An Ethiopian Experience

Tumisang Dale Rankopo
PHOTO OPP: A quick pic with Ethiopian Airline hostesses

Normally, when I receive a work-related call, exciting isn’t the word that first pops to mind.

Usually, it would be a summons for a press briefing, or at best a media tour away from the Gaborone.

However, when our Assignment Editor, Daniel Chida called me to ask if my passport was in order, I smelled something special in the air (big thanks to my colleague, Bame Piet for not having his passport in order!).

My reporter’s instincts were correct, DC informing me I’d be flying to Ethiopia that Sunday.

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Having picked my jaw up from the floor, I composed myself enough to listen carefully for instructions and details of my journey.

The good people at Botswana Tourism had invited us to travel to the Ethiopian capital for the launch of Ethiopian Airlines’ new route from Addis Ababa to Maun.

Roughly 5, 400km away, this would be my longest ever adventure by aeroplane; it would also be my first visit to Ethiopia.

With my 30th birthday just weeks away, I felt truly blessed at the opportunity for this first-in-a-lifetime experience.

Allow me to fast track us to the date of departure, 9 June, the lead-up whizzing by in a haze of excited anticipation.

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It’s a packed flight and we are welcomed by the airline hostesses as we board; I can confirm they are as stunning as they appear on television!

In Setswana we say ‘Go tsamaya ke go bona’.

My seat is Economy class but the comfort levels are quite reasonable.

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A five-hour flight is a daunting prospect but fortunately Ethiopian Airlines has a wide variety of in-flight entertainment to choose from.

Between the frequent food and beverage intermissions, the wide variety of movies and TV series to pick from, five hours flies by in no time (pun intended).

As we touchdown in East Africa, we are met with the hustle and bustle of international arrivals and clearance.

Addis Ababa Bole International Airport annually serves up to 22 million people, with over 70 percent being passengers on transit.

Our accommodation is booked at one of the airline’s five-star hotels, the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel.

It is a remarkable, world class facility with a blend of classic architectural style and modern interior design.

The executive room I was staying in is the level of comfort I would expect from a five-star establishment.

The spacious suite is dominated by a bed big enough to swim in, while the bathrooms have separate options for bath tub and shower, with a massive mirror for your outfit and a special zoomed in mirror for anyone tempted to get dolled up with make-up.

Voice Woman tells me the modern man is a fan, but I decide to give the make-up a miss – although, come to think of it, perhaps a face-beat would have given me a better chance of impressing those lovely air hostesses!

A short-lived night of sleep comes to an end and I must reluctantly bid the comfy white sheets farewell.

Our flight to Maun is scheduled for 8:30am, but first there is an official launch ceremony for the inaugural Addis Ababa to Maun flight.

Before we get to our terminal gate, we go through two of the most thorough security checks I have ever encountered. The airport takes security very seriously.

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There is no business class privilege when the shoes and jacket come off.

We arrive at the boarding gate for a quick ceremony before boarding the plane.

We are met by the Ethiopian Airline CEO, Tasew Mesfin and the Ambassador of Botswana to Ethiopia, Tebelelo Boang who share their respective remarks.

Both summarized the importance of continued strengthening of the relations between Ethiopia and Botswana.

They emphasised the potential of future growth and expansion in our respective tourism sectors and promotion of free trade as per the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

All passengers receive a token of appreciation from Ethiopian Airlines as we hop-on the historic flight.

I have made peace with the fact that the Ethiopian coffee and the Ethiopian Airline coffee mug are on transit to my mother’s office.

I will, however, be keeping the lovely red rose for myself.

Our flight lands in the tourist town and we walk out to a hero’s welcome. It suddenly dawns on me that we are a part of history in two different countries.

In a daze, I flashback to my primary school days, when we would write essays about a day we will never forget.

One personal highlight is when I look out the aircraft’s window and see the various structures, vegetation and water below.

It is a humbling reminder that from above, everything appears small and insignificant but is all a part of a greater plan.

While all that is below may exist as individual units, from my vantage point in the sky, I can see the different patterns and designs that make the world a work of art.

The significance being it gives me a greater appreciation of God’s work in our lives. With my birthday looming, it makes me particularly excited for His work in mine.

Who knows what the plans the Lord has designed for me next!

*Check out Tumisang’s excellent vlog documenting his Ethiopian experience on The Voice’s website and Facebook page.

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