“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimension “. Oliver Wendell
One of my traveling experiences that stretched my mind and had a tremendous impact on my life was a trip to Ethiopia ‘s capital Addis Ababa in 2003.
The story was featured in the Oprah, O magazine, (October 2006)
“I was winging my way to Ethiopia more than 15 years ago where I would spend six days in Addis Ababa. I did not bother to leave my hotel room when I arrived because I thought there would be nothing much to see in Ethiopia. I looked out of the window and all I could see were a lot of shacks around. On my fourth day, one of the hotel staff offered to show me around. I was hesitant about letting a stranger be my tour guide, but something in me sensed his sincerity. So, I agreed. The next day he took me around town, markets and while we were seating at a makeshift restaurant, I noticed that despite his surrounding, he continued to speak with such pride about his beautiful country.
I was baffled, here in a land beset with strife, all he saw was a beauty. Slowly I began to see the place through his eyes. The people treated me with such care and the hospitality enormously generous. When the bill came for our drinks, I offered to pay because I assumed that he would not be able to. Instead, my host insisted that I was a guest in his country, I should put away my money and allow him to take care of me. I was completely humbled by his graciousness. I got back to my hotel room, sat on my bed, and thought of what I had seen that day. I was generally dissatisfied with my life and for a long time, I had been trying to get my Pilot license. My approach to life and country was quite negative and I complained often.
Yet that day I met a man with much less than I had, but all he saw was a beauty. When I returned to Johannesburg, I related my experience to my friends and family and realized that my entire mindset had been altered. I started listening more attentively to those around me and myself. I wanted to make more of my life and to speak with pride about what I saw around me and my country. I started sending out a letter requesting sponsorship to complete my Pilot license. Within two weeks I had received a positive response from the South African Police Services (SAPS) offering me an opportunity to train as a Pilot. I still think about my gracious Ethiopian host. I had doubted his motives, although I thought It was just an ordinary trip at the time, it turned out to have had an extraordinary impact in life “.
In 2005 I qualified as the first black female Helicopter Pilot in South Africa and for the South African Police Services (SAPS).
Ubuntu: “I Am Because You Are”
In Africa we have a word, you might have heard it, Ubuntu. It is a multi-layered philosophy that carries with it a great deal of weight for those of us lucky enough to call Africa home. Generally, Ubuntu is translated into English as “I am because we are”. It talks to the bond we share as human beings, the necessity of supporting one another, of sharing, and lifting as we rise.
Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela gave an example when he said “A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or water. Once he stops, the people give him food and entertain him” That is one aspect of Ubuntu.
An act of Ubuntu by one man and the hospitality of his country had a tremendous impact on my life and shifted my mindset. From that trip, I learned that it is much more than the place. It is also the people we come across that leave a mark in our lives. Ethiopia has changed from what it was when I first visited, and I cannot wait to go back and enjoy the warm hospitality of the Ethiopian People again.
Hotel staff that offered to show me around (These men had a tremendous impact in my life).
Driving around in Ethiopia.
Market in Ethiopia.
Sheraton Hotel Addis Abbaba.