Selam! My Name is Kirubel and I was born and raised in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The people of Addis are beyond awesome and I have very fond memories there. I was really outgoing as a kid (still am I guess!) I did not like to study at all but I had a strong single mother who would knock the living daylight out of me and get me back on track when needed. My mum’s expectations of my brother and I were very high. My brother and I were somewhat different growing up; he was the type that would always be at home studying while I was the one whose greatest joy was being outdoors with friends. He would always be the one to bring home straight A’s and though I was always at the top of my class as well my mum would still be hard on us. The rank we had in our classes did not matter to her, what mattered most was our grades because our greatest competitions in her eye was not other people but rather our own selves. I always used to love it when we had guests come over. Our home was very small so I would use the opportunity to run out and play with my friends without being scolded. There would not be enough space for the guests as well as myself so she could not say anything.
Fast forward to my teen years and I had now joined Hawassa University before turning 18. I enrolled in the Computer Science faculty, which was actually my second choice. My first choice was engineering but even if I had gotten into engineering, I was going to choose software engineering so I guess it worked out for me anyways. It is during this time that I really started seeing life from a different perspective. This is when I started finding myself and I was now learning that there was more to life than eating, hanging out with friends, studying and so on. Life on campus was where I matured. I was a good student and I ended up graduating with distinctions. My mom was proud. My brother had graduated a year before me so she was very happy to see the fruits of her labor through our achievement. I had incredible friends beside me who were also doing really well. Most of us were placed in different campuses but we ensured that we stayed in touch and they became an extension of my own family. Life on Campus was also the venue in which I met someone that would have a huge impact on my life, my first girlfriend. She was my first love and she really shaped me while making me see myself in a completely different light. If you are fortunate enough you will have the rare opportunity of meeting people who help you see sides of yourself you have never even known existed. I never knew I was such an affectionate person until I met her. I did not know that I was capable of caring for someone else in that capacity. She and I went through various life seasons throughout the 5 years that we were in a relationship. We were engaged after graduating from University but life ended up leading us on different paths afterwards.
The relationships I had with my friends really influenced my interactions with other people as well. I have grown to really cherish and enjoy life’s greatest pleasure of meeting new people and forming new friendships. We don’t really know people’s stories until we get to talk to them and one constant issue that I see with a majority of us habesha’s is that we don’t really ask people questions. Asking questions is a great way of getting to know other people more. Each interaction with people we do not know is an opportunity to learn and be impacted by them in one way or the other.
One of my life’s principles is not that “things happen for a reason,” but rather that every “LITTLE thing happens for a reason.” There were times that I was hurt when things did not pan out as I had imagined. I was down for a while but then things changed. Life went on and I invested time into working. I started thinking deeply about what I truly wanted and realized that I really wanted to travel all over the world. I had traveled in most part of Ethiopia, but I wanted MORE! I had worked at the office I was in for 10 months starting with a monthly salary of 1080 birr, which was later increased to 12,000 birr. The money was good. Things seemed to be going well until I realized one day that this was not what I wanted. I found myself living a routine life and that was the one thing I did not want my life to feel like. It felt like I was in some kind of prison and I knew I had to do whatever I could to liberate myself.
In 2013, I applied for scholarships in the United States but embassy denied my visa. I tried 3 times and it was denied each time. This was when I knew that there was a reason for me to stay in Ethiopia. It’s during this time that my friend contacted me about starting a website. There weren’t many entertainment websites back then. We said, “Let’s create a religious website” and that is when we came up with Amlekotube.com It is a video sharing website where we uploaded Christian videos. It did not generate any money in the beginning but we knew we had to continue investing in it. We had actually borrowed money to start the site and we were in the negative for a full year but things really started to look up after. The site started generating money to the point where we started making amounts that would often leave us astounded. When things finally started to look financial well we decided that we would give away at least 10% of whatever we made every month from the site (just as scripture commands). We did not want to give it to a church; we wanted to see the money being put into practical use. We ended up talking to a friend of ours that was active in helping people in the community. She told us about donating school supplies to kids so we ended up doing that. This was one of the most priceless feelings I have ever experienced.
I was still working at my full time job and continuing to be fed up with the routine so I decided to apply for another scholarship opportunity in China, which I ended up getting. It was not necessarily that I wanted to study, I just wanted to explore a different place and this was my opportunity to do so. I was really curious about China so that acceptance meant a lot, it made me very happy. I had about 3 weeks to leave after receiving my visa andI decided that I wanted to go do Dubai and spend a week there prior to going to China and starting my life there. I had to buy my own tickets and other expenses which I managed to do with whatever I had. The government of China covered my accommodations, health insurance and stipend. My solo trip to Dubai was incredible and from there I went straight to China and arrived in Guangzhou. I had a friend (he was Ethiopian too) who helped me settle in. I ended up attending a welcome party for newcomers that my friend took me to upon my arrival. I did not want to fully-jump in so I quietly observed everyone that night but I ended up spending the following night with the same people whom I had now been very familiarized with.
What I loved about China was the fact that it gave me a chance to meet people from all over the world. I did not know there was a country called Mongolia, did not think I would ever meet someone from Papua New Guinea, from Turkmenistan and so on. I was spending so much time with my new friends and I was really enjoying learning so much about their way of life. That is when it hit me that our habesha way of living can be very limiting. I came out of Ethiopia with a purpose, I knew I needed to break out of my comfort zone and out of our very comfortable culture but I wasn’t aware of just how much there was to learn out in the world. The work hours in Ethiopia are usually 8 am- 5 pm and the rest of the time is spent relaxing, it can make you comfortable and limit you into thinking that you are living your best life.
Life in China was moving on well, I had decided to go to Thailand on a solo trip for 15 days during our school break but after meeting, my new friends that plan expanded. They were planning to travel too and so they said, “Why don’t we all go, we could go to Malaysia!” then someone else said, “Why not travel to 3 countries!” and that was the start of our adventures. I ended up becoming very close to them and they turned out to be the best people! One of them was from Turkmenistan and the other two were from Hungary. I also met people from Rwanda, Spain, Mexico, Ukraine, Russia, Brasil, Lesotho, Kenya, Gabon. Congo and Britain; these are just from the top of my mind, I meet people from a lot of countries. All of us had grown up in our own cultures, our own ways of life but with all those differences I got to learn a lot and expand my perspective. I had crazy moments with unforgettable experiences and it started hitting me that life is all about the memories we make whether good or bad. There will always be something left behind from every experience you have and I learnt to be intentional about not stressing in life. I did not give stress any room to eat away from all that I knew I was meant to experience. My belief was and has always been that if something is meant to go wrong it will go wrong but how I react to it is all under my control. The third lesson I learnt was to expect the unexpected, that things will surprise you and people will most definitely surprise you as well. Enjoy every little thing and be happy with them, it really does not take much to make me happy now. I don’t need anything fancy, it’s actually the little delicate things that bring joy to my heart. Above everything though, the major key has been knowing that God is there and getting into the habit of praying about whatever I do. I have no filter when I’m praying, I sometimes reflect back and say to myself “how could you pray like that?” but the truth is that I don’t believe that prayer should be complicated and I believe those genuine prayers are appreciated by God. Spending time with people from different places definitely helped me develop all these aspects of my life. For instance, I used to be really be scared of living with people but through building trust within those friendships, I found myself renting an apartment with a person from Turkmenistan who would become one of my closest friends. We had so much in common; he was so stress free to the point where he would sit down and just think, “What are new ways to have fun?” He is such an adventurous soul and I loved that. We were the same age and our maturity level was the same so it made it easy to have meaningful conversations. We’d talk about our future, responsibilities, goals but we’d always conclude that we’d have to do all these things while having fun. It was remarkable how we had completely different upbringings but had so much in common!
Life in China started getting comfortable just as it did in Ethiopia. It is around this time that I got my visa to Canada, I knew I would have to start from scratch but I told myself “life goes on and I must do this.”
I finally got to Canada a short while after and I heard so many stories from people about how they never really left their homes for the first year upon arrival. Some told me about how good the winter had been so far (it made no sense to me because it was -25C). I decided then that I needed to find young people my age. I didn’t know anyone but I knew I had to be the one looking for people and that it wouldn’t be the other way around. It took me about five or six weeks to connect with young people and though I knew it would not be hard for me to make friends, I knew that I wanted to be very selective with the people I chose to surround myself with. I really wanted to connect with genuine people and I was able to find that. My entire journey has been a testimony of one thing. I do not believe in luck, I believe that God really loves me. He is always looking out for my best interests and I have seen that here in Canada even more abundantly. I show people who I am from the get go and I have met many habesha people that are shocked by my openness but that is who I am. I present myself as I am and it is up to the person to take it as they wish. I approach people that way and I have received the same level of genuineness as well. I have learnt a lot from people in being here and I am hoping I have contributed into their lives in a positive way as well. The truth is that I still want to travel all over the world; I do not want to be tied down to one place. There is so much out there to be explored and you will not know until you go visit places and meet people who are different from you. I have been able to visit eight countries and even with my little experience in travelling, I have seen various ways of living that really changed how I view life. I needed to leave my comfort to get that and I have learnt that I have to be willing to risk things in order to get what I want in life.
As a habesha community, we are always worrying about the future, about getting married and saving for our kids but we never stop to think, “Who’s living my life NOW?” I am not saying do not plan for the future, what I am saying is do not worry about it to the point where you are not enjoying your present state. Work for it, pray about it but also remember that today is what you have and you are expected to make the best out of this day you have been blessed with. Make memories, go places and enjoy the little things around you. These are the things you want to look back on and smile. Therefore, what I am trying to say is, do not get too comfortable even if what you have is good, challenge yourself to always try different things. There is abundant life beyond our comfort zones. There is so much to be excited about because life is so beautiful regardless of what we are going through. Life is also short so make the best of what has been given to you. You do not have to be rich to enjoy life, the most precious things about life are found in simple moments.