Day 1: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop…For a Little Hurricane

On August 23, an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8 rattled the East Coast.  Four days later, Hurricane Irene was barreling her way toward the DC metro area…and I was preparing to board a plane to Ethiopia.

Oh, no, Irene.  This is not the time for your nonsense.

After months of planning, talking to everyone who has ever heard of Ethiopia or looked at a bottle of wine, and successfully completing our first fundraising campaign, this little storm was not going to stop me from getting to Ethiopia.  I could not endure one more coffee meeting, drink, or skype chat to discuss the possibilities of this project…I was ready to get to Ethiopia and make this happen.

Lucky for Irene*, she delayed her foolishness long enough for our plane to get off the ground and we were on our way to Ethiopia.

On the plane, I met Tom, in person, for the very first time.  Tom is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California at Davis who has been assisting SPARC on the viticulture/grape side of things and is accompanying me on this trip to help select an appropriate vineyard site.

We both sat, in a bit of awe that we were actually on our way.

Fourteen short hours later, we landed in Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  We swiftly received our visas, picked up our baggage, and were greeted by Amy, our guest house host, and Nigussu, our taxi driver, who led us to our cozy Ethiopian home.

Take that, Irene.

Home Sweet Home!

After getting settled at home, Amy invited us to have coffee with Susan, an American expat who works for the local International Community School.  Then, we had our first real Ethiopian dinner at Yeshi Buna, which was mighty tasty.

Everyone has made us feel so welcome on this first day that I barely feel like I’ve left home.

Over the next 10 days, while Tom is here, we will be visiting existing vineyards and potential new sites for our vineyards with Biniyam, our contact at the Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Station.  We are excited to be able to travel to Merti Jeju, Ziway, Gouder, Debre Zeit, Harrar, and Axum.

Hopefully, two of these sites will become home to our future vineyard cooperatives.

We’ll be blogging and updating, as our internet access permits, so please come back to read more about our trip!

I’ll be right here, just hoping that a volcano doesn’t erupt in Ethiopia.  This girl can only take so many natural disasters in one week…

*I do not intend to make light of the impact that Irene had on the east coast and keep everyone who was affected in my thoughts (while I sip on my macchiato from the comfort of my porch in Ethiopia).

– Sandhya

Sidenote:  We are staying at a guest house run by Cherokee Gives Back (, an investment fund and foundation based in Raleigh, NC.  The house is amazing, and the staff wonderful.  We couldn’t ask for a better place to call home while in Ethiopia.  We will post pictures and more details, but if you are traveling to Ethiopia – I highly recommend checking them out!


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