Addis Ababa Travel Blog› entry 4 of 23 › view all entries
So we left, and the flight went one without any particular incident. KLM was proving was better than NWA actually and we did have better food, better blankets and pillows and entertainment in our seat. So I watch some of the movies or slept for most of the length of the flight, without forgetting to have a glimpse through window. That allowed me to see the Austrian Alps, the Italian coast, the Libyan coast and then … the Sahara! I was sleeping and waking up to look to notice that vast brown area beneath with no life and just from time to time a difference in texture and physical relief. I think I even saw the Sudanese and Egyptian border, as I can’t see any other explanation for a sudden dark straight line appearing in the desert.
A few hours later, we landed in Khartoum which was definitely a peak in our journey.
We took off Khartoum while it was dark, so there was nothing interesting to see anymore until we landed.
Once out, we had to look for Tefarra through the whole crowd picking up passengers, after passing twice looking at the signs, I noticed him and we greeted each other. We walked out to his car and start driving, my first sight of Addis Ababa, by night! We drove on a fairly large road (the ring road) in direction of the city smelling the burned coal used in heating, and that was surprising, it was really cold!
Underneath the viaducts and bridge there was crowd of people sticking along together to sleep, not long after we arrived at our hotel: Panorama Hotel.
On the way back, we bought a sandwich by a tiny shop (not the tastiest thing, but ok) and went back to the hotel. Tefarra left us there and specified we had access to the Internet from our room, so we definitely rushed to our laptop and I had the chance to write some email and talk to Megan! That was great. After some hours, I felt asleep exhausted.
We slept most of the morning and around noon Tefarra came to pick us, although his baby daughter was sick and he couldn’t put his mind at something else.
Again, we drove around for the whole day seeing different part of the city and of the life of the city but with not landmark or map we couldn’t really know where we were standing at.
Later during the afternoon, we went to visit a compound house for rent, it looked fine. The price is huge though, especially as everything comes out our own pocket. We also passed by the office to discuss about it and as no other clear options were showing up and that this house was at walking distance from the office we decided to go for it.
So our rent is going to be 6000Birr a month and we have to pay the first two months, to that we have to had a 1000Birr to the broker.
Once I got up we did the walk to the bank to exchange our money, that was sad to see going especially that we lose with the rate (and we lose twice as we needed to change to Dollar or Euro and now change those to Birr). We brought that huge amount back to the hotel before Tefarra picked us up.
We drove around the city again and looked for a restaurant, the one we found was way far from our hotel so we passed by Zebra Grill again and first went to the Toronto Café. The sad thing was that once looking at the menu and trying to order, there was no chicken available, there was no beef available, the pizzas where not available, then I turned myself to the only seemingly vegetarian meal, it was not available. Basically nothing in the menu was available (or a very limited choice). So we simply left and crossed the street back to Zebra Grill. We ordered something and while we were to finish the block went in black-out. It took us ages before we got the bills and luckily we noticed while we walked out that the blackout was pretty limited.
The amazement were pretty of mixed feeling, seeing the extreme poverty or dismembered people sometimes makes me pretty sad or give me a frisk. I definitely can not say that it is a joyful view, you can’t do anything for them and I definitely can’t afford feeding them or giving them my money. So even for the children or any beggars you simply learn to walk through and not even pay attention to them, even if they insist. At some point it hurts, at other moments it brings frustration I am not sure how I will always cope with it.
The frustration also holds on the fact that the cost of things (food particularly) is extremely expensive, even me can’t really afford it with my westerners incomes (westerners of expats saying differently are actually holding position where their incomes is taking care of by their government, so people that would have no self idea of what money is).
Today we will be moving into our house. Tefarra came in the morning and we checked out of the hotel, paying that bill was again a hard chunk to swallow. We drove to the house to drop our bags in a secured room while the past tenants would move out later that day, and obviously to their look they would not move until the very last minute.
We spent part of the afternoon at the office and finally went for a meal (I was starving as it was already the afternoon) at a Middle-East restaurant facing the office. Right after that we drove around again, Tefarra going from different office to others trying to solve his phone problem, also going to the City Hall where I will be working a lot.
As we entered different offices or drove by embassy or ‘richer’ district of ‘important’ people, as well as when we went to the bank, what stroke me was the guards, not always in ‘proper’ uniform, holding kalachnikov and coming to path you down and look at your bag.
It is only by dusk that we could get into the house and move our bags in, it was not long at home (as they were still cleaning) before that Tefarra picked us back for a night out and dinner at a traditionnal Ethiopian restaurant. That was great, sitting on low rise chair facing a typical table in a hut. There was music, dancers and singers, we had local beers before the food arrive. It was a large, pancake alike soft bread where all the food is put on. You get another rolled such bread and use that to pick up the food to your mouth. It was tasty actually, I did like it despite the fact that sometimes the bread was salty or sour. One traditional thing beforehand and after was that they come with hot water and soap and you can wash your hand as they pour the water on your hands.
After the restaurant, I was extremely sleepy. I was sleepy the whole day as I spent nearly the whole night on the Internet as my last opportunity to talk long and about many subjects with Megan. I can say that she makes me smile and make me see positive again. The conversation we had went from feelings and different things, sometimes sad and unsure of ourselves but also trying to resolve any problem and idea we might have. I won’t detail it too much, but I can definitely say that I am getting very much in love with her and I look forward to be with her. But sometimes my feelings tries to fight it as matter to not be hurt again as I used to be previously, through refusing to admit it might go or trying to make myself not so much of a nice person. We talked about that, my feelings will probably jump a lot on the coming months from positive love to fearing doubts, what I would write here about us would only be reflecting on what pole mood I am at the moment.
We ended up going to a lounge bar and I had a drink there, I got to talk to a guy and exchange our number and also to Americans that were in town as tourists. Although when Tefarra was ready to leave we left too despite being at discussion with them as otherwise we don’t know where we were.
Back at the house, the disappointment came when we noticed all the bugs on the wall. Most of them dying from the product (smelling really hard) that the landlord has put around but it is definite that we will have to do something about it. The main bugs we have were in the bathroom and are the prehistoric style humid environment kind of cloporte bug.
As we don’t have Internet either L, we had nothing more to do than unpacking a bit and get to sleep. We have satellite TV though.
Lone Saturday on our own, the bugs mainly died but it is disgusting to clean, our bread went mildewed too so we wouldn’t have anything to eat unless we go out (well we have nothing at all in the house either).
We only walked out of the house in the afternoon (Colin did a tour in the morning though, I slept). We walked along Ethio-China Friendship Avenue and Bole road in the area where we live, looking at the price in different supermarket. We reached NY Café and went to eat in for a pizza, what got annoying is that the waiter surcharged us and we had to argue, even if we paid 10Birr less it was still above what was the real price. We definitely will need to take care and watch our receipt everytime.
On the way back it was raining hard and a short blackout affected the area, we stopped to buy some goods for tomorrow and especially toilet paper.
The usual, being noticed as the white person (although there were some in NY café, it is easy to notice the actual expats places) and being begged and paying huge hurtful amount for what we obtained.
I actually also got pretty mad at the Canadian Government, which sent us there without any support or actual care. The CIDA just sent interns like that while they have to absorb the cost for the plane ticket, the housing, the huge inflation, losing our own money on the currency exchange rates. I definitely decided that I will refused to make any promotion for the CIDA and government, what actually if we get robbed, it is my computer that I needed to bring for work. It is my own money that I need to provide in advance for all my cost, it is my future that I put at risk for when I will step back in Canada, homeless and penniless.
We left only late during the day to have a long walk, we walked on the other direction on Ethio-China and arrived to the construction site, where they basically build the southern side of the Ring.
We decided to continue to try to get to Bole Road, although we walked long and ended up on the Ring instead and had to walk even longer to try to find where we were and not get lost any much more. We got caught by the rain and had to shelter for a bit and then continued our way until we saw the airport. We had not eaten anything the whole day (as we do not have much to eat nor the money to spend on it) and definitely needed the strength and a drink so we stopped by Kaldi’s on Bole.
Office day, we walked there but everyone was late so we waited by the lobby. We basically had an orientation discussion, which I don’t think was complete.
Dinner came quick, so we ate by the middle east restaurant again.
About the weather, the temperature does get cold in the night most of the time. So you are happy to have a warm blanket. During the day, it is now the rainy season so it rains pretty hard in the morning. Around the rush hour basically and again during the evening rush hour at dusk. The midday is either cloudy, sunny, sometimes warm sometimes more chill. So you never know when to wear your jacket or not.
The daylight is a straight 12 hours and that is it, from 6am to 6pm then it is dark again.
Today we woke up and Teferra came to the house where we looked at the condition of the flat. We had already had an hour to discuss with our landlord family who showed up really good.
So once that has been solved, basically the cupboard will be somehow fixed in part as best as it is possible. While an exterminator is suppose to come to spray the compound. Luckily it should be efficient enough to help up get rid of those crawling insect.
After this we headed to Merkato, the big market in the north of the city to buy stuff at cheap price.
Merkato is huge, when I say huge, imagine a mighty huge market and double it.
We bought ourselves some cleaning products, blankets and sheets. I love my blanket and bedsheets, hand made Ethiopian ones. Of course this cost us way more than I wish but well.
We also had a meal there and it is later by the afternoon that we left with our stuff to go directly to our old hotel as there was a meeting organized there which we would assist. People were late, so we used the computer of the hotel to get over the net, that was welcome. About the meeting per se, it was in Amharic, so it became a bit dull and I had to entertain myself with the look of the listeners… and it was long!
We got drop back home after that, had some pasta cooked really cheaply (with an egg… just basically throwing what we had) while watching one of the movie on MBC 2, the Arabic movie channel we have and sleep.
I woke up by the rain, so because it was a hard one the exterminator would not come today. We waited for a while but decided to leave as we planned to go to register at our embassy today.
We walked the whole way but got a bit lost so it took us longer.
The arrival to the embassy was an unsurprisingly bad thing. They were closed! We walked 2 hours to reach there and they are only opened 4 hours a day. Bunch of fucking lazy bugger, I hate them. Colin got their phone number and call and claim he wanted to get in, they did so, for so we register. But the entrance of the embassy compound was rubbish and the service we received was appalling and shameful. Even one of the rare white worker just passed next to us without even bothering looking at us. This ambassador and obviously every one representing Canada there should be ashame of themselves. They are there to offer services, work, meet us and give a good image to anyone… not get some cheap free vacation in their bunkerised villa looking at their big garden and tennis court.
We were both mad at that, and obviously we will never get back in there.
We stopped by the nearest Kaldi to eat and had a nice breakfast before heading out toward town getting into our first blue donkey (the minibuses) which was a nice and fair ride. Once we reached Mexico Square and started walking the rain didn’t wait long to show up. So we were stuck for a moment while the street were slightly flood by the heavy rain. When it slowed we walked all the way to Bole and further to the Internet café, then to the grocery and home to relax.
I thought my computer would die, as it made strange sound and the mouse was refusing to respond while I was writing this.
Farewell to the bugs!
The exterminator came this morning and started to spray the house and the compound, so with luck we won’t have our friends anymore with us after that. Because of that we got up and left to the office to do some literature reading, that has been mainly the day.
By August we should be all settled!
August 1 - 2
The days were basic, we simply went out to the office and then bought some food.
As usual, I have no remembrance of what happened - when. So as usual I give up on writting down a blog and all details that comes with it. And as the days and daily life gets pretty day to day things it is also a bit boring to write down.
Hence, I will now pass over the useless days (where I most likely woke up and worked on my computer, either at the office or at home; or possibly walked to the supermarket to get some food - usually along Africa/Bole Avenue or at Wolo Sefer to buy some vegetales at the corner fruit stand.)
This Friday Andrew, one of the manager of the Toronto office was arriving for some days in Addis. We set some meeting and appointment to be done next week with Government officials regarding the project and the office here. Despite this we weren't really sure what was going out about us. Finally we ended up not going to any of those meetings, so the following week we simply continued our reading.
The bad news for me is that my computer died, first it simply made a blue screen.
I don't have the disc with me and have nothing I could really do about it. My frustration and disappointment level went up. Internet was already crap to communicate, now without even a computer... what the hell am I doing here actually.
Later over the week end and the following week (as I think it actually died in mid-week) around the 5th I think, it went even more bad as it would only give me the Compaq screen then followed by a loud beep.
I both wanted to lie down and cry.
This Sunday, Tefarra came to pick us up and we went to his place on the outskirt to have dinner with his family, Solomon and Andrew. The food was great and delicious and we even got some as a doggie bag to bring home. A bit like in Poland, when they cook and put food on the table, there is plenty of it.
Besides what I said previously regarding my computer, not much did actually happen during those days, we had a meeting with Andrew on his last day before he left, were we talked about the project, the office and the working condition. With a bit of hope we did get tips on how to communicate with the outside world. I immediately transfered that to Megan, as it seemed that one the cheapest way to talk is if the person by calling card for Africa. Megan did so for later on the week end, but from Portland it was a disappointment in term of cost/lenght relation.
On Thursday, I actually stayed home and didn't do much. I was tired and mainly bored. I have no computer and the only thing I can do at the office is look at the plant get dust on. Pretty boring, I am sometimes getting pretty angry and mad at the situation and in complete despair.
We at least did some leisure moment, we actually went to Cinema. We wanted to go to see the Dark Night at Edna Mall cinema on Tuesday but on last minute they did change their schedule.
There was a CS meeting organised today, so we went there after work. We arrived a few minutes late as we walked the whole way from the office to the Limetree on Bole Road. It was pretty cool, there was a good bunch of people actually and some of them were locals. I ended up mainly talking with the person who organised it, Maski who is Ethiopian but living in Montreal... although she has been travelling constantly over Africa for the past year. Later on, I talked with another guy (Pierre, whom I would learn later on that he is a GIS consultant) and we talked about my computer and would meet to look at it a bit later.
Limetree is a ice eating place, they offer free wifi internet (of course slow) and some pretty decent food. It is on Bole Road just off the Friendship area and full of Faranji, which also means that there is plenty of beggars awaiting you when you step out of the building. The food is pretty decent and fresh, hence it is packed with foreigners at dinner time. I have to admit that the Shake and Smoothies are sooo delicious.
A calm week end, hmmm no remembrance. Cleaning some bit of the flat I suppose.
On Monday, I went to meet with Pierre at Limetree and we dismantled my computer as matter to put my hard-drive into a reader, so that I could see if it still worked. It did and all my data were still there and could be retrieve. Pierre leaned me one of his lap-top and I spent the following day taking all my data out and then moving them into my other portable hard-drive.
I met again with Pierre later this week and started to reboot and reformat my lap top with a new windows.
On the 14th, we met with one of the past interns at CUI, Robin, who now works with CIDA office at the Embassy. We had a short talk and decided to meet for a party that Friday. We got invited at a FAO/UN compound for a tiny house party on Friday night.
Friday, I spent some hours at work in the morning before we headed out on Bole to meet with Maski before going all north to Entoto Market in the upper outskirt of the city towards Entoto.
After walking from selling stand to stand we ended up in a shop that had what we were looking for. I bought a traditionnal dress for Megan, a dress which I think can be used as a gown for my mother and a tiny scarf. I saw a wonderful T-Shirt earlier which I planned to buy for my brother but it couldn't find the stand anymore on the way back, so they presumably closed in the meantime (we stood in the shop for a long time to get the right size and await for the rain to stop).
On another shop, I bought a male gown and Colin bought a great thick Cotton blanket. All this cost me about 450Birr, which is a great deal as one piece of what we bought would have cost us that price along Churchill Avenue.
Back home, we had some meal and later in the night prepared to go to the party with Robin.
Most obviously a UN worker in Addis has a completely different lifestyle then us, crappy poor NGO interns. We drove there by taxi (the blue lada) and our first sight was a clean compound, with UN truck parked in front and then some other cars with CD (Car Diplomatic) license plate.
We had a few drinks before getting into one Land Rover Discovery and drive around Addis enjoying a few beers while doing so towards the Jazz club at the end of Bole Road (Harlem Jazz). I felt completely posh, you ride in a party mood in a classy Rover in the street of Addis Ababa where people just sleep on pavement.
This is a fucked up world.
Harlem Jazz is a great place, I got offered some more drinks (after all, the FAO workers can afford it easily) and the live music was great. The place was not that packed despite the fact that it is suppose to be hugely popular but there was enough people.
After several hours of listening to the music and drinking some more we headed back in the car to a French Bar (owned by a French) somewhere else in town (by then I had lost any track of where we were).
Hmm dumbly, the conversation turned into politics... might I point out that we are quite a bunch of Canadian (including the UN workers) but I am the only one originating from a specific province. Well they questionned me about it. I actually don't care but I got tested.
It pissed me off.
So I drank more anyway. Later on the rain came back, actually we can say the early morning was approaching. The UN guy simply left on his side, so we had to get a taxi back. Then the sleeping time remained for most of the day as I could feel the dizziness of the alcohol not being too welcomed. Luckily I didn't get sick.
I spent Sunday at the office using the computer and talking to Megan a bit before she left for a week at her family farm, as then I would not be able to hear from her.
On the previous week, we had some meeting with Tefarra and Ileni at our office and discussed some bits and pieces of the project. That continued this week. Although I got lost off it pretty quickly.
I kept on doing my literature review anyway.
And we also made sure we would get enough food, a clean flat and what else as on the 19th, Laura was arriving in Addis Ababa. We also talked with Robel (the son of our landlord) and got a third bed in the house.
That is it for this day, I will enter more details about the following time on another entry. Actually, this is now the celebration of our first month in Addis Ababa, and it keeps being full or up and down.