Yesterday, on my nightly walk, I decided to switch things up and go toward the opposite end of town. (Gettin’ wild and crazy over here, I know.) What I failed to realize, was how my routine was related to everyone else’s routine. This new end of town was not use to the farenji walking aimlessly toward the villiage. “You! Where are you go!?” they called out. Vehicals stopped to offer me rides. Kids came running from every direction yelling, “Farenji!”
To a degree, you get this everywhere you go in Ethiopia. But I had gone on enough walks through the other end of town to essentially bore them with my presence. People there usually greet me by name and then go on their way. This new influx of attention was overwhelming and a little stressful. Not exactly what I set out for on a leisurely evening walk. I noticed my mind immediatley recoiling, ‘big mistake.. you should have gone the other way.. big mistake.’
Then a quote (from Abe Lincoln) came to mind: “I do not like that man, I must get to know him better.”
This situation wasn’t about a particular person, but it was about a reaction. I felt uncomfortable and my immediate reaction was to retreat. What I should do, and what I’ve been doing since I got here, is think about why it makes me uncomfortable. When you learn the reasons behind it, you can get yourself to face it and eventually overcome it. I know that the added attention I get makes me feel like an outsider here. But the only way to get past that is to keep walking, and keep putting myself out there. Eventually they’ll stop seeing me as an outsider, or else I’ll get use to the attention. Either way, I won’t be letting the discomfort limit me. So tonight, I’ll go for a walk that way again…and teach some kids my name on the way.