16th Century Portuguese Architecture in the Ethiopian Highlands

Apparently I look like an open and approachable person; I suppose this is a good thing given my chosen profession. My afternoon client cancelled today, and I was in Quadra Village for a meeting with the lady who will be my supervisor at my new practicum site (!! exciting new development there). Since I had no where to go but home, I decided to stop at a favourite coffee shop and debrief myself over an americano.

The coffee shop was pretty full, and I think I got the last table. Not long after I had seated myself, alternately flipping through a magazine and checking my various social media, an older man (this is getting to be a trend) approached me and asked if it would be okay if he shared my table.


Then follows that awkwardness when you are not quite sure if sharing the table also means engaging in conversation… I looked intermittently at my magazine and phone… He spoke up first, commenting on his coffee addiction.

You have no idea.

He proceeded to tell me about his life… a former infantry man in conflicts all over East Africa (based in Tanganyika, which gives a rough age) and Malaya, a professor of architecture in Lisbon with a specialty in 16th century Portuguese architecture in the Ethiopian Highlands (apparently there is quite a lot of it there), a Portuguese stone mason, a published author… He looked the part: round face with a bushy white beard, tan corduroy jacket, coptic cross around the neck. I could just as easily picture him with a pith helmet, boots, and a canteen slung over his shoulder as I could behind a big wooden desk with a pipe in his mouth surrounded by a room full of books.

The conversation lasted until long after my coffee was finished. We touched on politics, defining “culture,” architecture, and spirituality, to name a few. It was quite the interesting conversation and certainly better than the magazine I had picked up to read from the counter at the cafe.


3 thoughts on “16th Century Portuguese Architecture in the Ethiopian Highlands

  1. Your strangers approaching you are so much more interesting than mine. I usually get the ‘you should cut your foot off and get a fake one instead’ speeches…
    So exciting about the new practicum place. Congrats!

  2. Sounds like a good debrief. Nothing like getting a fresh perspective…

    I am curious about your new development…we should talk…

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