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The Ethiopia Coffee Podcast Series Parts 3 – 4 – 5 (edited)

On my December trip around rural Ethiopia, I recorded some travel notes and related thoughts over my morning coffee. Here they are…

Traveling to Ethiopia makes me think. But in the long, busy days buzzing around the dirt roads from coffee farm to coffee washing station, sometimes 10 in a day, I rarely have time to reflect. In the morning though, I usually get up very early, brew some coffee in my room using an Aeropress, and think about the day ahead, the day prior, or just about coffee and travel in general.

I take time to process what I have learned listening to others all day, their patient answers to my questions. And I try to synthesize that into something that makes some sense to me. They aren’t perfect. They are monologues. They are a little embarrassing. But there are some good raw ideas in here, perhaps. I have 8-9 episodes if I can bear to post them all! It’s a bit much.

This page features Episode 3, Episode 4 and Episode 5 . You can find parts one and 2 here.

Our podcasts can also be found on Apple Podcasts and on Spotify Podcasts.


Ethiopia 3 –  Coffee, Photography, Power (38 Minutes)

Note: I have temporarily removed this episode as well #4. I need to think more about the impact of my comments here. I do feel it’s all just my experiences and my opinion as an outsider. But I started to feel this is perhaps something just for me to hold privately, or to share in the right context… not to broadcast. I’m looking for some feedback from more experienced people on this topic, to decide whether to republish this episode. -Tom

I really was on the fence about uploading this episode.

On the one had, this is stuff I have already said, about photography and coffee travel, about marketing, about representation. It feels like I am just hung up on this. Does anyone care? On the other hand, the second part of this is about a conflict I got into in Shakiso for taking a photo with my phone. And I kinda spun out on it. I think of podcasts as a thing where people want to hear someone talk clearly and with great confidence. That’s not how I feel. But I am deciding to go ahead and post this long recording, because people can always just stop listening if they don’t like it. You decide! 

Intro: I end up thinking a lot about photography and coffee travel. Taking pictures is an important part of documenting my trip (and also tagging photo locations with the camera GPS). But for me, it is complicated by things I can’t ignore. I guess since I have a Masters degree in photo from my time in Chicago, it makes sense I am going to be aware of what it means to take photos, who the audience is for them, who the subject is, and how they function in relation to commodifying a product. For me, critical thinking around photo practice can be challenging but I feel it pushes me to think differently, and be aware of what it means to make images.

This starts out with my thoughts about what it means to carry this big bulky camera around, but “Part 2” is about this conflict I got into down in Shakiso because I took a photo of a car that “I shouldn’t have taken”. It wasn’t that bad, I wasn’t going to go to jail or anything. But I found it made me spin out quite a bit, and it had an impact on those I was traveling with. It just made me think a lot.


Ethiopia 4 – Yirg Alem – Coffee – Conflict – Culture (18 minutes)

Note: I have temporarily removed this episode. I need to think more about the impact of my comments here. I do feel it’s all just my experiences and my opinion as an outsider. But I started to feel like this is perhaps something just for me to hold privately, or to share in the right context… not to broadcast. I’m looking for some feedback from more experienced people on this topic, to decide whether to republish this episode. -Tom

The Aregash Lodge in Yirg Alem is an oasis! I always look forward to staying here on the way to the southern coffee growing areas of Yirga Cheffe, Kochore, Gedeb, and Shakiso. It’s owned by Gregorg and his family, since 2003. But last year it was attacked by a local mob and one of the main buildings burnt to the ground. (Nobody was hurt). It’s wonderful to be back, and beautiful as ever, but a bit uncanny. Things are not always as they seem in Ethiopia, certainly for an outsider.

It leads me to think about this social unrest, ethnic clashes, but also the way America is seen by my Ethiopian friends, equally unsafe and incomprehensible. I am not sure why, but talking about a place I barely know like Ethiopia (despite coming here for so many years) only makes me reflect back on my country, as I know it. I feel the same misunderstandings I probably carry about Ethiopia are parallel to the things I hear my travel companions say about the US. Then again, it seems they could be right … and I could be right too.

When can you say you know a place? In what way do you know it, and in what way is it unknowable? The tourist myth of “strange lands” redirects back to “home”. I am not sure I know either. What sucks about this recording is trying to speak on behalf of a place, behalf of a country. How can I? I try to assure Teshe that America is not as unsafe as it sounds. Everyone is not armed. But I hear of their friends held up at gunpoint in the US, and they say “yes, you can get robbed in Addis but nobody is going to shoot you! “ How can I respond? And this is a country emerging (hopefully) from civil war! I guess there’s good reason for my unclear thoughts and sentences in this recording. It’s hard to find clarity in this. I hope you disagree with some things I say in here because I already have my own quibbles with them. 


Ethiopia 5 – Shakiso – Guji Coffee & Very Loud Prayers (11 Minutes)

It’s Sunday morning in Shakiso town but it’s not peaceful and quiet by any definition. I am talking about coffee in the area, but I’m competing against the decibels of the Orthodox church and their loudspeaker. I am not sure if this is very “listenable”.

It sounds ok to me, but I am used to these morning prayers and just tune them out. It might not be so easy in a recording. Anyway, it’s here for you to listen to … or not! 

Coffee House in Shakiso, Heluya hotel

Our podcasts can also be found on Apple Podcasts and on Spotify Podcasts.

Ethiopian Coffee Travels: Some Photos Worthy of Their Captions

The Ethiopia Coffee Podcast Series Part 1 & 2

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