Saturday, 30 August 2014

About street races and never ending electricity

Hey you

Imagine you are sitting at home, you’re watching an extremely exciting action movie (with many special effects obtained by FanoFx Productions, a project initiated by a YEEP-team. They plan to produce special effects for Ethiopian movies in cooperation with the film industry) and then – the electricity is gone in the worst possible moment.
That’s a problem a YEEP - group wants to solve in the future. They would like to achieve that people in rural areas are independent from the government and can produce their own electricity. They will offer two possibilities to do so, first, a biogas digester and second, the technology chemo hydropower. Both of them only need simple activities to work, like water or bio mass which is easily available everywhere. Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?

Now let me introduce the common mode of transport in Hawassa: the Bajaj (pronounce: Batschatsch. You may know them as “Tuk-Tuk”). It is a three-wheeled car (actually it doesn’t deserve to be called a “car”. It resembles more a can) where up to three guests find place. If you prefer a more comfortable ride, share the rear bench seat only with one other person otherwise you will – in fact – feel packed like sardines in a can. The Bajaj are coloured in blue and have no side doors which implies a windy and sometimes rainy ride. The drivers are addicted to street races, I noticed one evening. As a bigger group, we had to organise several Bajaj’ to go to the Haile Resort (a great hotel next to the lake). In the beginning, the drive was quite calm but suddenly he switched the gear and started to rush. We were pushed back in our seats. Despite huge puddles of mud, rather poor visibility and animals crossing the street, he drove like he was being chased by a hippo. We outran the first Bajaj and rushed on. The second one – check. Then we were outrun – the whole scene accompanied by shouting and exaggerated gestures of the drivers.

In case of an emergency (e.g. crashing into a goat) there will be soon an Emergency App called “EthioPanic” available for your mobile phone (until then, try to survive). This is a further business idea I’d like to write about. The Emergency App will be available for mobile phones. It will contain a panic-button which will directly connect you with the police, ambulance, etc. (or the vet – don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the goat?!).

Fortunately, we didn’t need any of those and arrived exhausted and – against our expectations – still alive in the Haile Resort.

Tomorrow more J

Keep smiling (it could be worse – you could be the goat),

Thursday, 28 August 2014

It's "Ranger-time"


Manipulated ATM – automats or fake credit cards are unfortunately not seldom in Ethiopia. Do you feel secure when withdrawing money only with a password? I’d like to introduce another business idea at this point: “Fingerprint banking system”. They want to provide a fingerprint banking system to all Ethiopian banks in order to reach a new level of security when withdrawing money in Ethiopia. Therefore, they want to add a fingerprint scanner to each ATM – automat so that one can only withdraw money with the card, the password AND fingerprint.

What if your card was hacked? First of all, shout “its Ranger-time!” (shouting has anyway a liberating effect) and have a ranger around the corner. The Power Rangers or what? – you may ask yourself.


I’m pleased to answer this question and illuminate you my friends. No, I didn’t think about turning into a Power Ranger (but feel free to do so). A ranger is a special way of preparing a coffee – in Switzerland also called “espresso macchiato”. But what gives the coffee the name is its one special effect as you can see below:

The milk froth is sprinkled with coffee dots which looks like camouflage (a real Ninja-coffee, I’m kind of jealous).

Coffee has a long tradition in Ethiopia, actually it was “invented” here. The name “coffee” comes from “Kaffa” the name of a province on the south-western side of Ethiopia. This region is the original home of the Arabica coffee.
So coffee is intrinsically tied to the country. That’s why, every time you feel like drinking coffee you’ll find a possibility as coffee shops are at every corner – like mushrooms this summer in Switzerland. Even along the street you’ll find women brewing coffee while sitting next to a tree, a banana selling point, a flock of sheep or wherever they find some space.

A few days ago we visited the “Fikir Coffee” (which means “Coffee of Love”, see also: a small coffee shop founded by two women (who’d expected that with this tough name?) two years ago. It’s lovely decor and wonderful hostesses invite the guest to stay. They prepare the coffee on a little platform in the traditional, Ethiopian way. First of all, the green coffee beans are roasted in a small pan over the fire, then the coffee gets grinded and finally brewed in a special carafe (it takes a loooong time – which taxes the Swiss (non-existing) patience. But it’s worth waiting – believe me.). Then the coffee is served in small cups with sugar (a lot of sugar – the coffee-sugar distribution is actually 50:50, so you’d better skip the dessert ;) ).

That’s it for today and guess what? It’s Ranger-time!!

Bye for now,

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Boat trip to hell

Hi everybody

Have you ever seen real live hippos only a few meters away?
They are quite impressive – and dangerous. Did you know that each year 2 900 people in Africa die in hippo-attacks?

Despite this fact, I and some others decided to take a boat and visit these killing-machines in the Lake Hawassa (also called Lake of Love – quite ironic if you know that death is lurking in the depths…). Anyway, we – as brave Swiss – couldn’t resist the opportunity to see these intimidating animals.
After a 30 minutes gentle cruise on the lake we spied the outline of a hippo. Then, a second one… Third one… fourth... Suddenly, we were surrounded – no way to escape. Then the first hippo attacked our boat! It rocked heavily and we desperately clang to the railing. Phu, by a hair could save ourself from landing in the dark brown lake. Then, a second hippo crashed into our boat – and it overturned. Plaaaatsch – the three of us dived into the water. The only thing I could think about was the shark movie “Open water” (although sharks are - according to experts - much less dangerous than hippos. A fact that didn’t really calmed me down). The hippos approached quickly and we screamed like hell. Fortunately, we’re all good swimmers. We saved ourselves on the shore – two seconds later we would have ended up as hippo-dinner…
Hahahaha, noooot. You almost believed it, right? Sorry to disappoint you guys, we had non-life-threatening moments with the hippos (although they are in fact Africa’s most dangerous animals along with mosquitos) and it wasn’t as adventurous as written above. Actually, we enjoyed the trip to the hippos, saw a baby-hippo and took a lot of pictures. And we had a safe trip back.
As usual, I’d like to introduce another business idea of one of our participating teams, called EthioPay. EthioPay is a platform that will facilitate e-commerce in Ethiopia. The platform will provide consumers and businesses the opportunity to buy, sell and auction items online by paying with airtime as the currency and using your mobile phone. Therefore, EthioPay will provide both a marketplace website and a mobile payment system. It’s a unique and innovative solution that addresses e-commerce and online financial transactions problems in Ethiopia.
Still disappointed about the (lame) hippo-story? If you’re interested in a real horror-story, please watch
Your hippo-whisperer,


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

About Ninjas and electronic devices


Are you open-minded?
If you – as a Swiss guy – come to Ethiopia, you’d better be. And you shouldn’t have problems with touching other people (even other men. Yes, other MEN.). If you become friends with an Ethiopian it’s common for men to hold hands, to hug or even kiss each other on the cheek.

Girls should be more restricted with it, as boys and girls are not allowed to touch each other in public. It seems that the University tries to avoid any contact by locating the girls and boys dormitories each on another side of the campus in order to have as much space as possible between the two building complex’. Girls are not allowed to visit boys in their dormitories and vice versa otherwise they get into troubles. On Sunday evening I was on a personal tour with some Swiss and Ethiopian guys and they showed me the huge campus. I felt like a shining light in the dark as I was one of the only girls on the campus and for sure the only white girl, so I tried to look like a guy by hiding my hair (I felt like a Ninja when walking across the street) Despite camouflage-clothing I was still discovered. Suddenly, we were surrounded by many guys who were staring at me while I was passing so I wasn’t as invisible as I thought (hrmpf). I guess it’s now the topic number one: a white girl crossing the campus on Sunday’s evening (and guys, don’t even try telling me that guys aren’t gossiping).

Now some facts about our start-up week. It started on Monday and I think it’s time to inform you about some of the business ideas. First of all I’d like to introduce “I got Devices” (IGD).
IGD is an online platform on which sellers and buyers of electronic products find one another. In Ethiopia buyers often don’t find suitable suppliers, which poses a problem. That’s when IGD becomes active. Suppliers can present their electronic devices online and place furthermore their advertisements on the website of IGD in order to find buyers. IGD consult the potential buyers about products from different suppliers and calculates a commission on purchases. What makes IGD better than other platforms? It’s innovative, dynamic and motivated. The young IGD-team is interested in continually presenting new attractive suppliers and to advise buyers adequately during their searching process.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Don’t hesitate and have a quick look on the first draft version of IGD’s website:

Tomorrow more. I’m now going to work on my Ninja-abilities.

No goodbye today, as Ninjas just disappear.

Monday, 25 August 2014

"Rachel - moments"

Hi there!

After a short night at the United Pension in Addis Abeba (we arrived at 2 a.m.) we had breakfast at the restaurant next to the guesthouse. If you ever go to Ethiopia, try Fetira with honey for breakfast – it’s simply delicious! Ehtiopians are tough when it comes to the choice of meal for breakfast. One ordered Firfir – a national dish with Injera, vegetables and meat which we Swiss often eat for lunch or dinner (as generally our stomachs are not geared for spicy stuff and that’s why, Immodium and Carboleveur (yeast tablets) become your best friends during such a trip) and another one ate a pizza at 9 o clock in the morning. Really impressive (really).

Then it was time for me and the YEEP committee to head to Hawassa where the start-up week takes place. The others stayed another night in Addis to visit the Merkato (good luck with that guys ;) ) and do some sightseeing. It took about 6 hours to get to Hawassa and it was definitely an adventure. We weren’t alone on the street. Not at all. We shared the street not only with other cars, trucks and walkers, but also with dogs, donkeys, horses, cows and goats and whatever felt like crossing the street. The thing is, I would drive rather slowly in order to avoid hitting anyone or anything but not so our driver. He drove up to 120 km/h – even through villages. No mercy. My suggestion: Don’t look at the street, enjoy the beautiful nature because otherwise you get terrified of what happens outside your car. Let me introduce Rachel at this point. She’s in the YEEP team too and was with us on the trip last August when we first visited Ethiopia. Unfortunately, she’s not here this year. She loves animals (really all kind of animals). For her, the trip from Addis to Hawassa equalled a descent into hell. She was screaming whenever a puppy or a goat or whatever crossed the street and almost “met” our car. Sometimes the space between an animal on the street and the side of our car was – lets say – rather tight. But we never hit any animal (our driver was extremely talented). When we drove the road to Hawassa this year we had again those so-called “Rachel-moments” where we almost hit a donkey or a goat standing on the street like it would be the most normal thing in the world. Imagine: you are sitting in the back of a minibus, staring at the street where a goat is approaching faster and faster. You start estimating the space between the approaching animal and your car. You realize that – if the animal survives -  then by a hair. In the last moment you close your eyes in order to avoid seeing the inescapable. You expect to hear a “booom” and then some other not very nice sounds from the animal spinning around the left car wheel. But nothing happens and you feel happy for the next few minutes (actually seconds) until another animal appears on the street… 
We had both shocking and surprising moments, but also a lot of “wow moments” for example the second we caught sight of the sunset at 6 p.m. It was breath-taking. There is something with Ethiopia and sunsets – it looks much more impressive than in Switzerland. Last year I took a photo from the sunset at the Lake Hawassa. Simply amazing:

Watching the sunset let us forget all the troubles and “Rachel moments” for a while and we just enjoyed the beautiful view while we were approaching the Campus of the Hawassa University.
A huge “thank you” to the driver – in my view it’s god-given to drive on such crowded streets without killing something…

Thursday, 21 August 2014

About green beans and Roger Federer

Hi guys

It’s me again.
So now it’s time to balance accounts with the Swiss. We are (according to culture theories) success-oriented and timetable-addicted. This means we love competitions and everything has to be like planned before. We generally don’t like unexpected things. That’s exactly what I realised before.

I was sitting on the plane heading to Qatar and it was served a meal for lunch: Coconut curry with tomato rice and different vegetables like carrots, onions, spinach and green beans. I love green beans. I was in the process of eating one of them when I noticed that this one was quite hard to bite. I swallowed anyway. A mistake. A huge mistake. Suddenly, my mouth, my throat and my stomach burned like hell (sorry for the word choice but there is no other word to describe the feeling). Everything burned and my eyes started watering like crazy. That was the moment when I realized that it was not an innocent, little green bean. It was the devil itself – a green chili. I desperately tried to survive but it wasn’t as easy as I thought. I had a window seat, next to me a little boy (later more about him). Seconds before I lost my consciousness (okaaay, I’m exaggerating. A little.) I found a little basket with Philadelphia which was served with bread.

Back to my neighbour. May I introduce you to the little Korean boy next to me? He was only staring at me like I was an Alien while I was gasping for breath. He looked like he would eat a bowl of those chili for breakfast. And do you know what the scariest thing about him was? He left the cheesecake. I mean, which child eats chili and doesn’t even touch the cheesecake?!
Strange kid.

On my connecting flight from Doha to Addis Abeba I was sitting next to an Ethiopian who started to chat with me. We had a nice talk and when he found out that I was Swiss, he shouted: “I know a Swiss!” His face started to beam with joy. “Roger Federer, do you know him?” Is he kidding me? Of course I know him – I’m Swiss. Okay not personally, but anyway. We talked about his last match in America (to be honest: I hadn’t the faintest idea about his last performance) where he played a fantastic game (of course he did).

Anyway, if you work with a stereotyped Swiss, try to be on time and stick to the planned actions (and don’t put green chili instead of green beans in a meal as a surprise. S/he will thank you for it.) And learn something about Roger Federer, he’s our national pride.

Your survivor,



Monday, 18 August 2014

Ethiopian culture or “to feed or to be fed”

Hi guys
Hope you’re fine there?

I’m trying to find an amazing, breath-taking and fabulous teambuilding activity which will take place on Sunday before the official part of the start-up week begins. It should consider the different cultures of the students. While I was thinking about different activities a question came up: what actually IS culture?

I was thinking about it for a long time (truly too long, I was getting insane. Hmm, okay, for those of you who know me, I was kind of crazy before... xD ) Sorry, back to topic. Culture. A huge part of my bachelor thesis (yes, I graduated this year – you can extend your congratulations to me later) was about culture and what it is all about. I was talking to many people about what culture was for them and I got as many different answers during these interviews. Some of them said it was the behavior while others assumed it means values and someone else thought it is the educational background of every single person. One of my interview partners was convinced that we cannot define culture. And I’m with him ‘cause culture has many different aspects and I’m certain that there are in fact thousands of different cultures in the world.

Okay, this fact makes my task rather difficult. To avoid dropping a brick I’ll refer to some theoretical culture theories from Hofstede and Trompenaars & Hampden – Turner (clever minds – believe me). When I was comparing the Swiss and Ethiopian culture I found out that we are not as different as you may expect (in theory of course. Meeting and working with people from other cultures is always a different kettle of fish). One of the biggest differences you must consider when working with a stereotyped Ethiopian is that family and friends have a very high significance (Swiss are different – we hate our fellowmen. Just kidding ;) ). Within a work team the success of a certain project is not as important as the developing relationship between the team members. Have this in mind. Then the factor of time is not the same as in Switzerland. Not at all. In Ethiopia time is more flexible. I was in Ethiopia one year ago and it was rainy season – unfortunately for a timetable-addicted Swiss. This not because it was wet and muddy, no, the reason for it was that if it started raining all the Ethiopians were looking for shelter so that they did not get wet. Actually quite comprehensible but this also means that they’re waiting there until it stops raining even if they miss a deadline, the bus or a meeting with the president.

I know, you all are desperately waiting on the explanation of the post title. To feed or to be fed. Okay, this is meant literally. To feed somebody with your right hand is the highest level of showing respect in Ethiopia. So, if someone tries to feed you let it happen – it’s a huge honour. It’s as simple as it sounds (okay, not that simple, ‘cause you shouldn’t touch the feeding hand with your lips. No. Just don’t do it.).

To choose the right team building activity we also need to look at the Swiss culture. You have to be patient my friends ‘cause this will be the topic of my next post.

Over and out, Ari