Debbie goes to Ethiopia! A VSO volunteer in Assosa. Here is my blog.

Hello/Goodbye January 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — debzif @ 16:08

One more post from Debiopia……

This will be the last post, but in the way these crazy blogs work, this is going to be the one that new visitors to the site will see first.  To those website wandering people – this is a blog about my life living as a VSO volunteer in Assosa, Ethiopia.  I have tried to make this blog interesting and vaguely educational.  It’s hopefully useful if you’re thinking of visiting Ethiopia, or doing a VSO placement.  Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to.

For those lovely friends and family who have actually read these posts during my adventures, thanks so much!  Writing was therapeutic in itself, but without any readers whatsoever I probably wouldn’t have done it.  Thanks for reading!


– Debbie


Besu Eji Microfinance January 14, 2015

Filed under: development — debzif @ 15:40

One thing I learned and experienced a lot while living in Assosa, was seeing the impacts and effects of international aid organisations, both positive and negative aspects.

Two very close friends of mine run a non-profit microenterprise development organisation in Assosa, which I personally think is one of the most influential ways of helping people to develop their lives. They give interest free loans to people who don’t have the assets to access banks, and the money helps them to develop their own businesses. This is a video of their organisation, giving more information on what they do, and the clients’ stories.

You can find out more on their website


Leaving Resolutions December 16, 2014

Filed under: culture — debzif @ 17:51

I had a few ideas for leaving blog posts.  In one I was going to list everything I would miss.  But in this stage of leaving nostalgia, it would have been absolutely everything.  In another idea, I was going to write down the emotions I was feeling at leaving.   But that would have been me naming pretty much every emotion I know the name of.  Not such great blog posts….

A more productive idea, I hope, is this one.  This is a list of things that I’ve learned, experienced and appreciated a lot while being here, and I hope to continue these in my current and future life.  By writing this down, maybe that’ll spur me into action!  I realise some might be culturally relevant, (i.e. speaking to strangers on the tube might get me locked up….) but we’ll see how it goes!

Helping each other out – the amount of times people have completely gone out of their way to help me is ridiculous.  In many cases it was a complete burden on them, but I have no idea what I would have done otherwise.  Being all independent and self-sufficient is fine and all, but sometimes people need help!

Sharing – The people here are so generous, with their time as well as their possessions, no matter how limited they are.  Sharing really is caring.  At first I felt guilty at receiving things I’d never asked for, but one sure-fire way of dispelling that guilt was by reciprocating.  It’s a great way of showing people you care for them.  As well as often making things much more enjoyable and fun!

Greeting and smiling at strangers – strangers are still people!  Perhaps they want to chat, perhaps not.  Perhaps they desperately need help, and need to find someone to ask.  People noticing my confused/helpless/upset expression and looking out for me has helped me in many a case, or at least cheered me up or given me confidence.  A smile and a hello really do go a long way.

Listening to people’s stories – People are so interesting.  And people showing an interest in me and my life is really something.  I think everyone has got something to say if asked and given the time, and there are many hidden stories and battles out there.  I’ve learned so much about people and life just by listening.  I hope to learn and listen some more J

Noticing things – I’ve constantly had my eyes and ears open while being here, and while travelling around.  I’ve found a whole range of things fascinating, and there’s always something new to notice.  Why don’t I do this wandering around my home town?!  I’m sure there’s lots I haven’t  noticed yet!

Doing nothing – haha, perhaps not one for my CV.  But actually, I’ve learned quite well, and now very much enjoy, just sitting, looking, watching and thinking about life, perhaps on my own, perhaps in people’s company.  It’s wonderful!

Being happy – Perhaps easier said than done, but I’ve at least come to realise that there is no correlation really between what you have, and how happy you can be.  I’ve been amazed by the happiness and contentment people can have when from our UK point of view they have very little.  I want to focus less on stuff and things, and more on smiles and laughter.

The belief it’ll all be ok – Ethiopia has this magic power of situations that look impossible, somehow working themselves out right at the last minute.  I’m hoping this magic exists elsewhere in the world too, I’m sure it does.  Just be patient, and don’t despair!


Around Assosa December 15, 2014

Filed under: Out and about — debzif @ 20:28

For my last few days in Assosa, I just wandered around and tried to capture what Assosa actually looks like.  Which is quite difficult –  for a start because the streets are wide with few outstanding landmarks, and secondly because although Assosa isn’t exactly an overly large place, it varies rather a lot, depending on where you are.

Some of the photos might be of interest particularly to previous Assosa volunteers – the new builds, balloon arches, shiny fences and night lights are impressive.  The rest of the photos are just really to give a feel to the place that I called home.




Power and Possibilities December 14, 2014

Filed under: development — debzif @ 14:07

I’m very proud of being a VSO.  I love the fact that as a volunteer, we live in and among the community, getting to know it, and living similar (ish) lives to many of the locals.

It’s now though that I feel the real imbalance.  The mere fact that I am leaving, is a huge possibility for me that’s not a possible reality for others.  I can get a passport.  If I work hard I can afford to book flights.  I am not restricted on how many USDollars I can take out of the country.  Other countries will open their doors to me, often with few questions asked, and I have a multitude of countries that I can live and work in.

This is not the case for many Ethiopians.  And saying good bye to some of them is devastating – meeting them again is dependent on me coming back, there are many that don’t even have email.  I’d love to be able to give to them what they have given so kindly and freely to me over the past 2 years:  I’d show them around the UK, invite them to my house, meet my friends, introduce them to new and exciting food, show them a different way of life that they’re not used to, and discuss the strangeness of it all.

But, most likely, they’ll not get the passport, they wouldn’t be able to afford the flight, the country will limit what foreign currency they can take out of the country, and the chances are, they wouldn’t get the visa anyway.

Freedom, power and possibilities.  It’s a lottery where you’re born – sometimes I feel like I won it, simply by being born in UK.


Hyperbole Magazine – Winter 2014 December 10, 2014

Filed under: culture,development,Out and about,work — debzif @ 10:50
Tags: ,

**Hyperbole Winter 2014**

Above is the link for the latest VSO Ethiopia Magazine.  Some of the articles include:

  • International Volunteer Day
  • A visit from the Irish President
  • A day in the life of a Volunteer Obs Gynae Doctor
  • Setting up a dairy farm business
  • Addis Ababa from the perspective of a newbie
  • Bolivia and Ethiopia – similarities and differences
  • Plus much much more……..!!!!!!

This was my last edition as one of the editors, sad times!  I’ve really enjoyed working on it, good luck for the future, team!


Nations Nationalities Day December 9, 2014

Filed under: culture,People — debzif @ 18:39

Yesterday is probably going to be one of the most memorable days of my entire life.

What do you think of when you think of your nationality?  Being “Ethiopian” is somewhat vague.  Within the country, there are people from around 80 different “nationalities”, with different languages, beliefs, clothes and ways of living.  Every year, representatives from each ethnicity come together in one place for a celebration and demonstration of the varying cultures across Ethiopia.

I’m not gonna lie, a significant proportion of the event seemed fairly focussed on government propaganda.  Businesses were told to close, to be able to give full attention to the arriving dignitaries.  The main event was held in the new but not quite yet completed stadium in Assosa.  The most spectacular thing that happened seemed to be a helicopter arriving, delivering a trophy, and then flying out again.  That’s pretty impressive any where, let alone Assosa.  We were late arriving and were not able to gain access into the stadium itself, but that turned out to be a good thing.  Firstly because we didn’t have to sit through all of the speeches, but mainly because where we ended up wandering to, was where all the ethnic groups were waiting, lined up, to go in.

Lined up on the side of the road were hundreds of people packed in, watching, photographing and enjoying seeing the brightly clothed people.  I’ve never been overly comfortable with taking photos of people, and human tourism in general, so I originally stayed on the sidelines, crushed around the others, all cramming to get a good view.  However, as a group of four, one of my friends bravely stepped out of the crowd and into the road, and started snapping away.  Another friend, an expert linguist, saw some people who she had previously worked with on their language, so went and had a chat.  I plucked up the courage and relied of the power of my smile, (and of course my ferenji skin) and followed the others out of the crowd and into the queuing ethnic groups.  I feel a bit bad that I got away this this because I’m a ferenji, but I’m also incredibly grateful.

It was amazing.  The atmosphere was incredible, with everyone lively, positive and in a good mood.  They were dancing, playing their instruments, and this was before they were to “go on stage”.  The general vibe was that they were proud of their culture, and wanted to share it with whoever was interested.  They eagerly posed for photos, getting our attention where possible, and more often than not, grabbing the ferenji to pose with them, snapping away on phones and cameras of their own.

I could go on writing about it, but I’m pretty sure the pictures will do a Ethiopia Ethnic Groupway better job than my words.  I’m going to start with my favourite photo – sometimes I’m guilty of seeing people so different in appearance from what I’m used to, and a part of me forgets that they are just people too.  I’m not denying that their lives might be somewhat different to my own, but they’ll still work, have friends, family, and in many cases, need to arrange where to meet their friends using their mobile phones, no matter whether they have a ginormous spear or not!

It’s amazing just how varied being an “Ethiopian” is.  It was such a privilege to be part of the celebration.