Actual date: March 27

Shashemene is home of the Rastas, and probably my least favorite town in Ethiopia despite my hairstyle. I’ve only been there twice, but I always leave with a bad taste in my mouth.

This time, every person I met tried to rip me off. Every person wanted extra money for something. The boy who showed me and my friend Liz (who is traveling to Nairobi with me) to a hotel claimed that paying him ¼ of the hotel price was a “rule.” The bus ride that left Shashemene at 5am the following day was equally as sour. We were tired, hungry, and feeling sick in the back of the bus. The driver tried to charge us extra for our bags simply because we were Firenge. I got in an argument with him, refused to pay, and got off the bus in Arba Minch with a low faith in the character of mankind and their treatment of foreigners. I understand that I often must pay more than the locals because I obviously have more money, but I hate being excessively taken advantage of simply because of my skin color. Being white in Africa often means feeling like people only want to talk to me for my (non-existent) wealth or my American passport.

But then the day took a turn for the better. Liz and I were taking a taxi into town in Arba Minch, when we were approached by a local university student named Denekew who wanted to interview us for his thesis on “English as a means of communication”. He seemed nice enough, and we could sympathize with the work that goes into writing a thesis, so we agreed to be interviewed.

Denekew and Liz

Denekew and Liz

We treated him to tea while he questioned us. Afterwards, we said that we were going to wander through the hills, and he asked to join us because he enjoyed our conversations. When we returned to town, he fought for our bus tickets to Jinka, our next destination (note that buying bus tickets in this country requires pushing and fighting). Then, I had mentioned that I wanted a couple Ethiopian music CDs, and he offered to buy them for me because he gets better prices than Firenge do. He wanted nothing in return for his kindness and helpfulness – knowing that we appreciated his help and enjoying our company was more than enough. He even came on our bus the following day at 5am to say goodbye.

At times, standing out like a white girl in Africa can be draining and makes me want to hide from all other people. Yet it is people like Denekew in the world who restore my faith in humanity and make all the traveling worthwhile.