Yet, Ethiopia, in many ways, is a success story in how it is battling its poverty and inherent problems. As I begin writing this blog for Day 5, I consciously nurture a hope inside me: One day, and that day is not far, when my Pakistan gets a break from all this chaos, there shall be a new dawn. Often out of chaos comes order. I wait for that to happen. I wait for my Pakistan to be a success story too. InshaAllah.
Early in the morning, frantic knocks on the door by Kounila wake me up. I am hoping it’s a dream. But it’s not!! She is my wake-up call, at the marching orders of our leader for the day, Brenda, to wake up all the sleepy heads. I look at the time and decide I have about 7 more minutes I can stay huddled in the 4 blanket-layer that saved me from hypothermia on that cold night in Fiche.
A hurried get-ready session is fun, but I am missing my lazy-paced mornings back home in Karachi. Being a freelancer allows me these relaxations. In Karachi, my mornings will begin late, with my first cup of tea, and the second cup of tea and breakfast will follow much later, interspersed with flicking between tv channels and Facebooking, before I finally get down to writing.
After breakfast, we head off to the lodge where our other team members are staying. It is raining again. We are all humming along, enjoying the weather and the pristine landscape of Fiche.
The lodge, once we reach there, has a spectacular view. We overlook a gorge. A bit of downhill trekking on perilously muddy and slippery paths, and we see an old stone bridge (near the monastery of Debra Libanos), at the head of a gorge that cleaves its way through the plateau towards the distant Abai (Blue Nile) river. It is also called the “Portugese Bridge” and many believe it was built as early as the 16th century. The bridge is an impressive testimony to the masonry skills of that time.
Those moments we spent near that bridge seemed to stand still in time.
Beautiful silence. A treat for city-dwellers like me, who often do not have time to listen to even their own thoughts. Whose lives are a cacophony of sounds, sounds and more sounds. Amidst untouched nature, it was a detox moment for all of us.
We head back to Addis Ababa, and reach there in time that allows us half an hour before the next conference session begins. I swiftly inform my family via Skype that I am alive and kicking, as we had no way of staying in touch while we were in Fiche.
Me and Shai head for the dining area and excitedly order a “Green Thai Curry with Tofu and Steamed Rice”. They get us chicken instead, which I cannot eat! Shai also sacrifices eating the chicken for me. We both head for the conference. Tired, hungry, grouchy and crabby, me and Shai feel better after Charlotte graciously arranges that the mid-conference tea and snack break be pre-poned. After a couple of cups of tea and delicious little croissants and tuna sandwiches, our brains start to work again.
The session is very interesting: “Numbers in the Newsroom”. Debbie is the ace mathematician who is totally into it, and is having obvious fun giving us small math quizzes and tests, that help us practice how we can use data and statistics in a more audience-friendly way in our reports and features. That session taught us a whole lot.
I have announced to my friends that I am not going to any market or shopping. I need some “Me-Time” (which, I confess, is second to oxygen to me). Once I am more in my senses, me and Shai head to the restaurant and hungrily devour and finish a huge vegi pizza between the two of us, and head back to my room’s balcony for cup upon cup of tea in all varieties – Addis tea, flavoured tea, Pakistani Tapal tea. We discuss the varying yet similar dynamics of India and Pakistan – in our media, art, culture, family values, social norms, social taboos. We now know each other’s kids by heart. She narrates anecdotes of Bollywood happenings. I tell her all about how Pakistani women are improvising the shalwar kameez these days. We give each other lists of stuff I need from India and she needs from Pakistan.
Friendship – one of the greatest joys in life. No two ways about it.