By Dr Sanneta Myrie, Miss Jamaica World 2015
12 March 2016
It took a 9 hour flight from New York to Turkey then another 5 hours from Turkey to Addis Ababa. Including the layover time, it was more than 17 hours travelling, but when we arrived at the New Flower it was all worth it. Addis Ababa means “new flower” in Amharic. We deplaned at 2am and the sleeping giant of a city awaited us beyond the doors.
Braving the Ethiopian chill of the early morning and the prospects of only 3 hours of sleep before we would begin our morning, we stacked our luggage on top of two cabs and headed to our hotel as we planned for our long day in the town of Shashamane.
By the time we started to make our way to Shashamane our party of four grew to a party of nine as we welcomed the volunteers of the Shashamane Sunrise Ethiopia. I also seized the opportunity to invite my Miss World 2015 sister Miss World Ethiopia, Kisanet Teklehaimanot and what a happy reunion it was.
The drive from Addis Ababa to Shashamane was a total of 5 hours and along the way I filled my eyes with the beautiful sights Ethiopia. I witnessed the simple life of some of the most beautiful people in the world.
When we arrived at the JRDC School in Shashamane we were greeted by members of the Shashamane Community who acted as the patrons for the school. I would later learn that some members of the community had settled in Shashamane over 40 years ago after the Land Grant by Ethiopian Regent Haile Selassie I.
Kisanet (Miss World Ethiopia) and I then toured the classrooms and introduced ourselves to the students, sitting with them and getting involved in conversation with Kisanet translating when needed. It was a process both us and the children were enjoying and we found it difficult to pull away to facilitate the start the official handing over ceremony of a new multifunctional printer and one year supply of toner to the school. The new office equipment was funded by Britannica Holdings and Alton C Brown.
The handing over ceremony was a jubilant gathering of patrons, teachers, students and Shashamane volunteers. We all expressed our appreciation and gratitude for being a part of the project and being accommodated for this special occasion.
It was then time for a late lunch at Bolt House, a restaurant operated by Sister Joan of the repatriate community, named in honor of the Jamaican sprint legend, Usain Bolt. There, Jamaican Rastafarian brothers and sisters shared with us their stories of settling in Shashamane and witnessing the change and growth seen in both the community and school itself. It was a beautiful look back in history and ended my first day in the promised land of Shashamane.
The following day, we made our way back to the JRDC School for a morning workshop series with the 8th graders, who we found already gathered and anxiously waiting to see what we had in store. When they heard my workshop would be dance all the boys as if on cue exchanged concerned glances and began comparing it to athletics and photography. I rushed to promise them that it would be an exciting class in Jamaican reggae dance which they happily accepted.
I worked with three groups of 10 students for 20 minutes each and by then they were all smiling and on a high. The Jamaican Reggae Dance did the trick and the workshops were well received. My objectives to engage these Ethiopian youths in new cultural issues and activities to broaden their horizons were achieved. We closed the workshops with lunch and prize giving awarding the students for their active participation in the workshops.
In the afternoon, we were taken on an eye-opening tour Shashamane, walking the paths of the Rastafarian and Jamaican settlers and soaking in more stories of their journey to the mother land. It was amazing to see the impact they have made on the native Ethiopians – many of which spoke the Jamaican language with almost perfect accent.
On our final day in Shashamane we decided to do some sightseeing of neighboring towns. We saw the vast beauty of Lake Awasa in the middle of the Ethiopian Rift Valley and took a long detoxing steam bath at Wondo Genet. We also visited one of the palaces of HIM Emperor Haile Selassie.
One of the most memorable sights on this trip to Ethiopia was that of the amazing bronze statue of Bob Marley erected in Addis Ababa at a roundabout in the Gerji area, named after the Jamaican reggae legend himself.
By day four, we were packing back into our bus for the trip back to Addis Abba. We made our way to the airport for our flight onto Kenya but not before sharing a traditional meal of authentic injera and participating in an Ethiopian coffee ceremony with members of the Shashamane Sunrise Ethiopia Team.
To find out more information about Shashamane Sunrise and how you can help, please visit their website, http://shashusa.org or http://shashethiopia.org