I think Ethiopia is mocking me. This is the second time I've had a meeting on an Ethiopian bike project where I've had to bike down to the meeting place in close to zero degrees when it's over eighty degrees in Ethiopia itself. It pains me to sit bundled up in layers here in Madison, talking about such an amazing country, when I can't even get their food here anymore (the closest Ethiopian restaurant is now in Milwaukee).
Today, at our fourth meeting, we shifted gears--literally and figuratively. We went from a focus on making the rickshaws (bajaj in Ethiopia) human powered with electric assist, to a goal of getting a bike share program started for the universities in both Hawassa and Bahir Dar. This is so exciting for me! I love bike share programs and feel by hitting the younger population, we could possibly make a lasting change in the choice of transportation in Ethiopia.
A small group of five sat down at a table in Redamte. Jonathan Patz, Maggie Grabow, Selam Abeshawit, Joe Sensenbrenner, and I talked about everything from becoming a sister city to both Hawassa and Bahir Dar to marketing strategies. Ideas were flying left and right and I found myself wanting to be on a plane to Hawassa at that very moment. I can't tell you how much I would love to explore these cities by bike. Both seem so foreign to me, and I feel like a kid when I think of sharing my passion with those who call Ethiopia home. What gets me even more excited is learning about their culture and the basic daily life of a student in one of the two cities.
Stay tuned. In the next few months, Jason Vargo and Selam Abeshawit from the Global Health Institute, will both be taking another trip to Ethiopia to do research for this project. I'll be sharing their findings and will hopefully be getting a plane ticket to go as well. Until then, following the Ethiopian Cycling Federation will have to do.