“We gotta talk before you leave today.”
This was a guy on my team at work. It was the last day that I would be seeing him – and pretty much most of my team – before heading to the African continent to start my Ethiopian journey.
After a busy early part of the day, I went over to his desk and pulled up a chair. His wife is from Ethiopia, and he wanted to give me some knowledge before leaving.
“The food is great… It can be spicy, FYI… The coffee is amazing. Try to buy a coffee pot from there… And Ethopian new year was just a few weeks ago, so it’s now 2011.”
He explained that Ethiopia follows a different calendar. They follow the one all of us do, but they also follow one that is seven years behind.
“It’s a religious thing,” he explained.
“Cool,” I joked. “So I can go back to 2011. Sweet!”
When I landed in Ethiopia, got through the airport immigration and to my hotel to meet with the group, one of the things Scott explained was that we would be adapting our sense of time to that of Ethiopian time.
He explained that 6am is considered the start of the day hours. It is “zero hour.” And that 7am is 1am, or really, “It is called 1 day light hour. 8am is called 2 day light hour.”
Starting at 6pm, when dusk arrives, that is considered the start of the night hours. So 7pm would be 1 night hour. And 8pm would be 2 night hour.
It was confusing, slightly. But we agreed to switch once we got to Lalibela.
He didn’t mention anything about it being a different year though. And I put it out of my mind until we got to Lalibela Church to visit the southern cluster of churches on the first day. We had to fill out a form with our names, ages, nationalities, and have our bags inspected. And outside the office where we did that was a sign…
“Oh yeah,” I said to everyone, “A guy I work with told me it’s 2011 here.”
No one else had heard about that beforehand.
“Obama is still president in their timeline,” I joked, and wished. “And the Mayan calendar and 2012 hasn’t happened yet. Beyonce hasn’t had Blue Ivy yet.”
Malcolm explained why they are seven years behind. It had to do with the interpretation of the date of the birth of Jesus. They calculate it out differently. And so when you are in the country, you have to adapt to the two different timelines.
(Kind of like anything good by J.J. Abrams. That guy loves parallel universes and different timelines.)
“Ethiopia plays by its own rules,” I wrote down in my journal later. “They give no fucks. And I love it!”