Oct 21 , 2023

In a quest for gradual physical wellness, incorporating regular walks into my routine has not only helped improve my health but also offered a tranquil oasis amid the urban hustle and bustle, observes Bereket Balcha, who works in the aviation industry and is passionate about fiction writing. He can be reached at bbalcha5@yahoo.com

Advancing to the mid-40s while on the wrong side of the BMI ratio had me determined to venture into physical activity.

I learned that intensive exercise routines that start with much enthusiasm lose steam as monotony and routine chores give headway to boredom and languidness. A steady period of daily walking was recommended after my long-standing sedentary lifestyle, before delving into rigorous workouts.

Consequently, I set out to spend up to an hour a day on a leisurely walk in the lush green surroundings of Addis. The possible itineraries for the first week "Walk in the Park” were Ghion Hotel, Friendship Park and the Addis Abeba-Ethiopia-Africa trio Park adjacent to the Hilton Hotel.

The first day entailed walking through Ghion Hotel Park. It was the perfect place which had majestic indigenous old trees and carpeted with well-kept and spacious meadows. The beauty and serenity made the tiresome experience all worth it.

While passing by the parking lot overlooking the Africa Jazz Club, I received a call from my parents who are currently in the US which added to the excitement. It was a much-needed motivation to hear from my father delighted with my project.

I wanted to get a cup of green tea in the hotel lobby at the end of my 47 minutes uninterrupted walk. It was disappointing to learn that the pioneer establishment with prime historical and cultural relevance was not able to serve hot beverages at that moment as the tap water ran out.

Nevertheless, I noted that day one of my quest for a healthier lifestyle ended with resounding success.

The next day entailed a visit to Friendship Park which was cut short due to an unexpected event that had me run back home early. Disappointed at the prospect of failing my daily target early on, I decided to stroll into my residential compound.

While the concrete pavement slabs and trimmed lawns cannot compare to the previous day's scenery, the quiet suburb and fresh city outskirts air made my 45-minute walk just as pleasurable. More importantly, I stuck to my plan and felt accomplished upon reaching my daily target.

The consecutive days leading up to the weekend were a colossal letdown. I made no attempt to compensate for my shortfall, and my discipline was put to the test. I did manage some fractional walking during lunch breaks. However, it was below my daily targets and by no means conciliatory.

While I read the paper while sipping my tea on Sunday, I decided to revamp my energy and end the week on a positive note. I bought a chocolate tart from La Pastiserrie as a reward for later.

Then, I began the uphill walk after giving my vehicle to the carwash near Meskel Square.

Crossing to the park and walking under the shade to escape the blazing afternoon sun, I reached the gate of the trio parks.

My ticket was only suitable for Addis Abeba Park. I paid an additional 100 Br and gained access for all. In the past, I had paid a one-time 150 Br but was told they were currently managed separately.

The mesmerising view inside was backed by a soothing sound of alternating Jazz music from Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and John Coltrane playing through my earbuds. The silhouettes of the setting sun in the twilight against the beautifully maintained lawn and the picturesque rolling gardens confirmed that I had made a perfect decision.

The park has a long history dating back to the Imperial days. However, it was closed for a quarter of a century. It has giant replicas of frogs and crocodiles, which are a hit with kids with a Disneyland-like feel.

I was particularly intrigued by a young woman sitting on a swing. She invited me to join her on the side but I was not certain it would fit my size. Instead, I helped her swing higher by pushing from the back upon her request.

She was genuinely enjoying the swings. Seeing someone this happy with such a simple act was exhilarating. It made me reflect on how important it is to take some time to relieve our childhood.

My walk through the Ethiopian Park was short and uneventful. I quickly made it to the last park, Africa.

I encountered a group of young people dancing to the music on a stereo speaker while recording. I thought it was coverage for a movie or music video, but a big torte cake in the garden and a gigantic candle revealed it was a birthday party.

One of them invited me to join and I could not resist. Before I knew it, I was amidst the group dancing to a birthday song in the limelight. Much to the delight of the partygoers while the camera zoomed in, I showed off my tango moves with the birthday girl.

It was another ecstatic maverick stunt and a reminder of how easy it was to have fun with perfect strangers and be acquainted. It is mandatory to share feelings and have fun.

Again, I proceeded with the last leg, my favourite part, which included a walk back in history. I stand at the placards showing the trees planted by the founding fathers of Africa after decolonisation in the 1960s.

Towards the end, I saw a covered statue waiting for inauguration as the enormous African map circled by the circular pavement. This part of the park still shows signs of being under construction.

As I removed my shoes to rest my feet on the grass, which felt as soft and luxurious as a Persian carpet, I felt a deep connection to Mother Nature. Earthing posits that contact with the natural electric charge can reduce inflammation, pain, and stress while improving blood flow, energy, and sleep.

It was a remarkable experience I had had at this easily accessible and magnificent park in the heart of Addis Abeba.

Bob Marley's words from the Holy Bible, "In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty," resonated with me as I considered how often we take the good things in life for granted.

Even in places where conditions are not always ideal, there is always something to celebrate and enjoy. My visit to the park was a prime example. Visitors can access a secure and uncongested oasis of natural beauty and tranquillity for a nominal fee.

It would be hypocritical of us to glorify similar facilities overseas or outside the city while paying a fortune to visit them when such a marvellous oasis exists in our backyard. The park is as timeless and fabulous as ever and there is no excuse for not visiting.

I savoured the last moments of my trip while relishing my prize chocolate tart.

It was a Sunday well spent. I achieved my twin goals of improving my wellness and experiencing the serenity of nature. Coincidentally, I spotted the girl I had pushed on the swing boarding a Sheger bus. We exchanged warm waves, knowing our paths would never cross again. Yet, in that brief encounter, we had created precious memories to cherish.

Collecting my car from the carwash and driving towards the Arat Kilo area, I was surprised to see the birthday party was still in full swing while the camera still rolling.

I shouted a farewell to the group, reminding them to share the dancing footage in which I had taken centre stage. Their laughter and shouts of goodbye echoed through the air as I drove away with a smile on my face.

PUBLISHED ON Oct 21,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1225]

Bereket Balcha works in the aviation industry and is passionate about fiction writing and can be reached at (bbalcha5@yahoo.com)

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