As many of you will know, I’m half Ethiopian. But only on a technicality as I’ve only been there once, I've never met my Ethiopian father, nor have I had anything else to do with the country or its people.
But late last year I had an extraordinary double dose of Ethiopian serendipity. The first came when I bumped into an old friend and former colleague who was a leading expert on Ethiopia and Madagascar in the UK. We quickly ended up agreeing to work together, and fast forward a few months Far and Wild now has launched Madagascar and Ethiopia programmes that are among the most comprehensive in the UK
So I was pleased!! Maybe, just maybe, a journey to greater ‘Ethiopian-ness’ was about to begin. But I was in for a rude awakening… it was about to be fast-tracked!!
Shortly afterwards came the second helping of serendipity. It arrived via an email entitled “For the eyes of Ben Morison only”. Yes... I know what you’re thinking... the late aunt of a Nigerian King had bequeathed me 20 million dollars... I started reading the first line and simultaneously reached for my mouse to go for the ‘right click / delete’. Luckily by the time I’d got hold of it - I’d read;
“My name is ****, and l am your half sister on your Ethiopian father's side. I have waited many years to write these few words and l hope that they will bring you as much joy reading them as l have in writing them”
… the rest of the email revealed not only that it was true... I did indeed have a half sister who was a few years older than me, and had lived in London most of her adult life... but also that our father - Kifle Selassie Beseat - was alive and well and living in Paris. WOW !
A meeting in London with my sister soon followed, and then shortly after - a rendezvous in Paris with Kifle, my father. Over the course of hectic, happy & Ethiopia infused weekend – my wife Charlie and I quickly got to know Kifle, met his many of his friends and caught up on over 40 years of life. Immediate similarities were obvious, and there were no recriminations, just happiness at the opportunity to share life and look forward. A memorable weekend !
Since then, Whatsapp groups have been formed, family trees sketched on napkins, and Aunts and Uncles have been facetimed. Further Paris trips are in the diary, and it has become apparent that we share a vision for a unified, confident Africa that he would describe as 'Panafricanism' - a concept to which his considerable energies have been devoted for much of his life. And the Flipflopi Project, when I told him about it, was right up his street.
So there you have it… the start of 2018 will find me a whole lot more Ethiopian – and today, shortly after writing this, I am booking some flights to Addis Ababa for my Mum and I in March. So shortly we’ll have not just one, but two Ethiopia experts at Far and Wild travel.