Alessia's memories of Ethiopia
Updated: Jan 21
Written by Alessia, a pediatrician at Meyer Hospital in Florence.
Three times I was with Engera on a mission to Ethiopia. Each time there was a detail, an image, a feeling that struck me.
The first time, the image of the moon stays with me. An "upside down" Moon. A different Moon, that doesn't do the "D and C", but does the U. A Moon that made me understand, in a second and better than any pre-departure speech, that a change in perspective was necessary, fundamental. When you approach countries like this, you have to tiptoe in, get to know yourself, make the people around you trust you, you have to adapt to their world, in their time, even if it is "the opposite" of what we're used to. You also have to lose all those preconceptions, little things you carry with you every day. And in the end you realize that “looking at the moon upside down” was the thing you most needed.
The second time, it was the red earth that got "inside" me. In the hands, in the eyes, in the nose. Both literally and metaphorically. Vast stretches of red earth, wonderful, beautiful but problematic. Rich land, but difficult to cultivate. A land that gives, but takes away the streets when it rains. A land that Ethiopians respect, shape, live with, build their homes on. They’re not trying to tame it, but to walk over it, together. The relationship they have with nature, with their land is profound. Everyone cultivates, everyone, even the poorest, enriches the entrance to their own house with plants, flowers, fruits. You look for beauty, you find satisfaction in seeing your own harvest grow, never extensively, always to ensure your family’s livelihood. And it is shared, everything. With who has less, with who has more.
For the third time, the warmth, the hospitality of the Ethiopians struck me. Any new arrival is welcomed with coffee. Sharing time together, drinking and eating, getting to know each other. And slowly, without you even knowing it, these wonderful people open their door to you, let you into their world, make you feel at home, from the very first moment. You truly feel like part of their family, you become a member. Working together, laughing together, learning together. From Farenji, White, Foreign, Different... you become a friend.
In the health center I worked at, after learning to trust each other, we always worked side by side. We taught but we learned much more.
And every time, when the time comes to return home it's not just the tears you leave behind, but a piece of your heart.
So you already know you’re going to have to go back, to put it back together again.