A friend in a sea of enemies: Traveling in Ethiopia

Ok, so other volunteers can back me up on this: traveling in Ethiopia can be a nightmare. Your typical minibus has seats for 12 people, but usually crams on a minimum of 18…on an average day.

Well, this week I went to Yirgalem for a day trip to spend some time with a fellow volunteer and I had the pleasure of being one of 25 on my bus. But luckily, I had a seat. And not only a seat, an outside seat.

I was in a row for two, which can often mean three or four (it definitely did for the other rows on my bus), but when I sit on the outside, I refuse to scoot over. I paid for this seat, why should I share it? The bus drivers over pack the buses, charging everyone the full fee, and they think I should make room? I don’t think so.

You may think this sounds selfish of me, but I would gladly share my seat if I could then split the cost of it. But that’s not the case, so I don’t share. Which usually means I’m no ones favourite during those bus rides. But my ride back from Yirgalem was different.

Sharing my row was an elderly woman, probably in her 60s. Usually, women aren’t given a lot of respect and she’d be crammed into one of the seats…or worse, sitting on the floor. But with me on the outside, she also had a seat all to herself. So this trip, while everyone else glared at me, she was my co-conspirator, sneaking me secret smiles. A friend in a sea of enemies. We were riding in style – or as much style as you can find on a minibus crammed full with 25 people.

We didn’t share many words, but she did give me a wink and a pat on the arm as we got off the bus together in Hawassa. So like I said, you may think I’m selfish, but hey, it helped me make a new friend : )

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