- Where will we stay ?
In a Guest Home – a nice hotel that provides breakfast. (Similar to this) The rooms are spacious and comfortable. Two people usually share a room, and each room has its own bathroom. Wireless internet is usually available at the Guest Home.
- Is the hotel secure?
The rooms at the guest house are reasonably secure. We’ve never had anything stolen out of the rooms. But use the same precautions that you would use staying at a US hotel. Leave any priceless possessions at home.
- What will we eat?
Breakfast is usually eggs, toast, and coffee at the Guest Home. Lunch and Dinner are generally in restaurants, and a wide variety of food is available. Pizza and pasta is available at many restaurants! A wide variety of veggies, meat, and rice are generally on the menu, as well. We will eat at a “traditional” Ethiopian restaurant one night with the opportunity to try many ethnic foods. There will be traditional music and dance, and it will be very entertaining! But other than that, you can choose to try ethnic dishes at restaurants or to stick with more familiar fare.
- Is there anything I shouldn’t eat while I’m in country?
You should try to avoid the following foods: tap water or ice, anything uncooked, salads or unpeeled fruits or vegetables that have been washed in tap water. If in doubt, ask our CHC staff. They will keep us safe!
Don’t eat food the locals have prepared. (Except for coffee. That is ok and encouraged.) Eat only food from the guest house and the restaurants where CHC will take us.
- Is Ethiopia safe?
We have never felt unsafe while in Ethiopia. While the country has experienced some political unrest in recent months, things have settled down. Children’s HopeChest keeps a close eye on this and will not allow us to travel into a situation that they believe to be unsafe. While in-country we will be escorted by at least one employee of CHC at all times, and will often have multiple translators and other staff members with us. Our safety is their utmost priority. The Merkato neighborhood is a poverty-stricken slum area. Prostitution and drugs are rampant. It is certainly a place where you want to be aware of your surroundings and always stick close to the CHC employees, just as you would in an inner-city or “projects” area here in the US. But as this ministry has grown, people in the neighborhood now recognize us and welcome us. We are overjoyed to walk through the streets of Merkato now.
- What is the weather like?
The weather in the summertime is quite pleasant. The highs are usually around 75-80 degrees, and the nighttime lows are 55-65 degrees. The summer is the “rainy season,” and around 2:00 it will thunderstorm for an hour or so.
- Should I give money/food/clothes to people on the streets?
No. Don’t give money, food, or anything else to beggars on the street. It’s heartbreaking, but don’t do it. Really.
- What cultural norms should I be aware of?
Take coffee when it’s offered to you at a house or at the church. If you’re not a coffee drinker, take a couple of sips, but don’t feel like you have to finish it. It is a sign of hospitality, and they want you to have it. Coffee is a big part of Ethiopian culture.
Be prepared for long restaurant meals. A 2 hour lunch is not uncommon.
Stay flexible. Plans will definitely change.
FYI – many Ethiopian clocks are 6 hours off.