Children are curious worldwide, and Ethiopian kids are no exception. A prospective, especially non-African visitor to this old land knows beforehand that he will be the focus of attention for any Ethiopian, and even more for the youngsters of the country. Especially outside the capital Addis Ababa, foreigners are not very common, even less foreigners not travelling on a group tour. We knew this before we arrived in Ethiopia, and had had our share of attention in many other countries. Still, the crazy whirl of kids constantly following us almost everywhere throughout the country was surprising.
Certainly, there are gradations throughout the country. In various places, we were mostly treated as curiosities, with kids staring at our skin, hair, complexion and in general, way of talking, behaving and moving around. Kids were sweet, giggled and pointed at us, would use their limited English vocabulary on you with a soft, shy voice, trying to hold your hand, bewildered at these creatures so different, from an entirely different world and a way of life they could probably only imagine from pictures on TV. In the countryside, we met shepherds with a remarkable knowledge of English, very smart, very open towards foreigners, and also very determined to make something of their future. In some cases, it was hard to say goodbye to the kids when it was time to go - several times, we fantasized about taking them home simply because they were adorable.
But there were also extremely annoying kids that sometimes managed to spoil our experience. Usually, upon spotting us, they would come running towards us shouting "birr", "money", "pen", or "faranji" - birr being the national currency, faranji the Amharic word for foreigner. Often they would be offended because we did not give them anything. In any case, they were very persistent, and trying to say "no" in a polite way almost never had any effect, some were outrightly stubborn in pursuing us. There were smart kids who offered something to sell, which we gladly encouraged by buying from them, but the majority gave us the impression of seeing us as a money tree. On a bike tour and several times on the bus the kids would actually throw stones at us, but that seemed to stem more from boredom than any direct physical aggression. Still, our relation to Ethiopian kids was mixed - but their appearance was beautiful.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Ethiopian kids (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Ethiopian kids.
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