Before It’s Too Late: A day with the hippos in Hawassa

My countdown began the day I set foot in Ethiopia, but the end is finally starting to feel real. Which made me realize – there are still things I haven’t done here.

You could live in one country your entire life and still not do everything there is to do. But after 26 months in Ethiopia, I want to be able to say I did everything I wanted to do.

Which is why Chandler and I got up on Sunday and after a late breakfast with some fellow Peace Corps and VSO volunteers, we met up with some friends for a boat ride to see the hippos.

Now this trip isn’t exactly cheap when you’re getting paid in the local currency, but it’s something you can easily save up for. That’s my excuse as to why it didn’t happen during my first two years in Ethiopia: cost. But when a friend and her family were going and invited us along, I realized my chance had finally come.

After waiting for about half an hour down by the water, our boat arrived. My friend, her husband, their two kids, Chandler and I all pulled our life jackets on and hopped aboard. Another 15-20 minutes later and we had crossed Lake Hawassa and were in hippo territory.

I quickly realized going out to see the hippos can be a bit anti-climatic, because you only see the tops of their heads. But the scenery, as well as imagining their size beneath the water, was incredible.


As scenic as the ride out there was, the highlight of my morning was the trip back to shore. Our driver let the Iris take the “wheel,” which only reminded me of boat rides with my grandfather when I was little.


But the true star of day was Gus. He’d pretend to be a turtle and hide inside his life jacket, only coming up once someone asked the magic question, “Where’d you go?” and he had a chance to sing “Pop Goes the Weasel.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard that song so many times.


All in all, it was a lovely day. And made me realize I need to figure out if there’s anything else I still want to do before I leave here. Because once I step on that plane, the chances of me coming back anytime soon are pretty much non-existent. I’ll be off on my next adventure…

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