First Chinese tram for Ethiopia completed

The first of 41 trams for Ethiopia rolled off the production line on Tuesday in Changchun, in northeastern China’s Jilin province. The tram will be put into service in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa where commuters only have a choice of buses or taxis at the moment, said Liu Gang, a manager with China CNR Changchun Railway Vehicles Company.

“We’re bringing about 50 Ethiopian drivers and maintenance workers here for training next month,” said Liu.

With a maximum speed of 70 km per hour, the white and green vehicle is designed to be impervious to ultraviolet light, since Addis Ababa has an altitude of 2,400 meters and the sun is exceptionally strong. Its windows block 90% of ultraviolet rays.

Outside South Africa, Africa’s urban rail transport networks are still in their infancy, providing immense opportunities for Chinese manufacturers. Light railways and tramcars are used in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Only Cairo and Algiers have subway systems.

Uncovering the Rock Churches of Lalibela in Northern Ethiopia

To view more photos and videos of the rock churches of northern Ethiopia, browse the #Lalibela hashtag and location page.

Nine hundred years ago, workers set out to construct a new holy city in the northern highlands of Ethiopia. Instead of building from the ground up, they began chiseling down into the red volcanic rock. Believed to be built with the assistance of angels working through the night, the 11 rock-hewn churches of Lalibela were carved into giant blocks of sandstone and connected through a series of tunnels, ceremonial passageways, drainage ditches and caves.

Today, Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s most holy cities and carries the nickname of “New Jerusalem.” It has been a pilgrimage site for Christians for centuries and continues to be a destination for worship and daily devotion for the priests, monks and orthodox Christians who comprise the town’s population. Tourists from around the world now also trek to Lalibela to marvel at its stunning architectural accomplishments. Though all of the original churches are still in active use, many of the structures are considered to be in critical condition as a result of water damage and seismic activity. UNESCO declared Lalibela a world-heritage site in 1978 and has organized support to restore the monuments. A number of the churches are now protected under temporary light-weight shelters.


So how do communities with limited electricity and running water in Ethiopia reduce infant mortality and dramatically improve newborn and maternal health? 

With a system designed by Ethiopians for Ethiopia, and a lot of amazingly dedicated health extension workers and volunteers. (The tier system is explained in the first picture.) I’m obviously no expert, but from what I could tell the nonprofit funding worked precisely because it was helping people execute their vision, rather than trying to impose a strategy upon them.

Today, I visited a health center and then a health outpost, a small structure with no electricity serving a community of around 5,000. The Outpost (picture two) was staffed by two women who can do everything from treat malaria to deliver babies. They have a detailed and systematic approach (those files in picture three contain information about every family in their area), but they rely on the volunteer Women’s Health Care Army to provide education, prenatal care, and family planning assistance, among many other things, to every family in the area.

It was fascinating to start my journey at a facility that can do Caesarean sections and then follow the health care system into individual residences, where a woman can talk directly to someone she trusts about prenatal vitamins, contraception, and breastfeeding. 

The health challenges here in Ethiopia are massive, obviously, but these volunteers are a big part of the reason that Ethiopia’s infant and maternal mortality rates are dropping so dramatically.

You’ll meet several of them in a forthcoming video, but I just wanted to share the amazingness of today’s experience.


Feeding Wild Hyenas in Harar, Ethiopia- a story of bravery by Elsh

1st picture-

Hyena man: so you’re gonna take this stick and put it in your mouth and I’ll put a strip of camel meat on it and the Hyena is basically gonna eat it from your mouth.

Elsh: ….wait what? Are you sure about this?.. it won’t see me as the better meal here?

Hyena man: no don’t worry you’ll be fine, I’m one of them, they know me.

4th picture-

Hyena man: You did really great but I’m gonna need you not to show your teeth like that again, they might take it as a sign of aggression and then I can’t really help you.

Elsh:  I had to pull my lips back cause I really thought she was gonna eat my face, but okay 

5th picture: 

*Hyena man breaks the stick in half so it’s shorter, and crowd goes “Ooooo”*

Hyena man: remember just be normal and she won’t hurt you

6-10th picture:

Hyena man gives me the entire basket of camel meat: here Elsh let her eat straight from the source

Elsh: I can’t believe I’m actually doing this…

Long story short before doing this I really thought I wouldn’t make it out alive but eventually I learned how calm and gentle these Hyenas were they would actually line up to eat and take turns, I did not expect them to be this big though I’m 6’1 205lbs and the alpha female made me look small. 


LEMLEM Pre-Fall 2014 Collection.

Modeled by Ajak Deng, the latest from Lemlem (a surprisingly affordable label, considering) can be describes as laid-back cool with subtle hints of masculinity that mixes breezy striped tunics, tie-dyed fabrics and loose chinos with classic unisex footwear.

Founded in 2007 by model, spokeswoman and entrepreneur Liya Kebede, Lemlem (which means ‘bloom’ or ‘flourish’ in Amharic) was born out of a need to inspire economic independence in Ethiopia and to preserve the art of weaving. Noticing that traditional weavers in her home country were losing their jobs due to a decline in demand for their art, Kebede established the label as a way of addressing this void and preserving an important part of Ethiopian history.

All items are handmade in Ethiopia from natural cotton.

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Earlier today, I met with several students at Addis Ababa University to discuss the opportunities and challenges they face in their academic and professional lives. 

One of the biggest challenges we have here on the Internet is hearing marginalized and underrepresented voices, especially those across the digital divide. You can’t amplify voices online that aren’t online.

While all of the young people I talked to used the Internet and most had regular access via a tablet, smartphone, or laptop, none had blogs or tumblrs or YouTube channels, and none had social network interactions with people outside their IRL social networks. I’m sure there are English-language tumblrs from Ethiopian students (although I haven’t been able to find any today), but almost all voices—even highly educated and privileged ones—from the world’s poorest countries go completely unheard online.

(And when we do hear them, it’s usually through an intermediary: videos edited by someone else, transcripts of interviews, etc. It’s not direct participation in the conversation by, for instance, posting to tumblr or reblogging HIMYM gifs. [The students I spoke to agreed that HIMYM is the best American show they have on TV, although a couple said that watching TV was a waste of time and a distraction from studying, to which I said HAVE YOU SEEN PHINEAS AND FERB BECAUSE IT IS TOTALLY EDUCATIONAL.])

Anyway, all of this is a long preamble to say: Earlier today I met with a 20-year-old law student who helped found an organization in Ethiopia devoted to empowering women and ending gender-based violence. (I’ll include her talking about her work in a video soon.)

The organization does fundraisers so the poorest women at the university can have access to contraception, and every year they have a Blood Drive for Mothers, where many students donate blood to combat maternal death. (Post-partum hemorrhaging is a too-common cause of death among Ethiopian women.)

We often think of global charity as people from rich countries giving money to people from poor countries. But the real story is much more complicated (and much more exciting!); we just don’t hear those stories often, because organizations like the one founded by the young woman I met don’t have YouTube videos or tumblrs.