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Surprise! I’m in Ethiopia

June 18, 2012

In case you thought I had fallen off the end of the earth these past couple of months, I haven’t. But I tried.  And I made it as far as Ethiopia.

My original plan of spending the summer back in Canada regrouping and focusing on writing quickly went the way of the dodo when an opportunity came my way to volunteer with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ethiopia. For my friends and colleagues in Toronto this should come as no surprise. When I could no longer hold back destiny and decided to make a go of international law, when I made the decision that I had to do something else with my life (at least for awhile), the something else I pictured in my mind was working refugees in Ethiopia.

A night of traditional dancing in Addis Ababa.

By my final months of work in Toronto I became borderline obsessed with all things Ethiopian. I had long decided this would be my next big adventure. During long nights at the office I would chat with our cleaner Wafi, wishing the language barrier didn’t keep her from telling me about life at home in Ethiopia. My good friend LVS and I read, and consequently fell in love with, the novel Sweetness in the Belly, partially set in the Muslim city of Harar, Ethiopia. And soon I was convincing everyone to come to dinner with me at Ethiopia House…some willingly…some only to humour me.  And not for the first time in my life, found myself inspired by the antics of Ewan McGregor and his best mate Charley Borman, this time as they rode their motorbikes through Ethiopia in the Long Way Down.

And before I knew it I was swept up in all things Habesha and utterly ready for my next big adventure.

Happy to finally be in Ethiopia. My first traditional meal out with my host Lisa.

So almost two years on, as ready as I was to be in Canada for the summer, this chance seemed to have been written in the stars. The timing was perfect, it was with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and most importantly, it was Ethiopia. There could be no more perfect way to round out my first 2 years as an international lawyer (except maybe if it were paid…but let’s not get carried away now, does anyone actually get paid to do international law?).

So here I am, working with the Resettlement Unit at the UNHCR in Addis Ababa. Resettlement means the people are already recognized as refugees here in Ethiopia and are hoping to be “resettled” to another country. The bulk of my work involves conducting initial resettlement interviews with hopeful refugees, analyzing whether they are candidates for resettlement and then preparing an analysis and recommendation to be sent to the powers that be. I will also be conducting various types of interviews with an aim to assessing the best interests of the child, a legal framework that was developed in international law but has since been adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada in cases affecting children’s rights in Canada. My day-to-day work also involves shorter interviews and telephone conversations answering questions the refugees may have or more often, just listening to their worries. From the intensity of the interviews of my first couple weeks it seems I will likely gain a few years of experience in a few short months.

So here I am, ready for a very meaningful summer.  Oh, and hopefully an adventure or two along the way!

Ladies and Gentlemen, please start your engines and switch gears from South America to East Africa.

Not a great shot, but foreshadowing of some great dancing pics to come.

Busy Saturday night at Yod Abyssinia, a traditional, if not touristy, restaurant in Addis.

Stay tuned!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Alanna permalink
    June 18, 2012 6:52 pm

    Glad to hear it is going so well! Sorry we missed each other on Skype the other day!

    • June 19, 2012 12:51 am

      Speaking of that, since then it has now been outlawed in Ethiopia, punishable by 15 yrs prison…needless to say please provide updates via facebook : )

  2. Lindsay permalink
    June 18, 2012 7:47 pm

    Glad to see you are following your dreams!

  3. December 25, 2015 9:47 am

    Excellent article. I certainly love this website.
    Keep it up!

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