Ethiopia, september 2018
In Ethiopia, so the story goes,
a cyclist is the target for children throwing stones,
a traveler is exposed to the verbal violence of being given names,
a visitor will be asked -and demanded- for money,
countless times a day.
In Ethiopia, so my story goes,
all the hassle with people,
will feel like a burden on your way.
Traveling in Ethiopia is not easy.
Traveling in Ethiopia by bike,
is probably the hardest and toughest thing I’ve ever done.
When you are surrounded by so many people,
but yet you feel recognized or acknowledged
by nearly none.
And I could tell you the stories of all those bad encounters on our way…
I could tell you about that time that we were surrounded by boys threatening us,
while hitting our bicycles with their sticks, yelling at us ‘give me that’ and ‘give me this!’.
I could tell you about the impact of cycling in a surrounding where a request is no longer a question but a demand.
When a woman in a very remote village with 12 children by her side, just looks at you and opens her hand.
I could tell you about that first time that the rock really hit my back,
and how I, filled with unbelief, tried to fight them back.
I could tell you how even the girls were no longer by my side,
as they started giggling and laughing, and then got themselves a stone ready to start a fight.
I could tell you about the times that we had problems finding ourselves a place to stay,
how we ended cycling in the dark after men of the village had told us to go away!
I could tell you about all the times people did help us or pretended to be our friend,
but demanded our money in the end.
O yes, I could write a book about all those encounters on my way,
but that will not be the story of today.
Today I want to write for you what it FELT like to be a traveler in Ethiopia on a bike,
and it FELT like a broken heart,
yes, a bad heartache
is what it felt like.
“A BROKEN HEART IN ETHIOPIA”
I was only twenty-one years old as my whole world had just fallen apart,
as my very first love decided without any question or consideration,
to leave this world that used to be ‘ours’
and so he left me with a broken heart.
Raised with the words that those who work hard have their own fate in their hands,
I found myself:
I had just gained a very valuable lesson about the fragility of life,
as I faced the limits of our ability to determine our own destiny,
on this very intense and confusing ride.
It’s the very hard lesson of letting go,
that dearest person
that you once, so well,
used to know.
And here in Ethiopia,
years away from that very first heartache,
cycling reminds me of that intense sadness and that intense pain,
confronted with the fact
that everything is going to be different
and nothing will remain the same.
And don’t ask me why,
as nobody knows,
why traveling in Ethiopia
goes the way it goes.
Three years long I road this bicycle around the world
carried on a pink cloud,
by the love and goodness of the people around.
But here in Etiopia I fell down
in a extremely hard reality,
where doors no longer opened for us
and hospitality gave way to hostility.
Cycling Ethiopia went along with the experience of confusion and pain.
For the very first time of my journey,
I felt like an outsider,
and that’s a feeling that goes beyond being foreign.
But wait, tell me honestly, wasn’t it beautiful?
Oh yes, it was
but just like any other heartache would be
the pain made it
hard to see.
It would only take me three more months before my eyes slowly opened up,
‘was it really thàt bad in Ethiopia?’
is what I thought…
All things go,
even heartaches do.