submitted by Laura Belcher, Team Member of Team Ethiopia 2012 Having an incurable curiosity about people, history, cultures, and life in general, I could be a professional student for the rest of my days. Naturally, then, taking a trip to a foreign country, especially one as wonderful as Ethiopia, fuels my learning heart, soul and mind. If you interviewed my travel mates, hopefully they would be kind and simply describe me as a bit overeager.

Overeager, indeed. I’ve dived into absorbing as much as I can on this side of the trip. With my full-sized map of the country and my Amharic language CDs in hand, I’ve traced our journey and learned how to say “Hello, how are you?” and to pronounce the words “this” (ye) and “that” (ya). [Obviously, I have a bit more to learn in the language department☺] Currently, I’m reading a book about Ethiopian folktales and have especially enjoyed stories about Digit the Midget, the Wise Judge and the King’s Black Curtain. Next on my reading list is The History of Ethiopia by Harold Marcus.

Besides books, documentaries have been so helpful and interesting. In A Walk to Beautiful, I’ve traveled alongside a woman suffering with a fistula as she rides a bus 12 hours to Addis Ababa to receive healing treatment from a hospital dedicated to helping women with this horrible and embarrassing condition. In Omo: A Journey to the Primeval Age, I’ve rafted down the Omo River, encountering hippos and snakes and rapids, and met native Ethiopian tribes which have had no contact with the Western world. And in Black Gold, I’ve waited and hoped alongside a crowd of Ethiopian coffee farmers as they receive news about the recent price of coffee.

As I continue my “book learning” over the next few months, I anticipate the REAL learning experience of being in Addis and Dembi Dollo and at Lake Hora—the learning that will happen as I listen, see, smell, breathe and encounter the beautiful country and culture of Ethiopia and its amazing people.