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Staff Profile #1: Alem

Taylor Dibbert

Alem is from Eritrea. He was born in Asmara, the capital. “I would love to work in Eritrea, but the situation there now is not nice,” he says. “But I would love to work there one day.” He misses home, though going back for a visit isn’t possible [given the authoritarian nature of the government].

He’s been working at the Co-op since April 2015. He initially came to Virginia and then moved to Maryland in early 2015. “This is my first job in America,” he tells me while smiling pleasantly. Alem started as a stocker. Now he’s one of two buyers for the Refrigerated Department.

Back in Eritrea, he worked for the Ministry of Agriculture. More specifically, he was a monitoring and evaluation officer for an agricultural development project in the western part of the country. After that, he worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – where he focused on food security issues for the World Food Programme. He then moved to the U.S.

“Working at the Co-op can be interesting and challenging,” he says. “The best part about working here is interacting with different kinds of people – different nationalities, different personalities, people with different backgrounds, different cultures.”

Outside of work, Alem – who currently resides in Hyattsville – doesn’t spend much time in Takoma Park, though he likes going to Spring Mill, the bakery across the street.

In terms of adjusting to his new job and new country, Alem had been accustomed to working Monday through Friday. At the Co-op, he works on the weekends and has Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. “It’s been an adjustment,” he says.

On the food front, he likes the pita bread that’s offered at the Co-op. In addition, for lunch he enjoys grabbing something from Café Spice, which offers a range of Indian cuisine and some Thai dishes. He especially likes the Chicken Vindaloo with Lemon Rice.

There are a few Ethiopian restaurants in Silver Spring that Alem thoroughly enjoys; he prefers to dine there when he can. “I love Ethiopian food.” He also explains that Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine are quite similar (which makes sense).

When asked about the four guests he would have at his fantasy dinner party, Alem responds without hesitation: “I have some friends here from my country; it would be them,” he notes.

Going forward, he’s eager to visit some of the museums in the Washington, D.C. area. And he’s keen to travel around the U.S. “I would go anywhere.”