Musings on life in Ethiopia for a middle aged IT professional...or "Dilbert goes to Africa"

I will be working on a major upgrade to the Budget and Expenditures application for the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance during most of 2009 (I have been in Ethiopia since October, 2008). What follows are some somewhat random thoughts about life on a new continent.

Send me comments or feedback at JohnJeunnette (at)

Obama and Lions
Today as I was walking into the office from the parking lot I heard a strange roar/bellow/grunt from outside the office compound. After thinking about it for a few seconds I realized it was one or more lions roaring in the Lion Zoo across the street. How many folks can say they hear lions roaring on the way to the office?

The Lion Zoo was created in late forties by Emperor Haile Selassie I. These days it is a collection of a dozen or so lions in cages. It is not as fancy as big city zoos but the unique thing, to me, is that the lions are right in your face. (There are missing sections of fencing in front of the bars so you could actually touch a lion if you REALLY wanted to and did not particularly care about keeping your arm). There are a few other animals, (monkeys and geese) but the lions are the stars. The day I was there the place was pretty busy. Families and couples just enjoying the afternoon watching the lions do their thing.

Lions are important in Ethiopian history because of the connections to the Jewish tribe of Judah. From Wikipedia:

Ethiopia's traditions, recorded and elaborated in a 13th century treatise, the "Kebre Negest", assert descent from a retinue of Israelites who returned with the Queen of Sheba from her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem, by whom she had conceived the Solomonic dynasty's founder, Menelik I. Both Christian and Jewish Ethiopian tradition has it that these immigrants were mostly of the Tribes of Dan and Judah; hence the Ge'ez motto Mo`a 'Anbessa Ze'imnegede Yihuda ("The Lion of the Tribe of Judah has conquered"), included among the titles of the Emperor (King of Kings) throughout the Solomonic Dynasty. It is unknown whether John of Patmos was directly aware of this hereditary title when he penned it into the text of the prophecy.

The Lion of Judah motif figured prominently on the old imperial flag, currency, stamps, etc. and may still be seen gracing the terrace of the capital as a national symbol. After the collapse of the Communist Derg in 1990 and the increase of Western-style political freedoms, a minor political party bearing the name Mo'a Anbessa made its appearance. For something completely different, yesterday was Inauguration Day for Barack Obama in Washington and someone here decided there should be an Inauguration Ball in Addis Ababa. There was an Italian connection, too, so the event was dubbed "Obama Mia". Go figure. Almost 300 folks gathered at the Italian Cultural Center for the inauguration ceremonies on CNN followed by dinner and dancing. A very enthusiastic crowd made it a lot of fun. One of the organizers even wrote a song that was sung by the entire audience led by a very talented quartet (kind of like Abba, get it?):

Obama Mia (to the tune of Mama Mia) by Hanna Gibson
Verse 1
We've been cheated by Bush since we don't know when
So we made up our minds it must come to an end
Look at us then, did we ever learn?
We don't know how, but we voted him in again,
must have been fools back then
>From Dire Dawa all the way to Yokahama
We cheered you on Mr Barack Obama
Oh oh

Obama Mia here we stand with you
My my how can we resist you?
Obama Mia does it really show?
My my just how much we love you

Those were the bad old days
This is the time for change
Barack can you make our dreams come true?

Obama Mia does it really show?
My my just how much we love you

Verse 2
We have lots of high hopes for a man like you
Where to make a start though we haven't a clue
Palestine and Guantanamo
World's a mess, I guess you see that now
There is hope within our souls
For Peace, Wall Street, and all those other noble goals
What a relief, to sing Hail to the new Chief

Oh oh
Repeat Chorus


Other Entries:
December 2009
   12/27/2009:   Snowboarding in Breckenridge
November 2009
   11/22/2009:   The Great Ethiopian Run, Take Two
   11/14/2009:   Mule
   11/01/2009:   DV2011
September 2009
   9/27/2009:   Meskel
July 2009
   7/31/2009:   People
   7/12/2009:   Traffic
May 2009
   5/03/2009:   Bubble wrap quest
April 2009
   4/18/2009:   Options: Electricity
March 2009
   3/22/2009:   Italian Connection
   3/01/2009:   Blue Donkeys
February 2009
   2/14/2009:   Eucalyptus Trees
January 2009
   1/31/2009:   Story
   1/25/2009:   Security
   1/13/2009:   Orienteering in Addis Ababa
   1/07/2009:   Merry Christmas and Goats
November 2008
   11/30/2008:   Ethiopian Road Construction
October 2008
   10/05/2008:   Ethiopia Introduction

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