A couple weeks ago, I was visiting Minneapolis and decided to give Uber a shot for the fist time. If you're a little behind the times like me, Uber is basically a personalized cab service that you can call through an app.
Spoiler Alert: It's awesome.
In the short time I was in Minneapolis, I called quite a few Ubers because it's super easy. And the best part? You get to sit in a car of a complete stranger for a few minutes.
Which, I suppose would make a lot of people weary of this whole situation (hello, stranger danger!), but one of my favorite things is talking to strangers and getting to know their stories, so it's the ideal situation for me.
I heard a few interesting stories, but one I knew that I had to tell.
On my way to meet my dear friend Jen (from Studio Kindred) for brunch, I got into an Uber with a man from Ethiopia who works at the local newspaper in addition to driving. After we talked about our mutual love of journalism, we somehow started talking about Ethiopia and the terrorism situation in Africa.
He started to explain to me that the word terrorist is all relative. If you are a group of people opposing an oppressive government, then you're a terrorist to them. If you are that government, you're considered a terrorist to the oppressed people. So on and so fourth.
He then told me the story of how people in Ethiopia are oppressed under a dictator leadership and all they want, he said, is the "freedom to express."
Because his parents were activists against the oppressive government in Ethiopia, the government was searching for his family. They managed to escape and came to America 15 years ago.
He laughed and said that most times when he speaks to Americans about this topic, they say something like, "Oh yeah, we're totally oppressed too - our government is rigged."
But his response is always, "You can say what you want, though. In Ethiopia if you speak your mind, you're thrown into jail."
He also wanted to make clear that the media inaccurately portrays Africa. "You only see the bad," he said. "You see the terrorists and Boko Haram. But most of Africa isn't like that. Most people in Africa are nice and have love. Africa is beautiful."
He also gave me some travel tips for visiting Africa. He explained that despite the negative stigma presented by the media, most of Africa is totally safe to travel. He said that I should start in a big city and get to know the culture and the people. Once I'm comfortable with the culture and become a part of it, I can start venturing out of the city.
Our drive couldn't have been more than 15 minutes long, but I hope he knows I took his words with me. I know we're taught not to talk to strangers, but I think the real danger of strangers is that if we avoid everyone we don't know, we will never learn what they could possibly teach us.