: acquired.

When I finally came out of the store, it was nearing 1:00 pm, our goal time to leave this area and head back to the hotel. I realized that our group was having a problem - none of the cab drivers claimed to know our hotel. My friends had been asking the entire time I was in the grocery store. What happened next could have been straight off an episode of The Amazing Race.

We began to frantically walk around the streets, asking several cabs if they knew where the Addis Regency hotel was. We knew the name of the local roundabout, but still, no one knew. We asked people on the street. A few of the cab drivers tried to call people to get directions. We were watching the time, and slowly freaking out. What if we missed the arranged shuttle to the airport? How were we going to get there? I have never felt like a contestant on the Amazing Race so much in my life.

Eventually, we asked one driver to take us to the Taitu hotel. We had caught a cab back to our hotel from the jazz club a few nights earlier, so we figured that the cab drivers there would know the place. We slowly weaved through the packed traffic, still ever-conscious of the time.

Cab driver number one!

When we got to the Taitu Hotel, the girls jumped out, leaving our friend Rory to sort out our money with the cab. I ran to the nearest cab, and anxiously asked him if he knew where the Addis Regency hotel was. He nodded. "Are you sure?" I demanded. "Yes, yes" he reassured me, and we jumped in the cab. We barely negotiated a price, because we just wanted to get there. I'm still not exactly sure what happened, but Rory was still arguing with the other cab driver. I think the original driver had figured out where we wanted to go and wanted to take us back to the hotel, but we had already moved on. Rory eventually got in, and we sped off! We encouraged the driver to go "fast, fast!" and he certainly did. Our driver was weaved in and out of traffic and making his own lanes. He took us on a "shortcut", and we arrived back at our hotel with ten minutes to spare! We burst into the hotel lobby, keyed up and ready to grab our bags. The rest of our group was calmly sitting, eating lunch, and politely asked, "what happened to you guys?". We could only laugh, and tried to explain the situation. The irony of the whole situation is that we ended up waiting for the shuttle for over half an hour at the hotel. When in Addis!

The rest of the day was spent travelling back to Dubai. It was the first time I've been away from Dubai for longer than 2 days, and the first time flying back on an airplane. I was surprised to find myself really excited to be heading back home to Dubai. It really sunk in that Dubai is now my home, not just my "home away home". Although part of my heart will always be in Manitoba, my heart has also settled in Dubai (corny, I know!).

My trip to Ethiopia was eye-opening. I experienced a new culture in a new country while on a new continent. I saw gorgeous scenery. I saw the human's oldest ancestor. I saw poverty-stricken people. I watched live music and dance. I danced with an Ethiopian dancer on stage. I ate local food. I embraced the bus. I did not try the coffee. I peed on the side of the road over a dozen times, often in a group setting. But most of all, I grew as a person.

I hope you have enjoyed my photos and recaps - they will be close to my heart for a long time.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Discovering the Beauty of Wenchi Crater Lake - Ethiopia

I finally finished my report cards yesterday! It took several late nights at school and several hours out of my weekend to finish grading, assigning marks, and writing comments, but I finally feel more relaxed! I went and pampered myself with a pedicure yesterday to celebrate. My next challenge will be to plan for the new quarter - but not today!

I was doing so well on my Ethiopia recaps - so now I need to finish them! I can't wait to re-read these posts in a few years and remember my trip. These recaps will also help me down the road when I do these pages in my photo albums. I'm currently six years behind, so it might be awhile!

Without further ado - my recap from my third day in Ethiopia!

We woke up bright and early and left our hotel at 6 a.m. Our bus from the previous two days had to be switched out for a smaller bus to help us over the rough terrain. That's never promising! I felt incredibly sick as we drove out of Addis, but I felt better when we got to the highway. A few hours later we stopped Ambo to find coffee, washrooms, and snacks. The snack debacle was one of the frustrating parts of this trip for me, as our trip information clearly stated to bring snacks for the long days in the bus. My roommate and I stocked up on snacks the night before leaving Dubai. After walking around the streets of Ambo for awhile, people eventually found something to eat and we could move on.

The next hour or so took place on the worst road I have ever experienced in my life.

Here's a picture of the road. I honestly felt like I was in a video game - it felt like Frogger as our driver swerved and drove all over the road and avoid the crazy divots. I took a video of the experience! This is my first time uploading a video to my blog... not sure how it's going to turn out!

A video of the rough, rough terrain.

Several members of our group felt extremely nauseous. I was very grateful I had taken anti-nausea pills.

We finally arrived at our destination, Wenchi Crater Lake! It's only 155 km west of Addis Ababa, but with the stops and terrain it took 4 hours to get there. The crater is an extinct volcano and contains a large lake, hot mineral springs, waterfalls, and beautiful valleys and farmland. There is an old monastery with a church situated on one of the lake islands. Approximately 4000 people live within the crater.  It was absolutely stunning.

The view from the top - taken with an iPhone 5. Click to expand the beauty!

Based on the original trip itinerary, I knew that there was an option to ride on horseback at the lake. I was not interested. I have ridden on horses before and not enjoyed it one bit. They are big, uncontrollable, and uncomfortable. There was one other man who didn't want to ride the horses since he is allergic. We were going to hike. Little did I know how physically exhausting this day would be!

Our starting altitude was about 3300 meters above sea level. Both Brandon and Dubai are practically at sea level, so I really struggle with exertion at high altitudes. We managed to keep a pretty good pace coming down the crater. The rest of our group was following behind on the horses. The horses were actually quite small, and each horse had a guide with them. None of the horses were going faster than a simple walk. I thought to myself, "this isn't very scary horseback riding", but I continued to trek down the crater.

Local guides walked down with us. One little boy, Maasai, gave me a walking stick to use. His brother, whose name I forget, carried our lunches down the entire crater on his shoulder.

Eventually, the crater actually got too steep for the horses to walk down with people on their backs. Everyone in our group had to hike down. It was actually quite precarious - you really had to watch where you were walking, which was sometimes difficult because the beautiful scenery would distract you. The locals were literally running down the paths with minimal protection on their feet.

We finally got to the bottom of the crater and my group members were reunited with their horses and guides. As you can see from the following picture, the bottom of the crater is full of small bodies of water and mud. All of our guides were wearing shoes that they didn't mind getting wet and muddy, but most of us were wearing pristine running shoes!

The bottom of the crater. I'm probably walking somewhere on the far left.

While everyone was riding their horse across the bottom, I was still walking alongside the edge of the crater. It was incredibly difficult, and my foot was completely submerged in mud. Eventually, one of the guides told me I should get on a horse to cross one part of the river. I was frustrated - it was either face my fears and get on a horse, or have my new white and pink running shoes be completely covered in mud. I begrudgingly got up on the horse, uttering a small scream in the process.

It wasn't actually that bad. The horse was quite small. Look at how close my feet are to the ground! The guide in the red also stayed with me the entire time, his hand clamped around the back of my knee to push the horse forward.

After a few minutes, I actually found myself beginning to enjoy the experience. We saw locals doing their laundry in natural mineral hot springs, which were a vibrant shade of orange.

Hot springs

We saw a type of water mill system that reminded me of pioneers.

We saw tons of animals, both being lead by locals or roaming free. I heard a goat yelling like a human, and I couldn't stop smiling.

Goats in the way! 

We eventually got off of our horses, ate lunch, and continued to hike. We were hiking right alongside the lake. I twisted my ankle at one point which caused me to curse, quite loudly, and startle a few of my group members. I walked it off, and it was fine for a few hours.

We took a boat ride across the lake to visit the island lake with the monastery. We didn't think we would all fit in the boat, but we did. Four local guys were paddling. The lake is apparently extremely deep, so we were all a little bit nervous while on the boat.

Our reliable, safe boat :)

We had to climb all the way to the top of the island to see the monastery. We weren't actually allowed to go in, so we just listened to one of the guys talk about the monastery and religion. Most of us tuned out, since we had just seen a monastery the previous day. For me, seeing the outside of the monastery was not worth hiking up and down that island. I was seriously feeling the altitude at this point and was breathing very heavily.

The outside of the Monastery - not worth the exertion!

One notable memory is that I kept slipping on something while hiking down the island. It was some type of plant like a pinecone. Dan was holding my hand at some point when I just slipped, and I just kept sliding until I was basically doing the splits. One of the guides was pretty concerned and took my other hand, so I was helped down by two guys! I hadn't been slipping while hiking all day, so that was pretty strange.

We took another boat right back to the other side of the crater. There was absolutely no way I could hike back up the crater, so I jumped back on the horse. The ride up was still gorgeous, but we were all exhausted by this point. I didn't take any pictures, but here are few from my friend Sarah as we rode up:

Donkey! :)

Riding up the crater

Look at all of the green colours!
The bus ride back to our hotel in Addis was long. Apparently people who do the Wenchi Crater Lake trip often stay in Ambo overnight. I would definitely recommend this!! Most of us managed to get some sleep on the bus. There had been talk about going back to the jazz club earlier in the day but by the time we got back, we were just too tired. We ate a nice dinner in the hotel and I went to bed. A few people stayed up and had a few drinks, but I just needed sleep.

It was an absolutely exhausting day, but I saw some of the most stunning scenery in my life and overcame a significant fear (although it barely counted as real horseback riding!).

My fourth and final recap will cover our "free" day in Addis Ababa where we finally got to go into the heart of the city. I also had a moment where I felt like an Amazing Race contestant - all I needed was the cameraman! Stay tuned :)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Report Cards

Tis the season! Report card season, that is. I am currently drowning in a sea of assessments, grades, marks, band scales, and report cards. Our first quarter ends tomorrow, and our reports are due on Sunday.

I have already had one experience with report cards as a "real teacher". Three weeks into school, we had to give each student a 3-sentence comment and mark their behaviour and effort on a 4-point scale (unsatisfactory, satisfactory, good, outstanding). I couldn't believe how early these reports were expected.

This report card is similar - I must give each student a letter for their behaviour and effort (2 separate marks), a 300 words or less comment, and a GRADE. This is my first time giving an actual grade. If you have been following my blog, you may remember that I have two different systems of grading occurring simultaneously (read more about Best Sustained Performance vs. Level of Achievement here!).

With some of my classes, the grades will be easy. With others, perhaps I haven't been doing enough assessment along the way. I had a summative test today and will be having another tomorrow in a different class... talk about leaving it to the last minute! I still must grade these tests before I can even start their reports.

I am stressed to the maximum at the moment. It's currently 5:15 p.m. and I'm eating dinner at school, writing a blog post to procrastinate. I'm planning on staying here until I absolutely have a few things crossed off the giant To Do list I recently printed. This list is now sitting between my computer and my keyboard, simply staring at me.

The one thing that is keeping me going? Once I'm done these report cards, I will be 1/4 of the way through my first year of teaching. That's crazy! The year is flying by, and fairly soon I'll be done my first year of teaching.

Please, veteran teachers, any advice for report cards or the stress I'm feeling? I'm sensing a long, long weekend ahead of me.

To end on a positive note, here's a picture of the ladies of the Creative Arts Department on Halloween this year! (L-R music [me], drama, art, and art). We're hoping to do Grease as our musical this year, hence our costumes!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Baboons, Bridges, and Monasteries - Exploring the Ethiopian Countryside

I hope you enjoyed the first post of my Ethiopia recaps! It was such a great trip with so many unexpected surprises, and I really wanted to highlight the country in these posts. This was my first time in Africa (5 continents down, only 2 to go!!!) and I want to share it with my readers!

I posted pictures on Facebook and they've since gotten a lot of comments and buzz, but for me, it's even more about the story behind the pictures. I've also included more photos for you this time :)

Here goes!

On the morning of our second day we woke up bright and early to begin our journey. We saw many children on their way to school in colourful uniforms.

Colourful uniforms!

We spent the morning driving on our tour bus. I think the trip was around 2 hours, but with our frequent stops, it was more like 3 hours. We realized early on that asking the bus driver if he could stop for a bathroom stop meant pulling over on the highway and trying to find a tree. Our first experience was pretty awkward—5 or 6 ladies trampling into the trees for some privacy. Little did we know that this would soon become the norm, and group highway bathroom stops were a frequent occurrence throughout the next two days (sorry if this is TMI!)!

We finally got to our first main stop, and were blown away by the stunning scenery.

We had the opportunity to visit a local family, and see how they live. It was definitely a sight to see. They had a two-bedroom home which seemed to be mostly constructed of mud, and covered with grass. They had several family members living in the home. There was a family fire, and a kitchen and storage room. They had a few chickens outside. I’m doing a terrible job of explaining, but it was eye-opening, especially since I think their home was probably quite nice compared to other ones we could have seen. Here are some pictures:

We kept driving, and reached our next major stop. We started to walk down a trail. Several of our group members had flip-flops on, but I had runners in the bus. Looking at the trail, I realized that I should probably change my shoes. I have never made such a wise decision in my life. Seriously. The hike quickly got pretty intense, and we were clambering up and down over rocks and steep inclines. The other ladies who had remained in their flip-flops had to get a lot of help from the local guides. We heard a screeching type of sound, and realized there were kids on the other side of the valley. We then realized that they were chasing baboons!! These baboon are gelada baboons which are endemic to Ethiopia! COOL.

The Portuguese bridge is a seemingly random bridge in the middle of nowhere, connecting two valleys. It’s old and crumbly, and very cool J We spent the next hour or so just hanging out on the cliffs – walking close to the baboons, playing on the rocks, climbing up the valley for a perfect photo opportunity, and sitting on cliffs. This hour was absolutely the highlight of the trip for me. I had so much fun climbing around, seeing the baboons, climbing behind the waterfall, and taking ridiculous pictures – both in terms of stunning scenery…

And just plain ridiculous fun! I only wish that we had been told to bring swimsuits, because I would have loved to jump in the water!

After we hiked back up, we ate a delicious lunch (injera again!) and were on our way. An hour later, we arrived at the Debre Libanos Monastery. This is the oldest monastery in Ethiopia, although none of the original buildings remain. We took a guided tour of the museum from a man who I believe was a priest, a monk, and the curator. The tour was quite long and boring, especially since we couldn’t take any pictures. After this, we waited outside the monastery until the current service was over. It was almost eerie to see all of the people praying outside the monastery. It’s an Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Being a non-religious person, I didn’t understand a lot about the religious group I was seeing. The people outside were all extremely devout and seemed to be spending all day outside praying.

Once the service was over, we got to go in after removing our shoes. It was definitely unlike any church I’ve seen before.  The stained glass was stunning. There were several sections in the church and we were invited to look around, take pictures, and pray. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:  

The monastery experience was unique. I had never seen a monastery, and I don’t necessarily think I would go visit a monastery on my own again. However, I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit this one. Ethiopia is known as the birth of Christianity, and although I’m not religious, I can appreciate the incredible amount of faith that I saw.

It took another three or so hours to drive back to the hotel. Most of the bus was sleeping on the way back. When we got back, it was time to go eat dinner and go to a jazz club! I was overly excited to go to a jazz club. The roots of jazz music are based in West Africa (thank you, History of Jazz class), and I was so excited!

 I was a little disappointed. I think my expectations were too high. For one thing, the jazz band just simply wasn’t as good as I was hoping. That’s okay. I’m used to hearing fairly professional jazz musicians who play on professional model horns. Another thing that slightly annoyed me was how touristy the place was, including the music selections. Several of the pieces of music were not authentic jazz at all, and were simply being played for the audience’s benefit. It also took forever for our drinks to come, and I ending up accidentally spilling someone’s drink by colliding with a waitress. It also took a very long time for me to settle my bill. Oh well! It was still an experience, and I still did hear some good music. The singers were especially good. We took our first cabs in Ethiopia back to the hotel after some bartering, and fell asleep.

Our third day was by far the most tiring day yet. Come back tomorrow to read about how I overcame a fear, climbed on the side of a crater, and thought I was going to pass out from altitude sickness. Fun times!

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Time I Danced in Front of a Packed Restaurant in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Here it is – the long awaited posts about my trip to Ethiopia during Eid! This is Ethiopia Part 1!

Eid Mubarak, or Blessed Eid, is a call people say to each other to celebrate the religious holiday (similar to Merry Christmas).

Our school had an entire week off school for the Eid holiday, which was really nice. We originally we only supposed to have 3 days off school (making a 5 day weekend), but the entire week got called off, resulting in a 9 day weekend!! The first half of my week was spent relaxing and hanging out with friends and colleagues. I slept, I socialized, I laid out by a pool, and had a lovely time. The second half of my Eid break was devoted to travelling.

I had gone through several plans of where to travel for Eid – India with a friend, Jordan on a solo trip, etc. When my Jordan flights fell through, I decided to sign up for a group tour. I simply didn’t have the time or energy to figure out another trip. I went on a tour with Escape Dubai (, a company that organizes group tours around the Middle East and beyond. The only time option that worked for me at that point was Ethiopia, so I signed up! A few of my colleagues were also going, which helped encourage me.

Ethiopia, Day 1

We flew into Addis Ababa, Ethiopia around noon. We had to wait in quite a long line to get our Ethiopian Visa upon arrival. Once we made it through customs (including having your fingerprints scanned!) we met up with other people on the tour. The Addis Ababa airport wasn’t very nice, and I was a bit worried for what was ahead.

Our first order of business was meeting our group leader, Dan, and heading to a local restaurant for lunch. The food was delicious! We then headed to the National Museum of Ethiopia to see the famous Lucy skeleton. Lucy is known as the world’s earliest human ancestor. She is 3.2 million years old. Her skeleton is 40% complete. She has a mixture of ape and human features, including long dangling arms but pelvic, spine, foot, and leg bones suited to walking upright. She stood about three and half feet tall. We were all extremely excited, and after arriving at the museum (and receiving a THOROUGH patdown) we bee-lined toward the Lucy exhibit. Here are some photos:

Haha, it was not nearly as exciting as I had hoped. It was still really cool, and it reconfirmed my confusion with people who do not believe in evolution.

Our next stop was the Mercato, a large open-market that sells almost everything. We were told to be alert for pick-pockets, so I didn’t bring my camera. I bought a few souvenirs here, and I feel like I didn’t get too ripped off. I probably could have bartered more, but at the same time, I didn’t mind paying for a few things at the price I was given (it was still cheap!). This was our first introduction to the real city of Addis Ababa – the roads, the dirt, the colours, the markets, the people, the animals, etc. It was fascinating.

We checked into our fairly nice hotel, and then headed out for a traditional Ethiopian meal. The restaurant we went to had traditional Ethiopian music and dancers, which was awesome! Being a music teacher and a former dancer, I was incredibly excited to see the live music and dancing (side note: did you know the word “music” doesn’t exist in Africa as we know it? The word always means music and dance together). The music (which includes dance!) and food were actually similar to what I had eaten and seen before at the Lieutenant-Governor’s Winter Festival in my hometown at the Ethiopian pavilion. It was still a ton of fun! I have lots of great videos.

Partway through the evening, the three main male dancers fanned off into the audience and had little dance sessions with people in the audience. They kept encouraging people to “shake”, and everyone in our section of the restaurant cheered them on. Our group leader, Dan, stood up and danced which was hilarious! Then the dancer came over to me! I stood up and danced a bit with him, including shaking my hips and shoulders. I have the ability to shake my body, and I guess I impressed the Ethiopian dancer, because later on, I got pulled up on to the STAGE! There was another man up there, dancing and having the time of his life. He was middle-aged and looked Eastern European. I was a bit confused whether I was supposed to dance with him or not, because he was kind of flailing randomly. I ended up sort of ignoring him, since my dancer guy kept telling me to “shake!” Let me tell you, shaking your hips and shimmying your shoulders in front of a packed restaurant in Ethiopia is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I was getting into it!

The crowd was cheering us on, which definitely boosted my ego. I know one of the girls on the tour took a video, but I haven’t received it yet. I’m assuming the video will not be displayed on social media, rather, I’ll show you sometime if you want a laugh! Once I was all danced out, I got to sit back down. Everyone on my tour group was laughing and telling me I represented our group well, and the dancer kept trying to make eye contact with me for the rest of the night (especially when I had a pseudo-asthma attack from being out of breath and breathing in thick smoke!).  

We eventually made our way back to the hotel, and decided to go for a drink at a local spot by our hotel. It was the sketchiest little bar/shop I’ve ever been in – I was glad I was with a group! People ordered some drinks and we were eventually served. I turned in early and enjoyed a long shower and a chance to unpack and repack for the next day.

Can you believe all of this happened on our first day? It was a fantastic introduction to Ethiopia!

Part 2 of my Ethiopian recap will be posted tomorrow, in which I will tell you about my favourite day in Ethiopia which included bridges, cliffs, baboons, waterfalls, and more!