Day 28: From China to Mexico to Germany

What sounds like a very intense world-tour on the first sight was the core of my social sabbatical experience: our iDE Social Sabbatical Team with Weiwei, JP and myself. I really want to thank these guys here – you are really the two main factors, who made this sabbatical the wonderful time it was.

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Speaking of team spirit: We didn’t even know each other before we met here and it really clicked immediately. Spending together at least 9 hours per day can be quite a challenge – not so with you! We had so much fun together, shared the same humor, the same working ethics and even the same taste in lunch (meat? No meat?).

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Speaking of marketing & communication: You REALLY impressed me with this! As you come from complete different professional backgrounds and never before worked on a marketing or communication strategy you just amazed me with your passion, ideas and spirit for our social sabbatical assignment. Seriously, Weiwei and JP, you did a fantastic job creating iDEs communication strategy and it was an honor for me to work with you.

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Speaking of intercultural experience: One of the most interesting sides of the social sabbatical was the exchange of habits, cultural characteristics and customs. We were so lucky to be from very different countries and therefore shared a lot of funny, unusual and surprising stories. We were even luckier that these cultural differences did not hinder us working together but made our team even stronger and more creative.

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Speaking of friendship: Something I didn’t expect before and therefore I am even more grateful it happened… Not only did we share a very intense working experience. You two also became my very close and important friends during the last four weeks. Thank you so much for your support, your care and the laughter you shared with me. I hope we can keep our spirit high, even if we’re so far apart. Luckily our first reunion is already scheduled 😉

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Day 27: Saying good-bye…

…has to be replaced by “See you soon again!”

Finally the time had come to say good-bye to this fantastic group. How hard it was for all of us can be seen in the never-ending hugs, 1.000.000 pictures taken and the one or two tears that we shared.

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Again thank you for the amazing time together – we will all keep this experience as one of our very special memories. As the planning for our first reunion-meeting is already going on, I’m sure that it really is a “See you again” rather than good-bye …

I will miss you all and wish you all the best back at your regular jobs, with your families and at the very different continents we are living on.

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Day 27: The Final Presentation

Four weeks of very intense work, ups and downs, improvements and throwbacks – all cumulating in one day: the day of the final presentation. The goal of this day is to share not only your own team-results but also to learn from the other team’s challenges, problems and solutions they came up with. What did the others do during the last four weeks? I was curious about their outcomes, strategies and feedback.

As the SAP Social Sabbatical is an essential part of SAP’s overall CSR Strategy, the day started with a media event, where local journalists from Ethiopian TV channels, radio stations and newspapers could inform themselves about the program and its goals. Besides some background on the four different social sabbatical projects, we also shared personal impressions about our experiences in Ethiopia, the working culture and our relationship to our hosts companies.

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All eyes on us

Even more important – especially for us as a group – was the second part of the day, where each group presented their project results in 25-30 minutes. It was great to see that each team did not only fulfill the pre-defined scope of work, but also built up a very personal and deep relationship to their host company. Representatives of each company confirmed this impression while sharing their side of the story – and where overwhelmed with the created material. Impressive was also the range of expertise that we brought to the table altogether: the projects varied from go-to-market-strategies, long-term business plans, SWOT analysis, marketing & communication plans up to re-writing the business model.

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Final presentations

One aspect that definitely stood out was the fun we all had, working at our local companies for the last four weeks, the passion we developed about our projects and the wide range of unexpected experiences we made. Each one of the teams will surely stay in contact with their companies, be there for questions and support whenever possible. We all concluded our presentations with a mutual agreement: a big thank you to our Ethiopian hosts, to CSR for setting up the social sabbatical in this very efficient and professional way and to SAP for making this experience possible at all.

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Day 26: Addis Alliance

One of my colleagues here asked about my best experience during my time here in Ethiopia. A lot of things came to my mind like the absolute new culture-experience, the working abroad challenges, the trips we made, the friendliness of the people and so on and so on.

But the one thing that I really found to be very special and at the same time so essential for a great time here is: the group. The ten people I was here with for the last four weeks are just amazing! The time you spend somewhere is always shaped by the company you’re spending it with. And I’m more than grateful that this team consists of the ten wonderful, clever, warm-hearted and open-minded people I was able to meet.

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When we chose our team name – Addis Alliance – before we even knew each other, we couldn’t know how true it would become. Not only did we spend almost every evening together, met for breakfast, lunch & dinner and went on some amazing weekend-trips together. We also supported each other on a personal level, celebrated birthdays in Addis and recorded birthday wished for the families at home, we helped each other with good advice and long conversations, we shared experiences from our teams and from our lives in general.

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Volker, Conny, Arif, Weiwei, Sabrina, Paul, JP, Thomas, Anand & Claire – thank you for being just the amazing people you are! This social sabbatical became an unforgettable experience because of you. I think I can say that we’ve not only became addis allies – we’ve became addis friends.

Thank you.

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Day 25: Five Fun Facts about Ethiopia

Some insights on Ethiopian culture you will not find in a tourist guide book:

1. German plugs actually fit into the Ethiopian plugs without any adapter (YAY!)

2. To get the water running in the shower you have to push the tap instead of pulling it (took us all a while to figure out…)

3. There are actually no street names in Addis – addresses are mainly communicated with “nearby of…” (Unfortunately there is not always something famous nearby)

4. Ordering a coffee in Ethiopia means ordering a really strong espresso. Ordering latte macchiato means ordering a really strong espresso – with a sip of milk (and with sip I mean sip)

5. Dinner in the dark is nothing special here: at least once a day there is a power blackout – and strange enough it mostly happened around dinner time (learn how to eat without sight: check!)

Day 23: The last days…

It’s Monday, August 3rd. It’s Monday, August 3rd?? As it seems, three weeks have already passed since I first set a foot into this country. The last week’s program is nevertheless packed with work: finalizing the communication strategy for iDE Ethiopia means working intensely on their content for printing material, the set-up of their online media channels and the re-building of iDE Ethiopia’s website.

Building iDE’s communication channels is one thing – providing them with the knowledge on how to use all the material, update it and create new content is something else. The last week’s program therefore also heavily focuses on knowledge transfer, website training and Q&A sessions for the local iDE Ethiopia staff.

Moreover, the last week’s program is also filled with the first good-byes: people you will not see again, favorite restaurants which we “have to go to one last time” and lots of things you wanted to do muuuuuch earlier, but somehow now cumulate during the last week. Hence, it was such a nice surprise from our host company to take us on an Addis City Tour on Monday afternoon to see the national museum including Lucy, eat some black forest cake (“Can you say Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte?”) and buy some souvenirs together at the local market.

The last week is what it is – seven more days full of new experiences, new challenges and hopefully lots of laughter, joy and happiness. Let’s use this time, team, and enjoy every minute of it!

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Thank you to our host company iDE Ethiopia

A very special thank you to Tsion Markos (5th from the right side) who always took care of us during the four weeks of our assignment

Day 21: Ethiopia’s great history – Trip to Lalibela

First thing on the Ethiopia Bucket List: a visit to Lalibela. The problem about that: extremely complicated to go there, in the middle of nowhere. BUT nine of us could not be scared by the rather adventurous arrival (“A propeller-driven aircraft?! Seriously???”) and spent the weekend at one of the world’s greatest historical sites (Thank you again, Weiwei!).

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The small town of Lalibela is home to one of the most astounding sacred sites: eleven rock-hewn churches, each carved entirely out of a single block of granite with its roof at ground level. The churches of Lalibela were not constructed — they were excavated. Each church was created by first carving out a wide trench on all four sides of the rock, then painstakingly chiseling out the interior.

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The town of Lalibela was originally known as Roha. It was renamed after the 12th-century King Lalibela, who commissioned these extraordinary churches. King Lalibela’s goal was to create a New Jerusalem for those who could not make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land But the king made no attempt to copy the churches of the Holy Land; in fact, Lalibela’s sacred architecture could not be more unique.

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Unique is also the way to the churches: steep staircases, slim corridors carved in the stone and trails right through the wilderness. One highlight of the trip: the walk through “hell”, a narrow tunnel under the earth, completely black with not even the slightest glimpse of sunlight coming in – at which’s end is one of the most beautiful churches of Lalibela.

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Seeing the ancients sites, the beautiful, breathtaking architecture and the deep reverence that people have for these churches makes Lalibela an extraordinary experience. For everybody who plans to go to Ethiopia: take the time to visit this place, no matter how complicated the trip will be. You will be rewarded with lots of unforgettable memories.

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Day 19: SLUSH!

A different evening program on Thursday: We spent the evening at the SLUSH 2015 local competition. 14 Ethiopian Start Up teams wanted to present themselves, their ideas and future plans to a jury of five, coming from different areas of economy, media and university. The three winners of the SLUSH competition would then be invited to Norway for the final presentation and there have the chance to win 500.000 usd price money.

The special challenge: each team had only 3min to present – and the timekeeper was forced to stop the team even though the presentation wasn’t finished. The outcome was amazing: in really only three minutes pitches the presenters gave an overview about their start-up ideas, their concepts, their financials and their vision for the projects.

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The ideas presented moreover showed how innovative and diverse the Ethiopian start up culture is: a traffic app for Addis, ovens made of mud for refugees, a new kind of water pump and even the first local cloud technology company introduced themselves. What made the evening a very special success was the fact that the second place was won by one of the SAP Social Sabbatical projects: Congratulations to AhadooTec and their computer based learning platform providing mobile access to school content for kids and teachers!

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Celebrating AhadooTecs Success

Day 17: Barack was here!

And there was no way to miss it… The whole city was going crazy about his visit already one week before he even set a foot on the African continent. People on the street would randomly approach you, a happy smile on their face, asking “Do you know Obama is coming?! To Ethiopia! First time!”, the news channels would report daily and everybody was puzzled about when he will be where.

Sunday, the day before he actually arrived in Ethiopia, the city dressed up: “Welcome Barack” posters besides the street, LED screens with Obama pictures and the American flag omni-present. Last minute street cleaning activities, fence painting in green & yellow and increased military presence completed the preparation.

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Surprisingly, we didn’t really feel something special was happening on Monday. Tuesday, however, the iDE team felt Obamas presence to a greater extend. Apparently Obama was giving a speech at    the African Union – a building right at the end of our street. The result: the whole street was blocked for cars, all shops on the way have been closed and there was heavy military every 5 meters (!) along the road.

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Going to the office was a real challenge – but we made it. Without stopping on the way to the office, no way back until he finished his speech, DEFINITELY no pictures taken and the soldiers unfortunately were not amused by the question “Can we take a picture with you?!” (Sorry, Weiwei!).

Day 16: Exploring Ethiopia – Langano Lake Part II

After a short night (way too short! Why do the monkeys need to play at OUR roof?!) we started the day with a morning trekking tour at 6:30 am. Our local guide took us outside the resort right into the forest. Besides many colorful birds we also saw beautiful old trees, a little waterfall and a variety of different landscapes around the lake. Enjoying the good weather, we had breakfast at our open-spaced breakfast room, afterwards capturing every single ray of sunlight at the beach.

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Back on the road again we then stopped at the Abidjatta Shalla National Park, famous for ostriches living there. Before we actually saw them, we did discovered more birds, boar pigs and the skin of a rather big snake. Finally we were able to spot several of the huge ostriches – both male and female. These animals are so big! And very beautiful. They were obviously quite used to visitors as we could approach them by less than 8 meters.

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The last stop at our road back to the capital, an UNESCO World Heritage site called Tiya, led us through the Gurage Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region south of Addis Ababa – one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. At Tiya we were supposed to see only stone stela with mysterious symbols written on them from an ancient Ethiopian culture. Unfortunately the site was closed so we could see the stones only from outside.

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A big THANK YOU to our organizer, tour guide and first aid person Weiwei at this point! Thanks for organizing this great trip with all the unforgettable memories!

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