No Stranger Danger

It was your typical mini-bus ride that turned out to be quite the eye opener.

Have you ever wondered who the person sitting next to you is or what they do for a living?

How about what they had for breakfast, if they had any at all or what and if they will?

I started wondering about all of that after an encounter that slowly morphed into a half an hour friendship with the woman sitting next me.

A conversation sparked after a small kid, probably not older than seven or eight years old, approached the window and started talking directly at her about giving him money for bread after which she gently complied. She then slowly tilted her head towards me and softly exclaimed how much pain she felt for him.

It did not take long for us to dive into a discussion that had us caressing last weekend’s landslide, housing issues, drought, effects of fertilizers and pesticides used decades back, flocking of the rural population towards the New Flower, Addis Abeba, abandoned six to 16 year olds that sleep under bridges and many other topics.

That half an hour mini-bus ride that would have otherwise had me devour a couple of pages of any which book or would have had me ponder about the lives outside the window became an idea sharing session that boosted my morning and my entire day with a different type of energy to do something.

After everything that we could think of talking about, the conclusion was forced upon our eagerness to share our thoughts on how to stop mendacity by enumerating its cause and effects by the halted mini-bus.

For anyone looking at the two of us talking with our foreheads almost touching we were comparable to reunited friends.

We wrapped up our exchange with a hug and went our separate ways maybe not to ever run into each other again. Which made me realize that sometimes we barely give each other a chance when we cross paths with what we refer to as ‘strangers’.

This led me to question when this term integrated our thinking when in stories of the ‘Good Ol’ days’ we hear of greetings being passed around for free in the streets of Addis and we still have a common saying in Amharic about it.

Obviously, the growing demographics of our beautiful city factors into the distrust, doubt and fear of the other as closeness can no longer be ensured.

Have you ever known two different people in different circumstances that happen to know each other making you think the world is getting smaller?

Funny enough everyone I have met one way or another know at least one other person that I know and randomly find out about at gatherings. I must admit though that social media platforms and the various networking possibilities available to us make it much easier and faster to connect.

What I wanted to get to was the fact that it seems as though we are more inclined to reacting negatively to strangers, with the potential of being future acquaintances, than reacting negatively. Of course, this depends on each individual’s temperament but observing the majority of our dealings with others added to the increasing daily stressful factors, we tend to get annoyed more often than not.

Not to wander off from the initial orientation but can we take a second to reflect on ourselves in this regard?

The point is to figure out why it is, that many of the external factors affect us a lot in our lives.

In any case, if each one of us took it upon ourselves to smile to strangers would the term even exist?

Even if it still did, would you think it is possible to change its meaning?

Imagine the interesting conversations we are missing out on all the while understanding and respecting the personal space and boundaries of others.



By Christine Yohannes
Christine Yohannes writes about social change, performs at public events and conducts poetry workshops in schools. She has established a monthly event entitled "Poetic Saturdays" - a platform created to allow everyone the freedom of self-expression through art. She can be reached at

Published on Mar 18,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 880]



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