Final farewell to Ethiopia

Well, the moment has come to say goodbye.

The trip, location, people, tastes, sounds, thoughts, moods were all wonderful. I enjoyed very much the Ethiopian everyday life and I got an insight into those places where you are allowed to enter as tourists.

This was an opportunity which we will not get twice in our life. That is why I have embraced it, and thus got a lifetime of memories for myself.

I am grateful for this journey to the organization of UNICEF, IKEA Foundation, and IKEA, who deliver the program together. In addition, I would like to thank István Bolyky, my colleague in Budapest, who provided the maximum assistance in the preparation for the trip, and to Petra Cempirkova, who organised all of the travel preparation. I could always turn to them for help,they were always willing to help me.

In this trip the most of the help was offered by Katrina Crew, Digital Content Manager from the IKEA Foundation, and she was “our mother”.

Eternal gratitude to Indrias Getachew, who organized all of the programs and provided a wide range of information. His great attitude made our days more enjoyable.

Similarly, a lot of gratitude and thanks to the UNICEF drivers, especially Solomon, because he was a sort of bodyguard when we went out in the night, and he always had a good mood, creating a great atmosphere during the time we spent in the car on our trip.

And now let’s look a little summary from our experiences:

What was unique, interesting, different from the usual for us?

    • In Ethiopia it is still only 2004, according to their calendar. It was good to be 8 years younger again for a week 🙂
    • Young people move only their shoulders when they dance to modern Ethiopian music, but it is incredibly fast and impressive. They smiled when we tried to do it.
    • Coffee is always filled to overflowing the cup.
    • When they drink coffee, they light incense, thus elevating the mood of the moment.
    • The local residents carry grain, with their bags and dishes on the top of their heads; they do not carry it in their hands.
    • The boys on street corners clean people’s shoes, who ask for this service.
A boy shines shoes in Ethiopia
© Sara Szabo


    • In paintings, if a person only has one eye, that person is bad; people with both eyes are good.
    • There are many poor people wearing a medal with the image of Maria Theresa on their neck, which is worn with great respect. The coin also serves as a means of payment, as it is silver.
A girl wears a Maria Theresa necklace
© Sara Szabo
    • If you touch a certain product at the street stalls you are no longer allowed to leave without the merchandise. If the price is not suitable for you, and you want to leave, the seller will go after you and begin to negotiate until you buy the goods at the right price, which is suitable for both of you.
    • There is carpet on the floor only in the kindergarten we saw. The kids have to take off their shoes, so the shoes are lined up outside the “group room”. Otherwise the room was empty, we could not see any other games or equipment in it.
Kids shoes
© Sara Szabo
    • At pedestrian crossings on the road cars have priority. If pedestrians are using pedestrian crossings, cars use their horn and drive in front of pedestrians.
    • Traffic lamps are rare there; a policeman directs traffic at critical crossroads.
    • Taxis are blue and white painted Lada cars in Addis Ababa. The locals say these are very strong, only they possess traction on a gravel road.
Addis Ababa taxi
© Sara Szabo

What was admirable?

    • The respect with which the children listened to their teachers during lessons. There was not any shouting or quarrels.
    • A lot of smiling, bright-eyed children
    • Their friendly manner. Almost everyone smiled and waved at us.
    • People work hard, and show strength.
    • Their attitude to work. There are very high poverty levels, but the Ethiopian people are hard workers. I took a photo from the airplane above to see a lot of cultivated plots.
Cultivated land
© Sara Szabo
  • A lot of eucalyptus trees, with their wonderful healing effect
  • Drivers watch out for humans and animals on the sides of the road. They can use the car horn in order to warn them to keep off lest they get hurt.
  • Their culture and monuments that are centuries old shine in glory. (Some buildings have not been restored, and they are still amazing).

What fills me with regret?

  • The poor lack of equipment at school
  • Many children have no shoes on their feet
  • The lack of basic hygiene (toilet, hand washing) for most schools, restaurants
  • Even with UNICEF’s help many don’t have learning opportunities
Kids feet
© Sara Szabo

That’s why I would like to finally ask everyone who has an opportunity to help during the IKEA Soft Toy campaign before Christmastime to promote children’s education, because after each soft toy is sold, the IKEA Foundation gives one euro to UNICEF or Save the Children, who spend the money on those improvements which we described in our previous blogs.

    Sára Szabó