Be careful what you wish for…

Tuesday May 13th

When the location for GAP clients was announced, I didn’t hesitate to sign up for Ethiopia. There was no thought, no contemplation, and no matrices of pros or cons. I simply used my gut and cashed in all my chips so I could work in Africa because I knew it would be an adventure.

I am an adrenaline junky. I thrive on fast-pace heart stopping moments that trigger you into fight or flight mode. In my mind, an African adventure might be going on safari or being stranded on the side of the road hundreds of kilometers from help. I learned that a true adventure is anything that just takes you along for the ride.

I knew Tuesday would be different because a few of us were flying from Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa instead of making the more than 8 hour drive. I didn’t know that arriving at the small, resort town airport at 7am was the beginning of a long and adventurous day. Our first shock came in the literal sense of the word. Upon entering the airport, we had to put our belongings on a conveyor belt to go through security. As Danny leaned on the rollers to take off his shoes, he was zapped by an electrical current. OUCH!  We all stopped to make sure he was ok, and then continued on our journey.

Our chariot awaits

Our chariot awaits

The flight was smooth, and we were all mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape below of us (not to mention grateful that we weren’t driving on the switchback road we could see from the plane). Upon landing, we easily spotted Asres, our local guide from Addis Ababa University, and piled into the truck that would take us to our lodgings for the next eleven days.

The Nile

The Nile

As soon as we pulled into traffic we were sucked back into our version of an African adventure. Cars were whizzing by us right and left. Pedestrians were inches from the bumper of our car. We were on sensory overload from all the black exhaust, dust and constant beep, beep, beep of coming from every direction. There was bumper to bumper traffic; trucks piled high with cargo, mass chaos in round abouts, and people using the gridlock situation to sell cookies to all of us stuck in traffic. WOW!!  The adventure was back in full force and my eyes were wide open to take it all in.

Water cans, water cans, and more water cans.

Water cans, water cans, and more water cans.

After more than an hour of driving over bumpy roads, behind loud trucks and onto dirt shoulders we finally arrived at our accommodations. It was time to settle in and relax while we waited for the rest of our team. As they say, there is no rest for the weary. Our planned housing had some unforeseen issues, and while trying to decide the course of action, a teammate’s bug bite conditions became worse. We all loaded back into the truck and drove 90 minutes to seek medical intervention.

More sights, sounds and smells grabbed our attention as we waited at the hospital. Addis Ababa serves as the hub for people from all over Ethiopia to come in search for treatment of malaria and other diseases. I have never seen so many people gathered outside in waiting areas, seated on benches near patient rooms or openly weeping over a diagnosis. I didn’t know where to look or what to observe. It was the most humbling experience of my trip to Africa so far. Luckily, our teammate’s situation was quickly treated, and we left to reunite with the rest of our team after their long drive.

I thought we were simply going to pick up the rest of the group and head back to our housing. We said goodbye to the University of Gondar driver, Amara, who had accompanied us for nine days. After hugs of gratitude, the adventure tapped on my shoulder to remind me it was still there. Our accommodations had not been settled. I watched as our hosts huddled around a computer and spoke in rapid succession. I don’t speak Amharic, but I am smart enough to know that they weren’t talking about putting us up in the Hilton. They entertained us by giving us a tour of the heritage museum on campus, which is housed in the former palace of the king.

Saying goodbye to Amara

Saying goodbye to Amara

palace selfie

Roar!!! The palace turned museum


Sitting in the office of the person who would play a hand in where we would live while in Addis Ababa, I thought about taking a shower and climbing into bed. I knew we had a long day ahead of us, and all I wanted to do was stop moving. But as before, the adventure heaved me out of my rest and kept chugging for many more hours. With no real solution in sight, calls were made to Ohio to seek help for our situation. Kurt, Heidi, Wondwassen Gebreyes, and Christine O’Malley were responsive, compassionate, and instrumental in our attempt to solve the issue.

While waiting for arrangements between OSU and Addis Ababa University, the team headed to dinner near the National Museum. My body relaxed and enjoyed the sumptuous food. We all agreed that we had found the best pizza in Ethiopia. Considering we had pizza almost every day, this was a huge discovery. But wait, there’s more. Yes, that’s right, the adventure wasn’t over. Lodging was finally secured for us in the center of the city, but now we had to drive more than an hour one-way in traffic that hadn’t died down — even though it was 7:30pm — to retrieve our luggage from the very first place we traveled to after landing in Addis. All of us were weary after having started our journey at 5:30am that day. I volunteered along with Danny to get the luggage while the others handled the check-in at our hotel.

Driving at night is no different than the daylight in Addis Ababa, except it is harder to see the people crossing the street inches in front of your car. The same gridlock we experienced at 1pm was still present even though it was 7 hours later. The place we were headed to locked the entry gate at 9pm, and I didn’t think there was any chance we were going to make it in time. Just when we would finally get moving, I would see brake lights ahead. It was touch-and-go for a while, but we arrived at 8:45pm.

With the luggage on board, the last leg of our adventure was coming to an end. For me it was full of ups and downs, twists and turns, peaks and valleys. Just when I thought I could breathe, a new roadblock appeared. Though it was exhausting both mentally and physically I wouldn’t have it any other way. I believe that anyone can have a normal day where things run smoothly and fall into place. But what is the fun in that? What do you learn if there is no adversity? Only by tackling what is in front of you does true adventure appear.


Life on the Autobahn

Seeing as we’re in Germany working on a project related to the automotive industry, we’d be remiss not to devote a post to the experience of driving on the autobahn. Between client visits, interviews, and weekend outings, we’ll be driving about 4,500 km all over northwest Germany.

Travel Destinations

Travel Destinations

As the only member of our team that can drive manual, I have the honor of chauffeuring the A Team car during all of our trips while Mark and Brian switch off on driving the B Team car. Upon arrival at the Frankfurt Airport, we picked up two cars to serve as our transportation for our three weeks here. Having never driven outside the US/Canada, I knew very little about German traffic laws, and the international road signs were completely incomprehensible to me. With the vague understanding that there are no speed limits on the autobahn, I proceeded to drive the entire distance to Koblenz without any regard for how fast I was going. Later we found out that there are actually speed limits in many areas on the autobahn, so hopefully I didn’t drive through any speed cameras in those first two days. We’ll find out when we return the cars…

This symbol means go as fast as humanly possible!

This symbol means go as fast as possible!

The German countryside is full of hills and valleys dotted with small towns, making for very scenic views on our drives. You also get to see a lot of the investments Germany has made in its energy infrastructure.

These are everywhere!

Windmills are everywhere!

So are nuclear power plants!

So many nuclear power plants!

As great as it’s been to see the country by car, there have been a few hiccups. Somehow, its managed to rain almost everyday while we’re driving, even when the sun is out. There is also a lot of road work with really narrow lanes and traffic jams.

Double rainbow! What does it mean?

Double rainbow! What does it mean?

The construction lanes get really tight sometimes!

The construction lanes get really tight sometimes!

One of the biggest differences between here and the US is cost of gas, which was recently at about $7.60 per gallon.

I don't know what any of this means...

I don’t know what any of this even means…

Parking spaces are also really tight. I needed help getting out of our hotel garage in Hamburg. Station wagons were not designed to be maneuvered in these tiny spaces.

It took a long time to get out of this garage

It took a long time to get out of here.

Driving on the autobahn and seeing this beautiful country by car has been an awesome experience. It’s going to be hard to return to my normal driving habits when we get back to the states.

The other members in the A Team car.

A Team car passengers



120 mph

Defining the Journey

When we all began the MBA program at Fisher College of Business nine short months ago, we were given luggage name-tags with a message inside. That message had a single statement about enjoying the Fisher journey. At the time, I perceived the Fisher journey as a purely intellectual and professional one. The message was not surprising, as I understood I would emerge from the experience with a broader set of skills, knowledge, and career choices than I had when I entered the program.

Fisher luggage tag

However, the depth and impact of the present journey I’m experiencing, both within Europe and more broadly the MBA program, resonates on a much more primal (or nuclear) level within myself. That little luggage tag boasts an eerie amount of clairvoyance, as the journey I have experienced thus far goes well beyond professional into a personal, psychological, and existential realm of growth.


The journey to France, England, and beginning this weekend, Switzerland, are undoubtedly great experiences within themselves. This entire experience over the past two weeks has felt akin to an accelerated incubated MBA degree. Through the first year in the program, I went from feeling adept, talented, and intelligent when I entered to extremely impressed, overwhelmed, amazed, and humbled by my colleagues (As a past psychologist and therapist, I frequently say some of the GREATEST ‘psychologists,’ or experts in human behavior I have ever met have been in the Fisher MBA program. If you want a therapist, don’t see a PhD, see an empathic MBA with some time to kill).




Going from a big fish in a small sea to the ocean of talent that is Fisher is daunting (especially if you’ve never stepped foot in a business course prior to Fall Term). However, the experience pushes you, molds you, and challenges you. You master the material, master your emotions, and hone your own skills, leadership qualities, and potential. You grow.


The GAP experience has been synonymous with the MBA as a whole and complementary to that growth process. Arriving in country, I felt apprehension about the culture, the food, the project, work, and responsibilities.  However, within a short two weeks, our group has been force to accelerate our own talents and abilities to band together and meet the demands of the project, communication with each other, and…..the sometimes grueling demands of the nightlife.


So, in closing, as a Fisher MBA student, our present journey is not a singular one but a cluster of dozens discrete experiences that are continually molding and shaping us. These experiences do not occur within a vacuum. For me, everything from poorly navigating tubes in London, to sobbing at an embarrassingly audible level during Les Mis, eating unidentifiable cuisine, meeting with dozens of brilliant leaders within the European Lawn & Garden market, to touching structures I have only seen during long exploratory hours on Wikipedia & Google Earth….. I feel like I am awakening every day as a different person.

And waking up everyday feeling like a better version of yourself from the day before is what keeps us going.

– Chris


Fun Scotty

Bahir Dar



We left Gondar in the early morning on Monday, awakening to a multicolor sunrise and roosters crowing. We said goodbye to this lovely city and our driver Amara safely drove us three hours to Bahir Dar, a resort town on Laka Tana and the capital city of the Amhara region. Before reaching the city we passed five hippos bathing in the Nile!

hippos!!!!We checked into the hotel and found our beds had mosquito nets, the first we had seen here. Bahir Dar is warmer and has lower elevation than both Gondar and Addis, so malaria can be a concern.

Mosquito net

Mosquito net

We first had two meetings to visit the regional storage facility and the research lab. Then it was time for lunch and relaxation.

The ladies in the group took nice long naps, while the guys explored and walked around in the hot sun. From our group’s exploration we found that Bahir Dar seems more middle class than other places we have visited in Ethiopia thus far. All the streets we saw were paved (rather than dirt roads), many people were riding bicycles, and there were few beggars. There was also a lively downtown area with many shops and cell phone stores.

Most of the team decided to go to the Kuriftu Spa, an upscale resort providing spa treatments like massage, pedicures, waxing, etc. Most of us took advantage of different treatments, which were awesome quality and super low prices. I paid the equivalent of about $3-4 for one of the best eyebrow waxes of my life.

Danny, Javed and Tamiru chill in the spa lounge

Danny, Javed and Tamiru chill in the spa lounge

Alejandra gets a pedicure

Alejandra gets a pedicure

Relaxed and content, we reclined at the Kuriftu cafe with fried ice cream, coffee, veggie wraps and other treats. We had a lovely view of Lake Tana.

Lake Tana

Lake Tana

Me and Katie appreciating fried ice cream

Me and Katie appreciating fried ice cream

It was a well-deserved day of relaxation.




Gondar Churches

On Saturday most of the team got up early to drive to the Simien Mountains, the second-highest point in Africa, with tons of wildlife and natural beauty. Carla and I chose to stay back in Gondar to explore the city. Our university guide and host Sintayehu met us at the hotel and accomodated our request to walk into town, about an hour walk. Since Saturday is a market day, we saw lots of people from the villages walking through town with their wares and animals (donkeys, mules and chickens). Carla and I enjoyed walking past the shops we normally drive by, because we got to see a more close-up view of the surroundings. For example, we saw there was a barber shop and some vendors selling some delicious-smelling, fried street food. We stopped in a Western Union to get some cash, and it took a really long time. We have noticed that “lines” here, such as they are, don’t really exist. People often crowd around a bank teller or post office window, and try to get their attention.

We went to our first stop, King Fasiledes Bath. It was built during the 1600s as the king’s personal pool, and is quite large, about Olympic-sized. Now it is empty, except the one time of year when people go swimming for Timkat, the Feast of the Epiphany for Eastern Orthodox (the main religion in Ethiopia) in January. There were huge trees with roots growing out of the stone and bricks, and we also saw parrots and other brightly colored birds.

Hellooooo from inside the pool!

Hellooooo from inside the pool!

We next took a bajaj (motorized three-wheeled rickshaw) to Qusquam church. We were trying to get to the Selassie church, but the bajaj driver took us there by accident. It was a lovely accident, as we were able to explore the ruins of old stone buildings. We learned that many historic buildings in Gondar had been bombed by Somalis during the war.

Qusquam Church (detail)

Qusquam Church (detail)

For lunch we stopped in the Four Sisters restaurant, a tourist destination that capitalizes on foreigners’ interest in traditional Ethiopian customs, like ritualized hand washing. Sintayehu’s cousin Eden joined us, and then we all went to (the real) Selassie church together. We had to take off our shoes and there were separate entrances for men and women. Inside, the small church was covered in religious paintings that are about 200-300 years old. With Sintayehu translating, an elderly man dressed like a priest told us about the art. According to him it was painted on fabric and then pasted on the walls. He also explained the different saints, some of whom were Ethiopian, and Carla and I were not familiar with. Others were more universal, like Jesus, Mary, and the holy trinity. Selassie actually means “trinity” in Amharic.

Priest displaying works of art

Priest displaying works of art



Outside church

Outside church

We took the bajaj back, and it was so helpful to have Sintayehu with us. Not only for his friendly companionship, which really added to our experience of the day, but for his local knowledge of negotiation, and ability to get better fares for us than we would have gotten for ourselves.

Bajaj selfie: Carla, Sintayehu and me

Bajaj selfie: Carla, Sintayehu and me



St. Mary Festival Day

Friday May 9th

 Today was a holiday, the first of the ninth month in the Ethiopian calendar, the feast of Saint Mary. Ethiopians use the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian (which Americans and Europeans, etc use), and their current year is 2006. Their time follows the traditional Middle Eastern 12-hour clock, in which the start of the day begins at 6am, which they call 12.

Due to the holiday, our time would be limited, so we headed out to the rural areas to conduct some interviews. We drove about 30 minutes outside of Gondar to the village of Ambezo to interview the Health Extension Workers there. We were curious to discover what type of things they encounter in the rural areas when dealing with health issues of the villagers.

One thing that has surprised us and brought much joy is talking to the local children. When driving on country roads we see a few people, but once we pull our vehicle to the side of the road children swarm the van. They seem to come out of no where to look at the “firenje” (foreigners). During this particular stop we handed out pencils and showed the children how to do O-H-I-O.

Giving pencils to kids O-H-I-O

A particularly confusing stop for us was when we thought we were walking to a “kebele” (neighborhood), but it was really just a lookout point. It was a worthwhile stop because a little girl, Tigist, took Katie and Danielle by the hand and walked to the edge of the view point. She was very soft spoken and so sweet. We have found most of the children here to be very affectionate. It is so heartwarming to see the way they embrace us with so much trust and love.


Kebeles have leaders, and we met with Asfow, the leader of the Charambazo kebele. He told us how laws passed from the government are enforced at the kebele level. For instance, Ethiopia recently had a very successful HIV campaign to raise awareness of how the virus is spread and can be prevented. The kebele leaders organized HIV testing and gave HIV-positive individuals agricultural jobs. One thing that would not happen in the U.S. is the manner in which the interview was conducted. We drove to a location where the kebele leader was waiting for us on the side of the road with a rifle over his shoulder. We picked him up, and drove him to his next meeting, all the while asking questions. One week into our GAP project and we are learning to just roll with it, as none of us objected to the gun.

The last interview of the day was with a local religious leader of the Eastern Orthodox faith, which is the most popular religion in Gondar. His time was limited due to the holiday, but he was forthcoming with information. The site on which we met him had a large building under construction that will soon be a home to people with HIV and AIDS.

Before lunch we stopped with our Amharic speaking client ambassadors to get a plane ticket from Gondar to Addis Ababa. This is where we learned the power of patience, and discovered just how valuable our translators were. We arrived at at the ticket office at 11:45am and the agent behind the counter worked on our transaction for over 90 minutes. Hunger creeped in and we shared two granola bars between 7 people. Luckily for us a distraction in the form of a “firenje” allowed us to take up the time. Shached, an Israeli woman doing volunteer work with the local street children, shared the wait with us. We compared notes on Ethiopia and talked about our experiences abroad. If you would have told me that I would spend over an hour and a half in an airline office, I would have told you no way that would happen because I buy my tickets on the internet!

After lunch we walked to a historic landmark in Gondar called Fasilidas Castle. We were shocked by the 200 birr entrance fee per person. Though that equates to $10, we haven’t paid more than a few dollars for any meal, and $0.50 for souvenir post cards. Again, our client ambassadors came to rescue by negotiating for us to get the student rate. We each showed our BuckIDs (yes, all of us brought them all the way to Africa!), and paid just 75 birr per person. The castle makes Gondar a tourist destination in Ethiopia, and lends to the richness and vibrancy of the city beyond what you may read or imagine to exist in Ethiopia.


Though we are thousands of miles away from home, Gondar allowed us to keep up with our daily practices. Friday prayers were attended in a local mosque, and Danny and Danielle went to Shabbat services at a local synagogue. Danielle noted that the temple was simply an open air space with a corrugated metal roof, and basic benches with a curtain separating men and women, as in the Orthodox tradition. Most women wore all-white: white head coverings, shawls and dresses underneath. She also noticed that while some of the prayers were similar to the ones back home (like L’cha Dodi – welcoming of the Sabbath bride – and blessings over the bread and wine), others were different. Congregants repeated the rabbi after every word, and at the end of the service, women called out a high pitched “ay-ay-ay!” sound, which would definitely not happen in most American shuls! It is nice to be so far from home and be able to keep up with some of our traditions.

Coffee is very important in the Ethiopian culture. They have a formal ceremony for roasting the beans and pouring the coffee for guests. There is even a special dress that the women wear for the occasion. Though some of the others on the team have seen this ceremony, I had not. To my surprise, when we returned to our hotel a ceremony was set up in the lobby. With no one around but my teammates, I saw a photo op, and sat in the seat to pretend pouring coffee. I was nervous when the lady who was supposed to perform the ceremony caught me in her spot, but she was gracious and covered my head and shoulders with her scarf. It was so touching that she let me enjoy the moment and embraced me with her clothing.

Coffee Ceremony

The night ended by participating in another Ethiopian tradition called “eskista,” which is apparently the dance that the Harlem Shake is based on. This is shoulder dancing, and it is exactly what the words describe. You move your shoulders in various ways to the rhythm of the music. I couldn’t believe there was actually going to be an audience for the shoulder dancers when we first walked into the night club. We were the only people there. After just a short time the place filled up with Ethiopian twenty-somethings dressed to the nines in nice jeans and shirts for the guys, and colorful blazers, dresses and cropped pants for the women, who also had their hair styled in sleek side-sweeps and wore bright lipstick. There was so much energy, especially when the musicians and singers performed popular songs that had the whole crowd up and shaking The dancers came into the audience and danced with us. It was so much fun and a truly Ethiopian experience. Another entertaining moment was when a male singer sang some double-entendre-loaded songs to the audience. It was all in Amharic, but we know at least one verse referenced us, because the whole club looked at us and laughed. I couldn’t think of anything to compare it to in the U.S. for our hosts. I felt like I was experiencing something truly unique to the country I chose to work in for the next few weeks.

At the end of a very long, but culturally rich day we all fell asleep easily. We knew the next day was going to have more adventures as some of us were going to the Simien Mountains for exploration.









Crazy Weekend!! Crazy Weekday!! Crazy Upcoming Days!!

Kim described most of the weekend we had in London. I want to add a different shade to it. After a Friday night of cards, charades and drinks, I was frantic on the Saturday morning. There were so many places to go to, so much to see and so little time. Being the social chair, I had to plan to get maximum in. While the ladies began their day with shopping, Kyle, Deepu and I took a stroll along the Thames. We went to the Tate Modern museum which had some “different” taste of the preserved art.


The Tate Modern

The Tate Modern

Enjoying the view at the top of the Tate

Enjoying the view at the top of the Tate

We tried to get the tickets to the plays of Shakespeare at Shakespeare’s Globe but unfortunately, only the costliest were left. We will be going there again. We are not missing on a Shakespeare’s play at the Globe.

At the Shakespeare's Globe

At the Shakespeare’s Globe

Our paths crossed that of out classmate Jinhee Yu, while she was on her exotic Eurotrip, right in front of The Buckingham Palace.

Right in front of Buckingham Palace

Right in front of Buckingham Palace

I will let the pictures speak for the rest of the fast-paced crazy weekend and some of the great time we have had in London till now.


My interest in Greek heritage came alive at the British Museum

My interest in Greek heritage came alive at the British Museum


Japanese heritage: The Samurai armour

Japanese heritage: The Samurai armour


221B Baker Street: Sherlock fans will understand

221B Baker Street: Sherlock fans will understand

Lord's: The Mecca of cricket

Lord’s: The Mecca of cricket

At Hyde Park: Who thought we would run into President Clinton here?

At Hyde Park: Who thought we would run into President Clinton here?

The Graffiti which Kyle repeats referring as "STREET ART"

The Graffiti which Kyle repeats referring as “STREET ART”

Deepu trying to topple the egg on the kid; apparently the kid is stronger

Deepu trying to topple the egg on the kid; apparently the kid is stronger

Our joyous tube ride: Its apparent, isn't it?

Our joyous tube ride: Duffy’s expression explains it

Taking Golden Hind for a spin

Taking Golden Hind for a spin

The Saturday had a perfect ending hitting the Gordon’s Wine Bar with the French team, completely fun!!

resized 10

Monday and Tuesday picked up with business as usual. We met the vice-president of sales operations and will be meeting the director of operations again to refine our direction. With the blueprint of direction given to us, we are trying to answer the questions INXN posed in front of us.


We have a hectic schedule ahead of us to get the job done here.We are also looking forward to the tour of Coca Cola where we will be meeting the VP of marketing, thanks to Monica.

Apart from that, each of us has different trips lined up ahead of us. Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam are few to name.

Keep checking!! Those interesting blogs are coming shortly!!


Radio producers and Jewish blacksmiths

Thursday our group split up to divide and conquer our list of target people to interview, in the interest of time, since Friday was our last work day in Gondar. We have three functional sub-groups: marketing, supply chain/ops, and data collection/reporting. As part of the marketing sub-group, I really wanted to meet with local radio producers while in Gondar. I read this great book called “Influencers” that talks about how people can create change and influence people in many different ways. The book mentions several social and health campaigns in the developing world that use radio dramas and popular soap operas to get their ideas across. For example, they would have characters go to the library to get adult literacy materials, or have a “bad” character drink too much and abuse his wife (a “good” character who viewers empathized with), and seeing how these popular characters acted has actually influenced people’s behavior in positive ways. I want to see if we can use radio in similar ways here in Ethiopia with the rabies campaign.

People listen to the radio here as a popular media form, since many don’t have TV or internet.  In the morning we met with an FM technician at the top of a hill where his satellite is, and asked him questions about coverage and size of their reach. We also learned about the popular shows that people listen to, peak listening times and when they have time for ads.

Afterwards, since we were on top of a hill with such a beautiful view of the city, the whole team stopped at the Goha Hotel to look at the view, and then had lunch.


University of Gondar

University of Gondar

In the afternoon we split up again, Alejandra and Carla joining me to talk with FM station marketing managers (Danny was unfortunately down for the count today with a bad stomach virus) while the rest of the team drove a bit out of the city center to speak with a kebele leader. The FM marketing managers answered more of our questions about programming, specifically existing health programming that they already offer, and costs. We actually learned that it’s possible to have your own program on a regular basis within one of the popular news/information shows, as long as you pay for it. That could be a great opportunity for the rabies project going forward.

We went back to the hotel in the afternoon for some personal time. Some team members needed a nap, but others were itching to explore. Javed called John of Gondar to see about exploring the part of the Arada market where Jewish blacksmiths work. We asked our driver Amara to take us there. Alejandra, Javed and I noticed on the ride to the market that, despite the rain, many people were walking in quite nice clothing, while others were washing themselves and even others were herding lots of goats. We wondered why there was so much activity this afternoon, and Amara said that tomorrow was a holiday, the festival of Saint Mary. Apparently they will eat goat meat during this festival (other days, Wednesday and Fridays until 3pm, Ethiopians fast and only have one meal until 3pm).

We arrived at the Arada market to meet John. The pathways around the market were muddy and slippery due to the rain, and because they don’t have paved roads in that area. The mud was mixed with garbage and probably animal feces, and it smelled quite strongly. We tried our best not to slip and fall into the muck, and John was quite a gentleman, offering to hold our hands on the most slippery parts, but our shoes and feet were covered in gunk.

John leading us to the blacksmiths

John leading us to the blacksmiths

John took us to the back of the market, where children played a game, trying to hit a bottle placed on a pile of rocks with their own little stones. We finally encountered the section where Jewish blacksmiths worked, an area covered by tarps. They had coal-lit fires where they forged their metal axes and shovels. A few of them sat on leather bags that they moved back and forth, the air in the leather bag blowing onto the coals, feeding the fire. Little bits of metal material and ash flew around in the air. The blacksmiths looked at us curiously (probably the same that we looked at them), and John explained to them that we wanted to see how they worked. I had him translate to them that I am Jewish too. They said a joke, If I am Jewish, why can’t I make a ring? We all laughed at that. Then they started pounding the hot metal together, to straighten and shape it. It looked like very hard work.

leather marketWe walked around the Jewish quarter where women often sell things. A lot of their wares were leather, like leather pouches, wallets, and a sack for carrying a baby, and items made out of horse hair. I bought two horse-related items for Danny at his request; he was very sad to miss out on meeting his Jewish brethren. We had John and his friend Teddy negotiate for us, the vendors wanted to charge almost 300 Ethopian birr ($15) for a horse hair fly swatter, but we knew it was right to negotiate first. We told them that I am Jewish and a student, to have them empathize with me more, and they knocked the price down a bit.

spicesWe walked back through the area of the market where there are spices, and bought some tea, turmeric and incense. We said goodbye to John and Teddy and thanked them for their help, offering a tip for their tour guide services.

Javed, Teddy, me and AlejandraThen it was back to the hotel for a team meeting, goal-setting and debrief of the day before dinner. But first Alejandra and I took a photo opportunity at a truck parked near the hotel, which the locals thought was quite funny. We did too.

Hello, truck!We wiped our filthy shoes off in the grass to get the muck off, but some of it will



“Bond, James Bond”

“Bond, James Bond”………sounds like we are enjoying a Bond movie in London with MI6 in its premise. Let me tell you in complete honesty, it is not so. It is the feeling we got in the office of the client, Interxion, at the first day of our office, where everybody was looking at us with high expectations of getting them out of the pickle. First day at the client site and we were consultants from the word “go”. After preliminary niceties, we started with our question filled meetings including the ones with the HR Director and the Finance Director. Tons of data was dumped onto us. It was an enduring first half followed by a chilled second half.

We were in the fishbowl today, literally. The office of Interxion is called a fishbowl because of its shape. Unfortunately, we not allowed to take pictures within the fishbowl. I believe the Londoners have a very different understanding of the dress code “business casual”. In the morning today, when we reached our destination, we found ourselves to be overdressed with partially formal clothes whereas everybody else was in jeans, had funky hairstyles and talked in a cool British accent. It was interesting to note that professionals in London hold such key and high positions at such a younger age. It might be something that is ushering in the era of corporate coolness “mate” (with a British accent). We noticed the beautiful London skyline while walking back to our hotel.

London Skyline

It is a running joke here that standing on The Heron Towers (the cuboid building), one can pour martini over The Gherkin (the missile shaped building).

The best part of the day was the evening when John, Kyle and I hit the bars for the fourth consecutive night in a row (the bars here are too good to pass by, if you understand what I mean ;)). Reflecting back on the day, I feel it was a rewarding and a fulfilling experience. Today was a glimpse of the life of a consultant we aspire to be and the GAP support we require to have. I am relishing every moment of this experience. I feel the craziness of travelling, working and exploring are a sign of more good times to come ahead in next 18 days.

Stay tuned for those blogs!!


“John of Gondar”

Day 4: Gondar City-

May 5th (Monday) is an official holiday in Ethiopia and all government offices are closed. However, a subteam of our Gondar hosts had promised to make time to meet us at 1.30p. We decided to go to explore the city and check out the local market before our meeting. What an adventure it turned out to be!

First, we went to a souvenir shop which was filled with great local craft pieces – including wall hangings, dolls, decoration pieces, clothes, shawls, musical instruments and many other interesting pieces. Even though we promised ourselves that we will window shop, seek comparisons, not fall victim to impulse decisions and try our bargaining skills, the moment of truth was interesting. The pieces were so beautiful that it was hard to resist the urge, especially since we would automatically make mental calculations of how low the dollar-converted costs would be!


Our first real adventure of the day was right outside the souvenir shop where a group of 2 young boys approached us and tried to “exchange” a 20 dollar bill for an interesting story. Their concern was that they had an “old” 20-dollar bill from 1981 which the local merchants would not accept. They wanted the nice Americans to help them by exchanging it for a newer bill since we could easily pass it on when we got back home. We had an interesting dialogue about the authenticity of the bill and in the end decided to agree to disagree.


From there we got in the van and were taken to the local market which was bustling with activity of every sort – from fresh vegetables to chickens to clothes, utensils and hardware. Almost everyone we met was extremely friendly with smiles all around. We all noticed that many of the shopkeepers spoke very good English and didn’t try aggressive approaches to sell to the visiting “freinji” (local word for light skinned foreigner). We also noticed that there were quite a few women entrepreneurs who confidently ran their shops.

During this visit to the market we happened to stumble upon John, a 10th grade student who made our day! There was something about his demeanor that put our whole group at ease with him. We struck up a conversation with him to find out about how he loved fashion forward shoes which he then converted to soccer shoes when his 5 brother team rule over other kids in the neighborhood. He told us about his dreams of becoming a doctor one day and serving his nation. We not only got great advice from him about which fabric to buy or how to avoid fast colors but also got a pleasant surprise – an offer to show us where the beautiful fabric was weaved by the locals.

We had set a deadline for ourselves to leave the market by noon so that we could head back to the hotel, have lunch and get ready for the 1.30p client meeting. However, the offer was just too good and all of us make a group decision to flex our time in favor of this unbelievably authentic experience. John took us through the market until we reached a semi-residential area where small shacks housed families as well as a cottage industry of 1-2 person manufacturing units. John showed us where a person was hard at work at a small hand-powered loom weaving a beautiful fabric from threads of cotton. John would later also show us where the raw picked cotton was sold and along with the bobbins used to convert piles of raw cotton into thread which would then be used in the weaving process.


On our way back, we were taken thru another route in the neighborhood where we saw ladies cooking the day’s lunch. John took us to one of the ladies and we were able to see how pancake type batter was first prepared and then poured over a heated plate to make Injeria – the staple of the Ethiopian diet. As we watched this process, we were surrounded by many curious and smiling children. For some reason, they found trust and comfort in the faces of Danny and Niraj—whose hands they held and started to walk thru the alleys back to the market. Only after we reached the van did they finally say smiley goodbyes and went off their way.

3 6

As we said farewell to John, he offered to take us on more experiences like this should we choose to. Since he was off school for the summer, he was willing to take time off from soccer and show us around while someone covered his shop. A definite stop that we all agreed to put on our itinerary was the visit to the Jewish blacksmiths. Knowing of the historical struggles of the Ethiopian Jewish community, this experience was a must have.

Oh how lucky we got with finding John!


We got back to the hotel recounting our many adventures (some of which we couldn’t list here) in time for our client meeting. We ended up having a 3 hour meeting with them and then a 3 hour strategy session which shed new light into how to proceed with our mission in Ethiopia. Tomorrow is a packed day and if things go well, a packed week full of work.

We can’t wait to meet up with John again!