On August 9th, I arrived in Africa’s second oldest country, Ethiopia. Only about two months has passed since my stay in its capital, Addis Ababa, and I could already notice that this city is going through fast changes; myriad unfinished buildings left bare with only cement coating stand between clothed constructions, waiting to form a newer city every day, to become the “new flower” of Africa, which is the literal meaning of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia’s official language, Amharic. Even though the living conditions in Ethiopia is relatively lower than that of Korea with insecure electricity and water supplies, such boom in construction indicated to me that the city is striving to improve its state. This gave me a positive outlook on the country’s future.
Along with the positive outlook, my view of Ethiopia further enhanced when I met with several local people. For instance, when we rode the taxi, the drivers were so friendly, even more amiable when we told them that we were Koreans, as they described us as the “very nice people.”
|[Numerous buildings still under construction, photo taken by Ga Yun (Lynna) Kim]
Furthermore, when I went to the supermarket with my mom, an old Ethiopian lady approached us commenting on how nice my mom’s hairstyle is. As she found out that we were from Korea, she praised how nice the Korean culture is and how she loves Koreans. The reason to her positive perspective was of her memorable experience working with Koreans in MCM (Myungsung Christian Medical Centre), which is a Korean hospital in Ethiopia that was founded by the Myungsung Church.
|[The taxi driver describing the town to my dad, photo taken by Ga Yun (Lynna) Kim]
However, as I experienced while living in Ecuador, I did often spot some people picking on Asians like us as “Chinas” with a teasing manner. But once again, when people found out that I was from Korea, their attitude changed tremendously. The fact that Ethiopians have a more positive perception of Koreans than of the Chinese made me question what caused such stereotype to form among them.
While searching for an answer, I realized that organizations such as MCM not only provided jobs but also chances to strongly bond with Koreans, leaving a bright impression of Koreans. But why did the taxi driver also have a good view of Koreans? Maybe it was because of this historical rationale; Ethiopia has participated in the Korean War, so the people think of Korea as a brother country. Also, a good international relationship is continuously maintained through aid programs that Korea provides to Ethiopia. However, in case of China, when it placed huge construction projects in Ethiopia before, the Chinese workers apparently brutally treated local workers. As this fact spread among people, some Ethiopians may have formed negative images about the Chinese and thus formed such stereotype.
Along with learning interesting historical factors behind people’s behaviors, the simple drives around the town equally fascinated me. Down the roads near the center of the city, there were dozens of dusty, blue or white minivans arranged in a long line. These turned out to be minibuses that local people enjoy - a transportation system that is nowhere seen in Korea. It doesn’t leave until twelve people have filled the spots. The cost ranges from 1.5 to 10 Ethiopian birr (around 0.054 to 0.36 US dollars) per person depending on the number of stations one goes. The incredibly cheap cost surprised me, as public buses in Korea generally cost more than one dollar.
|[Minibuses lined up on the road, waiting for people to fill in the empty spots,
photo taken by Ga Yun (Lynna) Kim]
Even though my adventure in Ethiopia has just begun, I am already treasuring my experience in Addis Ababa, the city continuously flourishing to form a better world just as a new flower blooms and opens its eyes to a new world. I hope to explore more about its unique culture and create unforgettable memories during my stay here.
Ga Yun (Lynna) Kim
International Community School of Addis Ababa
Ga Yun (Lynna) Kim firstname.lastname@example.org
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