Accidently I had applied for a faculty position in Ethiopia and there I was, being interviewed by the Vice President of Bahirdar University (a premiergovernment university).
(The Hans India)–The interview went off in a breeze and the salary negotiations were very smooth. The Vice President said “apart from the salary you would get free housing and you just have to pay for the food and electricity”.Then it struck me “oh my gosh, Africa is a hot place”. “What about the air conditioners, would you providethem for free?” I asked. The Vice President gave me a strangelook and said “don’t worry the entire country is air-conditioned”.
As me and my family got off the plane in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia on that fateful day (9th November 2002), the air that greeted, made us gasp.
Addis Ababa is COLD!. How little we know about any place! Most of what we know is through popular press and our own stereotypes, prejudices and conjectures.
A signboard greeted us “welcometo the fourthhighest capital in the world(2,355 metres or 7726 feet above mean sea level)”. The Ultra-modern airport was a revelation.
It is as good as any other airport in the world. Then anothershock. Another signboard said “Ethiopia, the capital of Africa”. Yes the Pan Africanmovement’s roots lie in Addis Ababa. AddisAbaba is a very interesting name it literallymeans the new flower in Amharic the official Ethiopian language. Amharic has its roots in Geez an ancient language that is closely related to Hebrew the holy language of the Jews.
Ethiopiacontinued to surprise us for the next four years. We were veryglad to land in Ethiopia as it instantlymade us seven yearsyounger! (Ethiopian calendar is seven yearsbehind the Englishcalendar we follow). And Ethiopia has thirteenmonths. Ethiopiantourism board very proudlyproclaims “Thirteen months of sunshine”.
All Indians were very excited. They were licking their chops thinking that they would get thirteen months of salary. The HR department in our university laid that notion to rest by telling us that the thirteenth month was only apaper adjustment and that we would get only twelve months salary.
I worked at Bahirdar University, Bahirdar (Bahirdarmeans land beside the sea), Bahirdar has Lake Tana the biggest lake in Ethiopia, a lake so big that many earlier Ethiopians thought it was a sea. Another claim to fame – Nile, the longest river in the world starts its humble journey from Lake Tana.
I spent four of my best years in Ethiopia. I taught, learned and came to admire and love one of the most ancient civilizations in the world. Like they sayat the end of it, I wasmore anAH-beh-shah than a Feh-REHN-jee (AH-beh-shah in Amharic means a local Ethiopian and a Feh-REHN-jee is a foreigner).
Some very interesting and jaw dropping facts about Ethiopia the 10th biggestcountry in Africa and the 25th biggest country in the world!
By Dr M Anil Ramesh