At the one-year anniversary of our time here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, we thought it would be fun to review our journey through the lens of the popular Pixar movie, Inside Out.
If you are not familiar with the movie, I will outline the basic emotions/characters. First, there is Joy, she is bright yellow and consummately happy with a sunshiny disposition. Second, there is Sadness, who is always blue despite her greatest efforts to be optimistic. Thirdly, there is Disgust, a sassy, green character who straddles the line between envy and disgust with others. Anger is the fourth character, who is perpetually red hot and hopping mad. Finally, there is Fear, a purple character who is panic-stricken in a world that looks dangerous at every turn.
Inside Out Part 3: Traffic Ticket
Within a few days of arriving in Ethiopia, I began the process of getting a driver’s license. By the two-week mark I had gotten my drivers license and we were venturing around the city. Thanks to Habi, our human GPS, we were golden with Joy as we discovered new areas of the beautiful capital of Ethiopia. I can only imagine the range of emotions we would have felt trying to go it alone. I imagine a lot of reds and purples as we tried to make our way around. One day, as we were scurrying around in our tiny car, I made a right-hand turn at the traffic circle. If you are not a fan of traffic circles, Addis Ababa is not a place you would want to drive. There are hundreds of them in the city; they show up every couple kilometers. As I made the right hand turn at this particular traffic circle, I experienced a rush of purple, Fear, it was as though the entire car turned to a vibrate grape color.
As I was navigating toward the right at a circle, a woman decided to try to make a run across the road. This is not uncommon, but I was not yet accustomed to it. I did not have time to brake, so I did the only thing I could, I swerved to the left to miss her. That is when I heard the piercing whistle of a Traffic Police Officer. Most areas of driving in Addis are complete anarchy, there are plenty of rules, but a person would never know given their lack of enforcement. However, when you get in circles, there can be as many as eight Traffic Police looking for violators. In this case, I was a confused violator. I did the only thing I could, I pulled over. My purple friend, Fear, held me in one hand and my red friend, Anger, gripped me in the other. I could not have made another choice and I was not sure what I had done wrongly. Was I going to be accused of reckless driving? Was it to be an accusation of trying to run someone over?
As the Traffic walked up to my window, he began to explain the problem, and my purple friend released my hand as my red buddy, Anger invited Disgust to the encounter. I was informed that, although the person ran out in front of me, it was not legal for me to swerve around them. I asked if I should have hit the person to obey the law… that was met with indifference as I was issued a ticket. I sat there in pool of red, green, and purple as I felt Anger at the situation together with Disgust at the lady who ran in front of me and the Traffic Police Officer who issued me a ticket with a side of Fear, not knowing the process that was laid in front of me.
Since most of you have not received a ticket in Ethiopia, I will let you know what that means. Your license is taken from you on the spot. You are issued a piece of paper with a fine, usually in the amount of $7-$12. No big deal, right? Except that now you have to find the one office out of hundreds of offices at which you must pay said fine. To date, I have had four such tickets and have had to travel to as many as 15 police stations before finding the correct one at which to pay. One time I found the correct payment office, only to have a fight brake out among people having to pay a fine, at which point the office elected to close their doors and tell everyone they can come back tomorrow. After a person successfully pays their fine, they must take the receipt to another office to reclaim his or her license. The location of said office depends on where the police officer returns at night. That is a detail you must ask before leaving the scene of your ticket, or I am honestly not sure what one does to get their license back.
In my experience, traffic tickets, no matter where in the world you receive them, are almost always drenched in blood red as your friend Anger accompanies you through the process. This is as true in Ethiopia as anywhere else, at least until you grow accustomed to the routine. Then it is just an emerald green adventure with your friend, Disgust as you lose time and productivity to lots driving around the city without a license looking for proper offices by which you can reclaim said license and long lines of pushy people.
Paul instructed Timothy: “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;” and again Paul spoke to the church in Ehpesus “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” As I reflect on these two instructions from Paul, I realize that there are far too many times in my life that I get red with my buddy, Anger over something that is really immaterial long-term. Our lives should be an experience of worship, and the kind of anger I experienced on this day really lacked a heart of worship. The kind of Anger Paul talks about when he asks us to be red hot mad and not sin is the kind of disdain for the injustice done to the children I am here to serve, not some silly situation I found myself in here. I have gotten traffic tickets since this time, and I can say that I rarely struggle with flare-ups of Anger in the midst of them. In part, it is because I understand the process much better, but also in part because God is working on me, showing me through this foreign culture what matters and what doesn’t. The last position I want to find myself in, no matter where in the world I am, is a place where I have given the Devil a foothold in my life.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Ti 2:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Eph 4:26–27). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.