From the Media Capital, to the Global Ethiopian Community
Wednesday October 27th 2021

My Ethiopian Journey, 19 Years Later… (Continued)

Click Here For Part I

By: Bilen Muleta

I missed my mother (I haven’t been away from home for more than a week, and it’s never been this far, so that was especially hard.)  I know, I’m 30-years-old and this shouldn’t be an issue, but it is.  My traveling partners would complain about how much money I spent on phone cards.  (A little obsessive?  Maybe, but it was worth every penny.)  I felt better after talking to her.

During my trip, I observed that people in Ethiopia tend to not be straightforward, which is very frustrating.  Not that I don’t speak Amharic, I do but I couldn’t understand why you can’t say what you mean.

Example: we went to a hotel by the beach and asked the front desk if there were rooms available.  First, let me tell you that there was nobody there at the time because it was the middle of the week and people only come after Friday.  So, the personnel told us he would have to call the office in the city to see if there were rooms available.  OK, really?  What kind of backward system is that?  So, I told my sister loudly, “If they don’t have rooms then we’ll just go somewhere else, no big deal.”  That’s when my sister threw one of those looks at me.  I closed my mouth, stepped outside and let her deal with it.

The guy knew we were from the States and was trying to hustle us, but my sister knows how to handle these situations.  She got us rooms for the next two days.  That’s when I started to feel out of place.

It was very disappointing because if I don’t belong in Ethiopia and I don’t really belong in the U.S., then what is there for me?

For the first week I had to try to get that American mentality out of my system.  I had to understand that the customer is NOT always right and you have to know how to read between the lines.  You can’t get an attitude and expect to get what you want; you had to adjust to the culture.

During my trip, it became hard not to mix English with Amharic.  I didn’t want people to think that I was being rude or too americanized.  The funny thing is, when I’m in the U.S. one of my problems is trying not to add Amharic in with my English.  I’ve always had pride in the fact that after growing up in the U.S., I’ve kept my culture, my language and the little things that I thought make you Ethiopian.  But when I reached Ethiopia, I had to re-evaluate what that meant.

Rediscovering Ethiopia

After going through these three different emotions I told myself again, get over it! This is who you are, you already went through this in the U.S., and you don’t need to go through it here.  This is your birthplace, your home, your people, and if you don’t stop stressing about things then you are going to miss out on this whole trip.  So that’s what I did.

By the end of the second week I got over it and that’s when I fell in love with Ethiopia.

I fell in love with Ethiopia despite people knowing you are from the U.S. and trying to hustle you, despite the unbalanced life situations between the rich and poor, despite people talking about how hard it is to find a job, and despite the government offices having ridicules systems and procedures.  I saw her Beauty!

The faith that everybody holds is truly amazing and inspiring.  People who have less than I do were happy, loving and real.  You ask them how they deal with certain things, like everything being so expensive, not being able to freely voice your opinion about certain things without fear and all they would say is Egziabhere Yakele (God knows) or Egziabeher Yemesgen (praise God).

When it was time to end this life changing journey, I was sad.  I didn’t want to leave.  The day we left the house was full of family and friends who came to say their goodbyes.

I packed my bags, weighed them and started heading towards the car.  The entire time I was fine up until I got in the car.  I tried very hard to keep those tears hidden behind my smile but they fought their way.

And so we said goodbye to everyone and prepared ourselves to return back to reality.  I would have liked to stay a little longer but it was nice to come home and see my mother.

I enjoyed my trip to Ethiopia: my birthplace, my home, my past, and my future.  From listening to young, talented musicians at Wube Berha and seeing Eyob Mekonnen perform at Farengheit to having someone bring a jug of water, soap and towel to our table.  From sipping macchiato in the car and having books, CD’s, DVD’s and calling cards sold to us right there.  I loved it all.

Before I even thought about going to Ethiopia, when asked if I could ever move back to Ethiopia and live there, I used to say, “Nah’, Man! What would I do there?  There’s no way!”

By the end of my trip, I asked myself that same question and the answer was, Yes, I can definitely see myself living here. Of course, I would have to find a good job first.  But it’s definitely possible…

Egziabehere Yakale.

Bilen Muleta was born in Addis Ababa and emigrated to the United States in 1991. She currently resides in Virginia.

Realated Articles
Two Decades Later…The Long-Awaited Journey Back to Ethiopia (Part 1)

Reader Feedback

14 Responses to “My Ethiopian Journey, 19 Years Later… (Continued)”

  1. […] but because of my homesickness and issues I experienced with communicating to my own people… Continue // […]

  2. yhm says:

    Good Job and it was wonderful article, I am proud of you. I Left the country in similar situation back in 1980 and have not been back thank you for taking the time to post such a wonderful journey. It is very inspiring for us

  3. Asfaw says:

    Hi Bilen
    I just read the whole what you write My Ethiopian Journey, 19 Years Later and i feel good for your way of expiration what you see and even some times i was going to cry too, when i read your feeling, actually i don’t have traveling experience.
    Any ways when you have free times come and see your country this is where you belong.

  4. […] In the mornings we would wake up and drink fresh coffee and sit on the front porch.  Since the house was gated, we had privacy.  I forgot how nice it was to have a gate and Privacy!  After coffee, we were ready to go to town.  My first thought was, wow, I am amongst my people. But like I’ve been told before leaving the U.S., it really did take me two weeks to get used to the country.  Not because of the reasons they gave me which included sights of poverty and horrendous traffic but because of my homesickness and issues I experienced with communicating to my own people… Continue […]

  5. Kiros Girmay says:

    Visiting your country is good even all not well and balanced. However, before you leave for good you need to know that the government involves on your daily life (unless you are a visitor). If you have your own business they are there, if you drive the government is there. You want to buy or build a house they are everywhere. Can you handle that? If your answer is yes then good luck to go back and live for good.

  6. metitia says:


    My friend, I am in tears.Such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing your experience. I have witnessed your kind and generous heart. And wherever you choose to call home, there will always be family and friends there to love you!

    Many Blessings

  7. Bruk Fisseha says:

    such a beautiful story….

  8. Abay says:

    Brought to tears – wonderful article! Written beautifully and well expressed – Would there be more? I really hope so!

  9. Bruck Tadesse says:

    Selam Bilen,

    I read your article with tears in my eyes, I am glad that you have enjoyed you trip and I hope that you will get the chance to go back, work and live as you wished. It is my strong believe that one day we all go back, share our joys and sadness and live in closeness. I wish your m.. were with you.


  10. Guelila says:

    Mittie! I CRIED reading this article!!! It touched me to the core. I am so glad you finally got to see Ethiopia through a different lens…. one thing I couldn’t get over was the same fact you stated …”People who have less than I do were happy, loving and real.” <— they know the real beauty of life. & didn't you just LOVE having macchiatos in the car? LOL

  11. hilu says:

    It is good what you wrote. I am in Atlanta currently live in Savahanna Ga.
    Why you did not say any thing about the development?
    Why you did not say any thing about the change what you see?
    Put something on it other wise you wrote it very very nicely.
    Good Job.
    N.B I will go soon there and I want to see the change.

  12. negest says:

    What a beautiful story written obviously by a talented young woman. I was very moved by your expressions of your feelings from start to finish and I had to cry the “good cry”. I am so glad you had the courage to go and rediscover your home. I am sure the trip took “a load off of your back” and gave you an emotional strength. I hope you know you spoke for many who couldn’t tell it the way you did. So thank you for that! I hope to read some more articles written by you because you write beautifully. Best of luck to you.

  13. emebet says:

    Hi mettiye
    I read your article with tears in my eyes .I’m so happy that you have such beautiful experience with a lot of love. you put a color to your life when you can.I always love u little one. I need more .thank you for sharing
    ante Emebet

  14. Beth Lemma says:

    Wow! This was so moving and simply beautiful!

    There probably isn’t anything more freeing than visiting your past, unlocking memories, and moving on with hope and clarity. That’s when you’re truly your own.

    I don’t usually find many articles that keep me glued till the very last sentence – this was one of those few ones.

    I’m just wondering why we don’t have a book by Bilen Muleta.

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