Exploring Ethiopia: A Culinary Adventure

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s been a few days, hasn’t it? I’ve had an incredible time traveling around these last few weeks, and let me tell you where.

Are you guys ready?

Ok! I went to Ethiopia!

The decision for this came kind of abruptly, as I was originally set to head to Dubai for eleven days. However, PJ, my brother, wasn’t able to come out for the entire trip and rather than hang out in the Middle East alone (again), I decided to meet up with a friend all the way in Africa. (He lives in the Middle East too, so it wasn’t such a stretch for him).

It was my first time anywhere on the African continent, and it was awesome!

Flights to Ethiopia from Dubai are actually fairly cheap and quick, so hopping a plane to Addis Ababa (the capital) was simple.

So what did I do in Ethiopia? Many things! I wandered the city of Addis Ababa, went on a food tour of the city, rode a horse down into an extinct volcano, visited a monastery (Ethiopians are super religious), and hiked across a four hundred year old bridge to stand on a waterfall. Was it great? Yes. Was it exhausting? Also yes. But it was so much fun!

Reading up on Addis Ababa, I saw that it is generally considered the ‘safest’ of cities in Africa, with the exception of pickpockets. With this in mind, I dumped everything of value with my parents (hi Joni!) during my one day back in the US before heading to Africa. The only things I took with me worth anything were my cell phone (my lifeline) and my iPad (my writing instrument). Other than that, I had my half-empty backpack, full of clothes and not much else. This turned out to be a good idea, as, over the course of the trip, I disappointed many pickpockets with my own state of poverty. I imagine robbing someone with nothing is frustrating at best.

My first day there, I had booked reservations at a cultural restaurant named Yod Abyssinia. I arrived in town at 9am but hadn’t slept for…2 days? So I was pretty exhausted. (I left California at 3pm on May 24th and arrived in town at 9am on the 26th) Thus, when I got to my hotel, I crashed out immediately and didn’t wake up until my friend, Harrison, arrived at 3pm.

A side note here: I stayed at the Marriott Executive Apartments, which give you a 1000sq ft apartment for around $170/night. This is expensive for Ethiopia, but not bad when splitting with someone else, especially as I used my Citi Prestige card’s 4th night free in order to save on the cost.

Anyway, I scrambled awake and tried to play it cool when Harrison arrived, which failed miserably since I still had on last night’s (3 days ago) makeup and my hair was a mess. Still, we had a good time catching up until the dinner at Yod Abyssinia, which, let me tell you guys, was really, really, cool.

This place is well known in Addis Ababa and features live entertainment, excellent Ethiopian food, and a really cool atmosphere.

We had no idea what to order, so accidentally ended up ordering a vegetarian fasting platter…which was… pretty tasty, to be honest.

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Did you guys know that Ethiopians don’t use utensils? They have this special kind of bread, called injera, which is made from an indigenous cereal crop called tef. It’s unlike anything we have in the west, so it’s hard to describe. Think…pita bread, but totally flat, and with the texture of a sponge. That doesn’t sound appetizing, does it?

Now you’re getting it.

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And it’s served with everything.

Anyway, this injera is used in lieu of a fork and knife. Food is served on a giant platter with rolled piles of injera around it, and you have to use a single hand to tear some injera off, wrap it around whatever food you’re trying to eat, and then shove it in your mouth. It’s not very easy, especially since the injera is prone to tearing.

We had no idea how to eat all this stuff when our food arrived, and spent a good five minutes searching surreptitiously around the restaurant, looking for people who were eating as well. (We did it wrong all night, as you guys can imagine).

The live show on stage showcased the dance styles of eleven different tribes within Ethiopia, as you guys can see below:

Now, ok, let me tell you something.

Near the end of the night, they were dragging people up to dance. Yes, I got called up. And here I am, two beers in, dancing along to this incredibly high speed music and totally feeling myself. My pride only intensified as three separate people told me how great I was after I finished dancing.

Well, Harrison took a video.



I was not great. I was not even close. At best, I can call my dancing a bastardized version of the musical Stomp. You know, the one with Irish line dancing? At worst, it looks like…like a tipsy white girl way out of her depth attempting to emulate some seriously high speed tribal dancing. No, I will not show you the video. Suffice to say that my dancing was not the best. And there is permanent evidence of it.

So! We ate this fasting platter the first day, (Ethiopians fast twice weekly, on Wednesdays and Fridays, so this food is common), and the next day had a food tour that took us around the city.

Our guide had us meet at a cafe’ called Oh Canada, which Harrison particularly enjoyed, since he is unapologetically Canadian. (Eh?)

Do you guys remember when I said I would eat a cow hoof and cheek, but draw the line at fish?

Well, peer pressure does a lot for you. Take a look at these deep-fried beauties, one of which I was convinced to shove down my gullet after much coercion:

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Ugh.
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Proof!

We also ate at this restaurant named Yilma, which Anthony Bourdain once visited, and which our food guide assured us was “totally safe.”

Which is how I ended up eating a pile of raw beef in the middle of Africa.

No, it wasn’t tasty.

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With injera!

We even had a traditional coffee ceremony, which was delicious. We ended the night with smoothies…at a mini mart, because apparently that is a thing?

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I’m a part-time mayonnaise model

Anyway, the tour was really spectacular overall, and I ate a lot of super weird things, which is basically what you’re paying for, right?

There isn’t much for tourist stuff in Addis Ababa, but the food tour was via Go Addis, which I highly recommend. They’re great people, and the fact that I wasn’t poisoned from any of the food is a rare and glorious thing when in Africa.

Next up, stories from Wenchi Crater lake and my attempts to ride a horse down a mountain.

-Carissa “Why Did I Eat Raw Meat?” Rawson

Phenomenal Flamenco

Hello!

I realize my last post was pretty serious. I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback, and I think you guys will be glad to know that I’ve decided to report the man to AirBnB. Cultural differences aside, if you’re going to be inviting people into your home, you should never force yourself on them or act so inappropriately.

So! That being said, I want to talk today about my most recent shenanigans with Sarah. She keeps cropping up, doesn’t she? That’s because we’re both so much fun!

You guys know all those really heartwarming videos of soldiers coming home and being reunited with their dogs? Well, Nala and I had a similar moment, which I will illustrate in the photo below:

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Isn’t she adorable? I got a full face tongue bath, which is really gross but also I love her so it’s ok. Since Sarah and I didn’t have much time together, we decided to go full out. We checked into our hotel, dropped off Nala and headed out to make the most of our time in Madrid.

Now, you guys know the last time I was in Spain I subsided almost solely on churros with dipping chocolate and champagne. I’m here to tell you that nothing has changed. I swiftly introduced Sarah to these vices, and within the space of twenty minutes we had consumed chocolate, churros, a pile of Iberian ham, and were each clutching a glass of Cava. We’re efficient, you know.

I had made reservations as a surprise to dinner and a Flamenco show, so we headed over there to have an awesome three course meal, which we complemented with a bottle of more champagne. I mean, why not?

Have you guys ever been to a Flamenco show? I know I’ve heard so much about the passion of the dancers (and Spanish people as a whole), but it all seemed a little blown out of proportion. Well, let me tell you…it’s not.

We had front row seats to the show, and at first, the place seemed kind of small and crowded. However, when the music started…just wow.

There were two singers, a violinist, and two guitarists. They began playing, slowly at first, to warm up the crowd, before breaking into amazing, fast-paced music. These people have got some serious skills. Shortly thereafter, the two dancers, a man and a woman, came out.

Words fail me here, but I’m going to try to describe it.

The music pulsed through the room as the crowd murmured, some leaning back in their seats, others sipping glasses of wine as everyone sat, waiting. A low tension hummed in the air, and slowly, subtly, the beat of the music sped up.

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Abruptly, the curtain at the back of the stage was turned aside, and a woman strode out. She was passion, personified. Her long dress trailed behind her as she took center stage, her face regal, her back straight.

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One breath, two, and she began to stomp, her shoes tapping a staccato on the wooden floor as she moved with the music.

The floor, scarred with the marks of a thousand dances, echoed with every step, and she twirled, her dress fanning out, her arms weaving, framing her face, her neck, her hips, as she poured her soul into the movement.

Suddenly, the curtain twitched again, and her partner came out, his clothes tailored tightly to his body, his eyes dark, and he, too, began to dance.

Together, they stepped across the stage, first moving together, then apart, each one competing to outdo the other. Faster, faster, they moved, the strain of the violin drifting past their frantic feet, until the room was full with the sound of their song.

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Sweat beaded on his brow as he spun, whirling around her, his feet a blur as he tapped, tapped, tapped, to the beat of the music. Together, they told a story- of love, of heat, of flame and fury and passion, until the music built to a crescendo and came, crashing, to a halt.

As one, they turned to us, arms outflung, chests heaving, and bowed.

The room exploded with applause.

To say it was phenomenal would be an understatement. If there’s one thing you do in Spain, go see a Flamenco show.

After the show we headed out to a rooftop bar, where we enjoyed a “few” drinks before heading back to the hotel at around 2am. Overall the night was a great success, and definitely a foreshadowing for the excellent day to come.
-Carissa “I wanna dance like that” Rawson