Finding Joy - Adriana Herrera Page 0,1

now.” He busted up laughing, and I smiled in return. My mom warned me to expect jokes from friends who knew us from when we lived here. Apparently, I’d been notorious for my obsession with what could only be described as an unusual combination of Ethiopian sour flatbread and ketchup.

I laughed at his delight. “I’m good. I like injera without ketchup these days. I ate on the plane, actually, so I’m fine.”

I got in the car, listening to Tefare’s low and friendly laughter. Once inside, I looked around the interior; the thing had to be at least twenty years old. But other than it looking like the inside of an old oilcan, it ran great. We navigated the streets of Addis, and I stared out the window at what had been my home for the first few years of my life. My feelings about this place had always been bittersweet. It was where my parents said they lived their happiest years, and it was also the place where my father died.

In three years of working for Aid USA, I’d travelled all over Africa, and somehow had managed to avoid an assignment to one of the biggest offices in the continent. I hadn’t sought out coming here. But after my love life went up in flames, a last minute opportunity to help wrap up an impact evaluation seemed like the perfect excuse to get out of DC for a while. And to hopefully do some soul-searching about where I was going with my life.

Tefare looked over at me and smiled as thoughts swirled in my head. “So how does it feel to be in your first home? Are you happy to be back?”

I met his eyes in the rearview mirror as I came up with a response. I couldn’t really say yeah, it should be a good way to put some distance between me and my asshole ex. I wasn’t about to get into a long story about my Big Gay Drama with Tefare.

“It’s good to be here,” I said with a lot more certainty than I was feeling. “I’ve been nervous about the visit. I haven’t been here since I was little, and after Dad died, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to come back.”

No matter how much I’d prepared for it, this trip was a big deal, and a long time coming. I’d always found excuses to take other jobs when postings in Ethiopia came up, because deep down, I’d been scared of how being here would feel. Now that I was, there was a comfort and a familiarity I hadn’t expected.

Tefare grunted as he turned onto a gravel street off the main road. “You had to come back here, Desta. Even if you left when you were only three, this was your first home. You took your first steps here, and your father loved this land. He died alone.” The hitch in Tefare’s breath was a reflection of my own reaction to his words. When he spoke again, he had that same bleak tone from before. “And that’s a pain in my heart still, but he was in a place he cherished, and that cherished him back.”

I sighed, looking out of the window as we bumped along the dark road, strangely comforted to know the people who had known him here still cared this much about my dad. “He did love it here.”

Tefare nodded as he slowed the car in front of a tall metal gate. He flicked the high beams on and off and stepped on the gas to alert the night guard that someone was outside. After a few seconds, a man came out and opened the gate for us.

We drove in and parked right by a large yard. I looked over and saw there were flowers blooming on a crawling vine covering most of the fence that surrounded the property. The air was sweetened by their smell, and there was a light mist that kissed my skin as we made our way into the front of the building.

Tefare waved a hand around as he pressed the buzzer on the door. “This is a nice guesthouse, only embassy people. I came by earlier today and gave them some food and water bottles for your room. I will be back tomorrow morning to take you to your office.”

Just as I was about to thank him, an attendant came to open the door and ushered me inside. I turned to shake Tefare’s hand, but he pulled