The following is a story about dating an Ethiopian man. Names and some details have been changed to protect the innocent/guilty.
Once upon a time, there was a woman traveler named Jojo. Jojo was a single woman who had been around the world a few times but always looking for her next adventure. Jojo had met Heidi, a European woman, on a traveler companion site on the internet and they agreed to travel to southern Ethiopia together.
The two women caught the bus to Arba Minch, the major city in the south. The bus stop was chaos. People lining up to grab bags, several tuk tuk taxi drivers trying to coax tourists and locals alike into their rides. The girls were waiting patiently as Jojo was approached by an Ethiopian man named Alex. Alex offered his guiding services and agreed to show them a budget hotel nearby and tell them what they could do on a tour. He seemed nice and knowledgeable, so the girls agreed to hire him for the next four days.
The next day, Jojo and Heidi met Alex at the appointed time and got in a huge van with a driver named Getu. Jojo hopped into the front seat and noticed Getu right away. Over the day she noticed how quiet and shy he was but his smile and laugh melted her heart.
They spent the day driving to the Omo Valley and stopped to photograph animals and people. They stopped at a market with beautiful Hamar people that maintain their incredible customs. They continued to drive to Turmi, a small town of a few hundred people that served as a commercial center for many Hamar tribes. They checked into 4 rooms at a little guesthouse with cement block rooms and an outhouse.
They all went for dinner and Alex led a lively conversation. When he suggested going barhopping, Jojo and Heidi jumped at the chance to check out the Saturday night nightlife of this little town. They drank beers and danced. Jojo noticed Getu shake his head “no” when a gorgeous Ethiopian woman asked him to dance. Later it dawned on her that this might have been a prostitute.
The four dancers decided to check out another bar so Getu and Jojo set off to the next bar. As they walked quietly down the middle of the wide main street, Getu took Jojo’s hand. Jojo was surprised but didn’t take her hand away. They walked a bit farther and turned around to see if Alex and Heidi were going to join them when Getu leaned over and gave Jojo a kiss. The kiss was magic – standing in the middle of the wide gravel road with the dark sky sparkling with stars and a chorus of frogs chirping all around them. From this moment, Getu and Jojo would be inseparable… Jojo started dating an Ethiopian man.
Getu was upfront about a couple things. One is that he had an 8-year old son. Another is that he had a girlfriend for 3 years, but she had been living in Italy and was not moving back to Ethiopia so he said that they were breaking up.
The next two days were a flurry of activity – visiting tribes and markets throughout the Omo Valley, and enjoying great meals, company, and nightlife. Heidi and Jojo were having such a fun time, they agreed to extend their fun tour to eight days, traveling to the markets, villages and game parks of the Omo Valley.
They returned to Arba Minch and Jojo contemplated her next move. With the tour over, she bought a bus ticket for the day after tomorrow and prepared to spend her last day with Getu. The guys took the ladies to the disco that night and Jojo danced with Getu, swaying and singing the words of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and meaning every word. Getu taught Jojo how to dance Tigray style (a style practiced in northeast Ethiopia) and they were all smiles as they shrugged their shoulders to the beat of the Tigrayan music. Later that night, Getu said “I love you” for the first time, and Jojo learned the Amharic words “ewadi sha-low” meaning “I love you”.
The next day, Getu and Alex offered to take the women for a relaxing day at the park, so they bought some wine and honey wine and headed to the lake. The lake was busy on Sunday – lots of locals go there to drink beers and chew khat, a mild drug. They were pleasantly surprised to see a wedding party arrive and the guys told the girls about wedding customs. All four were sad they were parting ways the next day – Jojo was heading to the far northwest to meet friends in a few days and Heidi was on her way to the northeast of Ethiopia. Jojo went to the bush to find a toilet and when she returned, Alex, Heidi, and Getu had devised a plan – Jojo would stay in Arba Minch and ride around with Getu as he drove van for the next few days – this would allow him to work and her to spend more time with him. Jojo agreed to stay, as her friends weren’t going to arrive for several days.
Later that afternoon, Getu had to pick up some laundry so he took Jojo to his family home. He introduced Jojo to his mother and explained that his father was on a business trip to Addis Ababa.
Getu and Jojo met with Heidi and Alex for their last night. There were lots of tears that night – Jojo said goodbye to Heidi with hopes they would meet again.
Jojo met Getu the next morning thinking they would be driving back to Jinka with a van full of locals but he suggested a different idea – they would head north to Hawassa. Hawassa was a lakeside city and Getu had previously lived there when he was playing football. Getu had previously told Jojo that his father was the owner of the van so there was no problem for him to take it for a few days.
Getu picked up a bunch of Ethiopian tourists in Arba Minch as Jojo occupied the front seat and they headed to Hawassa. It was pouring rain when they arrived in Hawassa, but the next four days were sunny bliss. The next four days would also be some of the most romantic days of Jojo’s life. They spent the days walking around town and sitting by the lake enjoying the wildlife. One morning he took her to the fish market. At night, they would go to the lake for sunset. Getu introduced Jojo as his wife everywhere they visited, and she didn’t mind. Jojo thought the Ethiopian women were so pretty and she commented “konjo”, the word she had learned for “beautiful”. Getu looked her in the eyes and said “you konjo” and gave her a delicate kiss.
They spent much time talking about their lives and looking pictures of their family and friends on their Facebook accounts. They spent time talking about their future – maybe Jojo could move to Ethiopia and live in this lovely city of Hawassa. They made tentative plans for Jojo to return in April for Ethiopian Easter and to celebrate both of their birthdays as they were only 8 days apart.
Sadly, it soon was time to say goodbye. Jojo needed to meet some friends in a northern city for some touring around the northern circuit of Ethiopia. Getu drove her to the airport. The goodbye was difficult. Jojo cried very hard but she entered the airport hoping to see him again. The security guard was concerned by her teary eyes, but Jojo convinced her she was OK.
Jojo spent a couple weeks traveling around the north with her friends but called Getu daily and missed him dearly. She mentioned him to a few Ethiopians, such as guesthouse owners and guides and they often asked “Are you sure he’s not married?” Apparently, it is not common for a 37-year old Ethiopian Man to be single.
Jojo wanted to see him again before she left. The airfare tickets to return to Arba Minch were expensive and would only allow her another day with him when she got a great idea – he could take the bus up to Addis Ababa for her last two days in Ethiopia. He said yes immediately when she suggested the idea and she was elated.
So, they enjoyed two more days together and she introduced him to her friends from home. Saying goodbye a second time was easier but she still felt sad leaving Ethiopia and Getu behind and heading to Djibouti for another week of vacation before going home.
He called her and left a message the night she arrived home. He had purchased a smart phone, so they could use messenger and call. His previous phone was a cheapie with no wi-fi features. She started looking at airfare to Ethiopia for April because she was determined to see her love again. She was Googling things like “Dating an Ethiopian Man” and “Marrying an Ethiopian Man”. Most of the info she found online was about dating and marrying Ethiopian women.
What do you think? Should Jojo have seen any red flags?
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