Bleg: n. An entry in a blog requesting information or contributions. (via Wiktionary)
Finals are over, and I just have a few things to finish up before moving to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on June 1. I’ll be there for almost eight months, working as a monitoring and evaluation intern on a large health project; this work will fulfill internship requirements for my MPA and MSPH degrees, and then I’ll have just one semester left at Princeton before graduating. After two years of “book-learning” I’m quite excited to apply what I’ve been learning a bit.
One thing I learned from doing (too many?) short stints abroad is that it’s easy to show up with good intentions and get in the way; I’m hopeful that eight months is long enough that I can be a net benefit to the team I’ll be working with, rather than a drain as I get up to speed. I plan to get an Amharic tutor after I arrive — unfortunately I figured out my internship recently enough that I wasn’t able to plan ahead and study the language before going.
I’m especially excited to live in Ethiopia. I have not been before — this will be my first visit to East Africa / the Horn of Africa at all. I’ll mostly be in Addis, but should also spend some time in rural areas where the project is being implemented. I’ve already talked with several friends who briefly lived in Addis to get tips on what to read, what to do, who to meet, and what to pack. That said I’m always open for more suggestions.
So, I’ll share what I’ve already, or definitely plan to read, and let you help fill in the gaps. Do you have book recommendations? Web or blog links? RSS suggestions? What-to-eat (or not eat) tips? Here’s what I’ve dug up so far:
- Owen Barder has several informative pages on living and working in Ethiopia here.
- Chris Blattman’s post on What to Read About Ethiopia has lots of tips, some of which I draw on below. His advice for working in a developing country is also helpful, along with lists of what to pack (parts one and two), though they’re obviously not tailored to life in Addis. Blattman also links to Stefan Dercon’s page with extensive readings on Ethiopian agriculture, and helpfully organizes relevant posts under tags, including posts tagged Ethiopia.
- As for a general history, I’ve started Harold Marcus’ academic History of Ethiopia, and it’s good so far.
- Books that have gotten multiple recommendations from friends — and thus got bumped to the top of my list — include The Emperor, Cutting for Stone, Chains of Heaven, and The Sign and the Seal. Other books I’ve seen mentioned here and there include Sweetness in the Belly, Waugh in Abyssinia, Notes from the Hyena’s Belly, Scoop, and A Year in the Death of Africa. If you rave about one of these enough it might move higher up the priority list. But I’m sure there are others worth reading too.
- For regular information flow I have a Google Alert for Ethiopia, the RSS feed for AllAfrica.com’s Ethiopia page, and two blogs found so far: Addis Journal and Expat in Addis. (Blog recommendations welcome, especially more by Ethiopians.) There’s also a Google group called Addis Diplo List.
- One of my favorite novels is The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears — the story of an Ethiopian immigrant in Washington, DC’s Logan Circle neighborhood in the 1980s. It’s as much about gentrification as it is about the immigrant experience, and I first read it as a new arrival in DC’s Petworth neighborhood — which is in some ways at a similar ‘stage’ of gentrification to Logan Circle in the 80s.
- I’ve started How to Work in Someone Else’s Country, which is aimed more at short-term consultants but has been helpful so far.
- Also not specific to Ethiopia, but I’m finally getting around to reading the much-recommended Anti-Politics Machine, on the development industry in Lesotho, and it seems relevant.
Let me know what I’ve missed in the comments. And happy 200th blog post to me.
(Note: links to books are Amazon Affiliates links, which means I get a tiny cut of the sales value if you buy something after clicking a link.)