ONEMoms in Ethiopia: Arrival and First Impressions

ONEMoms: Airport pickup
Photo credit: ONE/Karen Walrond

After two days of flying (and five hours of flight delays), we've arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. How strange and wonderful it was to feel the jet wheels touch down in Africa. My context-addled, jet-lagged brain isn't processing much at the moment, so I'll share a few impressions that have whizzed by in the last 48 hours.

Noting the "individually dimmable windows" on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner we flew nonstop from Washington, DC to Ethiopia.

Sitting behind a woman who wore a leather jacket, an elaborate hat, and fancy dangling earrings on the entire twelve-hour Transatlantic flight.

Flying over the green crops and hilly farmland surrounding Addis Ababa (the city's elevation is over 7500 feet).

Standing behind a woman in passport control who was clothed in black robes, and who had the whitest smile I have ever seen.

The smell of spices and woodsmoke as I left the airport lobby.

Billboards throughout the city expressing condolences on the recent passing of Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi.

Busy city streets shared by cars, buses, motorcycles, pedestrians and livestock.

Neon-lit restaraunts with tin shack shops nearby.

Pulsing, rhythmic music, and dancing like I've never seen (all shoulders and knees and hips and arms).

Spicy kifto (a ground beef dish); smoky, herbal incense; sweet, floral honey wine.

The ONE staff has put together a thoughtful, detailed itinerary which takes us into Addis and beyond. Starting tomorrow I'll share these site visits with you along with pictures by our official photographer, Karen Walrond. For more first impressions of Ethiopia, visit Mom-101, Boston Mamas and Design Mom.

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I’m in Ethiopia as an expense-paid guest of the ONE Campaign. We'll report how lives are being improved or saved by American-supported programs. ONE is a non-partisan organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease by pressing governments to keep their commitments to supporting programs that save lives. ONE doesn’t ask for your money, just your voice.

The idea behind the ONEMoms partnership is simple: the connection we share as parents extends around the world. When we recognize that connection and come together, we can make real change.

By joining ONE, you add your voice to millions who want to make a difference in the fight against poverty. ONE will never ask for donations and will keep your contact details confidential. I hope you'll join.

Follow along with ONEMoms happenings on the ONEMoms website, Twitter (search for the hashtag #ONEMoms) and Facebook.

More: Posts about ONEMoms


  1. Leslee says

    You’re half a world away, yet your blog keeps us close. Enjoy this incredible experience! <3!

  2. says

    Oh, how lovely to see these comments!

    Julie: I just found out today that the incense is actually frankincense and myrrh…you know, of the old Christmas tale? It’s this smoky, herbal, spicy smell, sort of like sage + cinnamon + nutmeg + mesquite.

  3. Dawit says

    What a great idea to reach out and touch people accross the continent. Of course, the signs about the death of the dictator is misleading because he is the source of the misery that is besseting the people, as he has micromanaged every aspect of the economy and their political life. He pitted Ethiopians using tribe and religion in order to stay in power, as well chokcing them politically and economically.

    Ethiopia is a beautiful and a rich country, it is the lack of governance, democracy and the prevalence of dictatorship that is sapping their will to innovate and survive.

    Overall, congratulation and thank you.

  4. Asha Dornfest says

    Dawit! (Is this the Dawit I met at dinner?) Thanks for your comment…yet another indication that during our visit I barely scratched the surface of what’s happening (and what has happened) in Ethiopian politics. Apologies if my first impressions came off as ignorant. Frankly, they are, and I’m not saying that to scold myself…it’s simply a fact. One of the things that became clear about my travels is that I know so very little. I really appreciate hearing your opinion.