Friday, July 24, 2020

What did I eat in Ethiopia?

Ethiopian Food

Food was not the highlight of my trip to Ethiopia but I was looking forward to tasting real Ethiopian food in Ethiopia. 

While the injera certainly did not disappoint, I was often overwhelmed with the portion size at restaurants. It seemed like every dish I ordered was meant to be eaten by three people. Another interesting difference between Ethiopian food in the US and Ethiopia is that there were not as many vegetables in Ethiopia. I found most people ordered meat dishes, shiro (which is basically a buttery sauce) or Kaffir (stir fried injera). There was often only one or two vegetable dishes on the menu and many times the restaurants wouldn’t have any. Despite this, I enjoyed some delicacies I cannot find in the US, like Ethiopian cheese and raw beef and a smoothie made from barley and honey.

Injera with tibbs and firfir

Injera with Shiro and collard greens

An Ethiopian medley!  
False banana (fermented_

Besa (buckwheat juice with milk and honey)


Juices galore

Spritz Juice with Strawberry, Mango, and Papaya

Italian Food

I was surprised to find such an abundance of Italian food in Addis Ababa, but it makes since given Ethiopia’s wars with Italy. While Ethiopia was never colonized, the Italians did stay long enough to leave some of their traditions in the country like the macchiato, pizza, and pasta. I ate pizza and pasta many times on my one week trip, and in fact, the best Italian restaurant I have ever tasted is in Addis Ababa (Abucci). 

Random Western Food

Often when I travel I crave the familiar, so fries and hamburgers and coca cola were welcome respites for me.  

Burger and fries

Chicken Cobb salad

The best caramel donut I have ever had

Quiche and salad

Beet root salad
Excellent green cherry cake
Always ubiquitous, always Coca Cola

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Chattanooga Diaries

The following words are an excerpt from my diary when I was en route a business trip in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was my second business trip to Tennessee, the first one being Nashville in 2011, and, like all business trips I was way too busy to devote any serious time to journaling, but I wanted to capture my experience in these blog. I did not know then that it would be the last domestic business trip I would take for a while, as the pandemic reached the U.S. about one month later.

“Said goodbye to the baby this morning in the dark. She was snoring sweetly and didn’t notice me leave. My heart aches. I feel I am on the verge of crying. Suddenly this blessing of travel, of opportunities feels like a curse or burden or “difficult time” instead. I am counting the days until February 22, because that is the day I land from Ethiopia, and then I am back in Portland a whole month before needing to travel again.
I am only here now because I have to be. Like a business trip that was forced on me. Like something I didn’t want to say yes to. That’s how it feels. The tears are beating behind my eyes. Everything reminds me of her: the Lyft driver talking about his kid, a woman in the airport restaurant whose son had the same pacifier as my daughter. I used to love travel, love airports, love new places. This is why I have the career that I have. Just talking about these opportunities made me excited. I have been looking forward to this trip for a long time. This is an unbelievable opportunity that I should cherish. But I miss my little girl. Is it this way for all mothers? While on the Lyft ride over to the airport in the dark, the driver was telling me about how contractions feel (he apparently did some simulation at a birthing course), and in a moment - as we approached he terminal - I relieved her entire birth. I will miss my little girl so much. At least these short trips come before the long one in Ethiopia. And at least the long one is not that long. I can get though this. 20 more days (and at least a few of them I get to spend with her). The countdown begins now.
-       February 2nd, 4:58am

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Cafes of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I am a huge coffee fanatic, so imagine my excitement when I got to travel to the land from where coffee originated! That’s right, the first coffee was discovered in Kafa, Ethiopia and has now grown into one of the biggest industries in the world. Ethiopia has a long culture of drinking coffee so I was excited to sample their modern cafes as well as traditional coffee ceremonies. 

The common beverage of choice in almost all cafes in the Ethiopian version of a machiatto. This is a shot of espresso with a dollop of frothed milk on it. A single or small size includes one shot, and a double or large size is two shots. I mad the mistake of ordered two shots only once - it was incredibly strong!  Here are the macchiatos from three cafes, many restaurants, and one hotel. 

Tomoca is the first cafe in Addis Ababa and now has branches all over the city. I visited one of their trendy branches near the airport in Bole, where people stand and drink their coffee while on break from work. 

I also visited the original Tomoca which is very historical and a big tourist attraction. Unfortunately of all the macchiatos I tasted in Addis, I liked Tomoca’s the least. It was very black and bitter to me. 

Kaldi’s is also a famous coffee chain in Ethiopia. Unlike Tomoca, which is meant to be drank quickly, people sit down at Kaldi’s for long break and have table service instead of ordering at the counter. I liked the outdoor seating at most Kaldi’s and their macchiato is pretty good. 

Abyssinian Cafe
By far my favorite macchiato in the city is at Abyssinian Cafe. This stylish cafe was practically empty when I went on a Sunday afternoon. It is hard to compete with its famous neighbor Tomoca, but I loved the vibe at Abyssinian Cafe and the coffee was exceptional. 

Golden Tulip Hotel
You don’t need to go to a cafe to get a macchiato. Every hotel and restaurant will be able to prepare one for you. I had a macchiato every day at the Golden Tulip and was pretty pleased with the quality. 

Finfinee Restaurant
Both Ethiopian and Western restaurants alike will serve macchiatos. This one from Ethiopian restaurant Finfinee is pretty typical. 

Traditional Coffee Ceremony
I also had the great honor of attending a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. These are commonly prepared among friends or colleagues, and I was invited to one in the office of a local NGO in Addis Ababa. Popcorn is provided at most coffee ceremonies as a little something to eat before the coffee, since you never know if your guests have eaten or not before  they arrive for the ceremony. Its also good to offer some snack like popcorn because the ceremony can be very long. First you must wash the beans, then roast them, then grind them, then boil the grounds in water over charcoal. It might take one hour before you actually have your coffee. 

The ceremony is a good experience but the coffee itself is very strong and bitter. No wonder they always offer it with sugar!  

The Gambia: Photo Diaries from the City

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