Ethiopia Travel Diaries: A Week in the Field with OMPT

Curious what life is like for OMPT staff during a Video Education Workshop? Kristin shared her account of life in Ethiopia for a week while training students at Arba Minch University on creating videos for mother and infant health and nutrition.

Monday, July 8

Participants writing their first storyboards!

Participants writing their first storyboards!

7 a.m.

Every morning I wake up and respond to emails from the previous day. Because of the time difference, the U.S. workday occurs while I am sleeping. 

8 a.m.

Typically, we eat breakfast at the hotel. The hotel breakfast includes American breakfast as well as traditional breakfast items. There is always coffee, though. I usually have coffee and eggs. I have noticed that breakfast is more of a hearty meal than I am used to. 

Warthog aka dinosaur

Warthog aka dinosaur

9 a.m.-12:00 noon: Lectures!

12:00 noon

For lunch, OMPT staff headed back to the hotel. We were escorted by a driver from the university. To our surprise, the workshop participants requested a two-hour lunch break, which is typical in Ethiopia. 

2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

The beginning of the day was mostly lecturing, so the participants were excited to begin writing their scripts and storyboards. By the end of the day, two scripts had been completed and they were ready to begin shooting video the next day.

6:00 p.m.

I saw a warthog on campus, similar to the deer in the US. One of the workshop participants referred to the warthog as a dinosaur. Evidently, the English translation for the Amharic word for warthog is “dinosaur!”

Tuesday, July 9

7 a.m.

Because of jet lag, I woke up at 2 a.m., so I had plenty of time to respond to emails. 

8 a.m.

Breakfast! Fasting firfir.

Breakfast! Fasting firfir.

By 7 a.m. I was ready for breakfast, and I found one of my favorite Ethiopian dishes for breakfast: fasting firfir, which is the traditional bread “injera” soaked in spices. 

9 a.m.-12:00 noon

The group I was working with decided to film their video in the student health clinic on campus, and we then traveled to a village close to the university. While the participants were filming their video in the village, I caught a glimpse of two girls making the traditional drink of Ethiopia in their home. It is made from corn and requires kneading a dough, adding liquid and then setting it to ferment for two days. The whole process takes five days. Although it is a drink, it is a good source and calories and nutrition. 

Eat a traditional lunch with participants of the workshop.

Eat a traditional lunch with participants of the workshop.

12:00 noon

Lunch was good. Once again, we were transported to the hotel via driver. As we were departing the hotel back to the university, I saw what I thought was a human running through the bushes, then I thought it was a very large dog. As it turned out, it was a large baboon. 

2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

First, Executive Director, Matt York, did a lecture about important editing techniques. These are the key pointers on creating quality video. Then, I did a demonstration of how to use the video-editing software.

6:00 p.m.

I ate pasta for dinner. Nothing exciting--I was very tired!

Wednesday, July 10

7 a.m.

I got a reasonable amount of sleep and woke up refreshed!

8 a.m.

Dinner with Eshetu and Ezekial

Dinner with Eshetu and Ezekial

I had breakfast at the hotel and drank coffee and ate toast with honey. There were multiple types of honey available, which was surprising. I think honey is widely produced in Ethiopia. 

9 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.

Editing! A few people were slow to the process but once it was installed on their computers, they were off! The participants were split into two groups, each responsible for a video. One participant managed to create and edit his own solo video, which was exciting.

6:00 p.m.

We were shown the local culture by Eshetu and Ezekiel, coordinators of the Video Education Workshop. We went to a local restaurant where traditional dancing was popular. Although we were the only people in the restaurant because it was Wednesday, our hosts showed off their dance moves. Also, Eshetu provided a tour of his home. 

Thursday, July 11

9 a.m.-12:00 noon

Pop quiz! I provided a demo of how to attach the projector and camera to the solar panel and a motor scooter battery for recharging. Participants had to demonstrate if they could remember how to put the equipment kits together in the proper assembly! The good thing is that OMPT kits are very user-friendly and able to easily be used in the field, so our groups had no problem.

Crocodiles!

Crocodiles!

12:00 noon

During the two-hour lunch break that became the norm, our hosts took us to the crocodile ranch of the town. There were over 3000 crocodiles, mostly babies. The ranch provided both an income for Ethiopia (by selling crocodile skins) and conservation by saving crocodiles. I have never seen a crocodile run, so it was exciting!

2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

We completed editing and discussed how the group would disseminate their videos in the rural communities using the mobile projectors. 

6:00 p.m.

Prepared to leave the next day and packed. Dinner was a buffet at the hotel which was exciting because we were tired of eating the same thing every night. The standard hotel had a limited menu. 

Friday, July 12

7 a.m.

Woke up and spoke to family in California. We found out our flight scheduled for departure at 1:35 pm, was changed to depart at 1 pm. Eek!

8 a.m.

Last day in Arba Minch! I ate as much honey as possible.

Traditional scarves in Arba Minch colors

Traditional scarves in Arba Minch colors

9 a.m.-12:00 noon

For the conclusion of the workshop, we watched the finished videos! The participants gave Matt and I gifts: we each received a scarf and coffee beans. The scarves had traditional Ethiopian--and more specifically Arba Minch--colors and patterns. In the US when you buy coffee, it is already roasted. It is hard to find coffee available for purchase that is not roasted. In Ethiopia, it is the opposite. You can only buy coffee unroasted; therefore, the beans I received are unroasted. I do not know how to roast coffee, but I will learn. 

12:00 noon

We traveled directly to the airport in Arba Minch, which is very small. I also learned that you must pay a minimal fee as a driver to enter the airport and drop off your passengers. On the way to the airport, we had to wait for some baboons to cross the road. 

1:00 p.m.

Flight to Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia!

3:00 p.m.

A driver from Digital Green picked Matt and me up from the airport. We then went to the hotel to drop off our bags and proceeded directly to Digital Green office for a meeting. The meeting went very well. We are hoping to help set up a supply chain for projectors in Ethiopia, complete with a warranty service center, because the Ministry of Agriculture is planning to buy thousands of projectors for agricultural development. 

6:00 p.m.

The country director of Digital Green took us to dinner near the hotel. We ate traditional food and tasted honey wine. Historically, honey wine was the drink of royalty in Ethiopia but is now commonly available for anyone. 

Saturday, July 13

7 a.m.

Woke up in Addis! 

Traditional Ethiopian meal

Traditional Ethiopian meal

9 a.m.

A Digital Green staff member picked us up, and we traveled to our first meeting. We went to an electronics repair shop to assess their capacity to fix and provide maintenance for mobile projectors to satisfy the warranty. 

10 a.m.

We then proceeded to an electronics supplier and certified Canon vendor. The man we met with coordinated electronics shipment from Dubai. 

11 a.m.

Lastly, we met with another electronics supplier who worked with NGOs. He also managed electronics shipments from Dubai. He then took us to his repair person. In collaboration with his repair person, we dissected a projector to ensure that he was able to provide basic service to the equipment. 

6:00

We met with a local video trainer based in Addis that we had previously worked with on a project in Ethiopia. He brought his friends and we enjoyed lively conversation!