The last month before I get cherished visit
Addis Ababa Travel Blog› entry 7 of 23 › view all entries
On this Saturday, I had to wake up early to go to the Canadian Embassy as I registered to pass the federal entry exams for some positions applied.
I finished earlier and went for dinner on my own before being joined by the rest of the group. I was the only one writing the exam in French so I was alone in the room I was with the exam supervisor. Then back in the afternoon for my last exams, which was pretty easier for me as was about the quality of language and such.
I finished earlier again and went home directly.
On Sunday, the rain was back so it was a bit boring and I was tired again. So I ended up just coming at the office in the evening. Which was great as I spent a short time talking with Megan.
The following week was all rainy too and so cold that I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.
On Wednesday, I ended up going to the UN. Which offered again some shit Internet and I wasn’t there late of course and the conversation was cut short as I ended up having some arguments with Megan, which was a bit pissing me off.
But I finally cut short the conversation as I was leaving the UN and meeting with Kenelm (strawberryfields3) from HC who was in town and went to meet him right away. We spent some time discussing on Bole during the evening and have a drink before I eventually headed home to cook something and relax.
On Thursday, I stayed home as well most of the day and felt sleepy with no energy. That annoyed me again and I was supposed to have a meeting later by the end of the day but that was dodgy arranged and I had no idea if it would exist.
Another weekend is now passing, which is bringing full of excitement, as I am about to turn my calendar page (Ethiopian calendar) to the last one until Megan arrives.
But anyway, things went on a downhill side as matter to talk further.
Then I came to the office but the Internet wasn’t working. So after some time I just started working on my files and managed in the whole 8h I spent here to complete most of them. So my interview questionnaire for the slum dwellers are ready as well as is my main methodology paper. I tried several time during that evening to open the Internet but the bloody thing never worked. That seriously pissed me off!
On Monday, I just picked my things and went to the UN. I chatted a bit with Megan with whom we argued over heating system and so on.
On Tuesday, it was to be a great day as I had a meeting over my budget, so I was at the office in the morning but the meeting was pushed forward until the evening. I worked on my files in the meantime got the Internet a bit in the afternoon for a quick chat until Anteneh came to visit so I talked with him for a while. Then in the evening after having waited long I had my meeting with Teferra and got my budget. Which is tiny according to Canadian Standards, 600$ to pursue my study pay my tiny expenses while I am on the field and hire some support staff for the interviews.
While I was having my meeting, I also started having some sort of relationship question discussion with Megan online and it continued until late in the night. But I have to admit that it was not a good one. It made me a bit doubtful about the motivation of it. Made me think and believe that we possibly aim just at some sort of companionship relation. I am fine with it, I guess, and I guess it is what life is finally. Because I have more and more the impression that love doesn’t exist and so on… which is how my mood and mind quite crashed in relation with that conversation. Not knowing what her feelings are (or understanding a bit of different ones from that last conversation) made us come into a completely new landscape it seems.
Personally I will adapt to however a relationship is aiming in style.
Megan if you ever happen reading this, well I am sorry then. I think, most likely I will start closing up myself to avoid any of those sharing discussion, which I don’t like to reveal myself by lowering down my guard.
One big mistake that was done just before leaving each other last was to say bye on a ‘farewell’ way, like ‘’ohh we should not talk for a while’’ so just as a matter to get busy with our life’s activities. Even sent as a bit testing, when the answer is positive… or like trying to be witty. Well black&white / black&white! So it sounds similar to a break to me.
On Wednesday the 12th, I am at the office and I wrote the previous days of my blog.
I finished all my paper work, so I still have things to do but it is a great thing to know that my basic work I have been trying to set in the past weeks is in a nearly finalise set-up. So in the afternoon, I needed to move out and do something, I remembered that I should be calling Denise (whom is HC Canadian member travelling here and whom stayed at Volker in Frankfurt just a few days ago and he wrote me she was heading down here.) So I contacted her and went up to the Hilton to meet up with her, we went for a drink and talked about various things.
Ohhh finally that weekend, the second annoying rainfall went away. After 2 weeks of random hard rain and cold weather. This probably destroyed or damaged a lot of the crops in the area, which won’t be good for the food insecurity and the food price. My wish will remain that any impact happens after I am gone!
The 13th was a pretty normal working day, just finalising some more of the stuff for the project. And on Friday, Anteneh came over to finalise some more elements and we finally ended up going on the field later in the afternoon with Teferra's car to meet with the Kebele's administration. We finally did tour all the Kebele but didn't manage to be on time to meet with the people in Arada. But I was amazed how my random pick of local administration in Addis Ababa did end up with such hugely different area with different issues.
That was a nice challenge to notice.
About the project:
I am here as a Urban Developper Specialist (Town Planner specialised) employed through a Canadian Government Sponsored Internship (only receiving living allowance) with the Canadian Urban Institute Office in Addis Ababa. Basically my project is titled as an Eco-City project, which is usually bringing sustainable development techniques and planning management practices for the city and making sure that the city is more sustainable (socially, housing, economically, environmentally, development, transport... etc... all issues of the development of a city). Eco-City comes from Rio 1992 UN Sustainable Summit (everyone knows... the famous Brundtland Agenda 21) and usually means for the Western Country to develop our city and planning management techniques in a more green and environmentally-friendly way ie. taking care of Landscape, Environmental Assessment, Mobility, etc...).
Although on a developping country, the issues are a bit more urgent. So the Eco-City, here in Addis, takes more the shape of a Slum Upgrading program (a slum being just a shanty area where people houses are made of any temporary materials found here and there). So it matters more to improve sanitation, providing water, toilet, shower, waste management.... and of course work!!
So this is where my project is aiming at. Addis Ababa consisting of about 80% of Slum dwellings, that is a gigantic task. Although my personal phylosophy is always do one thing but do it good instead of trying to do everything.
And for that reason, I am working at developping one Project-Pilot on a local neighbourhood in Addis Ababa and also to create the full methodology for the project at later stage.
Such project should last several years, but since I am just here for a few months I do with what I have.
So what my intentions are, is to completely improve one Kebele (which is a local neighbourhood in Addis Ababa) on every aspects and make it good instead of just improving, say water, or waste management and let all other issue down.
What I am exactly working on concretely.
After having spend months doing nothing as I didn't know what there was to do. I finally started with analysing all the possible aspects to take into consideration in a complete study of a neighbourhood. And to do so, I integrated all basic life amenities and also all modern planning issues (which affects the Western Countries) so that they would be taken into account.
To follow some more methodological and scientific development on where the project would be localised. I first used my general list of aspects to draw some urban indicators that would give us an idea of the local conditions in various neighbourhood. That in terms of opportunity for the project to be successful and in terms of urgent needs too.
So I targeted 5 Kebeles In Addis Ababa to which I will apply the methodology (localised Central) and also designed the way to collect the data. Which will be done by interviews of locals, of administration and also field observation (so I designed all elements to do that).
The result will enable us to 'score' the various Kebele and the most urgent one will be the subject to the project pilot.
Once that has been defined (following the methodology), well I will be giving my recommendation and specialist advice on how the project should continue, and maybe even have some time to work on the final methodology for the whole project.
I will also give my recommendation for Anteneh to take the project over after my departure.
That is about my work here, so I am doing a tiny bit of lobbying and Human Resources (As I will be hiring interviewers for on the field, which I need to train), preparing the methodology and all the work and also be on the field for the observation.
So it is quite nice afterall. Though it was too long wait to just arrived there (and also a complete lack of support from any other professional).
The week end was quiet, Colin left to Harer so I had the house for myself and that was great. The following Monday, I met again with Anteneh to meet up with the last Kebeles in Arada, which took most of the day and spent the evening online. Although Internet was shit.
On Tuesday, I did some more of my office work from home but when I went to the office, Internet was entirely broken and not working and on Wednesday it was the same.
The whole country was without Internet, this is what happens when it is government controlled and inefficient. It drove me mad.
I also started feeling a bit sick as it seems I have been catching the flu from my colleague. Thats bad.
So Thursday I was in bed all day and Friday too... although I came to finish some more work that needed to be done.
November 20th and 21st, despite having a bad cold mark a great last 20 days before Megan comes here! I am looking forward to it!
The weather, is amazingly odd... it is sooooooooooo cold lately that it explains why I got a cold and everyone around me has. I am freezing overnight, althought the days are now sunny (since the rainy season and it seconds tiny rain season are gone) and warm during the day, which is nice.
The house is remaining cold all the time, the heat doesn't get inside as it is concrete built. So that is annoying.
About street life, the street dogs are really lovely, sometimes dumb or sad at how they look but they never bother you nor care about humans, they lie on the pavement as if you don't exist and get only active at night. I have never see any dogs here becoming a danger or barking at a human. They seem to pretty fear them and give them respect and all the place during the day while the night is their kingdom. Also, most people do give them bones on the pavement so they get fed by everyone.
The last week of November, it went pretty quick and one of the reason was that I had guests over for most of the week. On Saturday, I spent a part of the day at the office finalising some work and watched my email as Ronald (whom I had met some weeks before while he was arriving in Addis) wrote me that he would be back before his departure to stay over from tomorrow.
So I replied and he did show up the next day, after his long trip to the south and I met with him at the office building. I did some more stuff online while I could before we went home and walked around Kebele 4 (my neighbourhood) to show him the surrounding and the slums. I could explain the different type of development and living conditions in Ethiopia through that tour. We ended up having pizza at Oracle and finally watching movies at home later on.
On Monday, I finally spent only one hour at the office and we both headed to Entoto to hike a bit in the mountain. It was fine, and finally after some hours of fresh air in the high altitude I noticed that my cough had disappeared! That is great, so hiking in high altitude does help for that? Well it seemed to have.
We stopped by Piassa on the way back to have a cake and drink before we struggled to get a bloody bus to Bole. I didn't know where they were from Piassa but they were not in an obvious place and as it was getting dark it was getting even more confusing. Especially when you have about hundreds of them going in every direction and the conductor yelling the places. You are wondering where to catch it.
We were both knackered and so cooking and sleeping was a pretty easy thing to do.
I went to work on Tuesday and spent the evening with him before he left to catch his flight with KLM (so late evening). I also received another call from Maarten (who stayed at the beginning of the month, asked if he could come over before his departure.).
So on Wednesday while I was at work, I got a call that he arrived, I went home early to have meal and spent again the evening at the office for using the Internet.
On Thursday, we met late in the afternoon and went to Cinema after having cooked some nice beans and Peanut Saté at home. We watched Body of Lies, which was a nice entertainment and it had been a long time I had not been at Edna Mall.
Friday I got a brawl with Colin since he is using the stuff I buy that are in my desk. I knew it since I noticed someone was using them but it was really pissing me off that it became like granted to do so. I had been doing the walk exploratory on Kebele 4 and was so mad at how I am being answered and belittled by his attitude that I left the office and did stay. I met with Maarten and we finally went out. I needed to be out and so, we went to a terrass nearby and had some drinks before meeting with Robel and go for a quick pizza at Oracle (they serve really good pizza on Ethio-China Road) and further to the German House for some more beers. We made it until after midnight before walking home, then simply brought Maarten to a taxi (as his turkish airlines flight was at 4am).
So now I was on my last week end of November. It will be December and Megan is coming quick. I finished all my related work over the week end and also had a walk with Robel in Kirkos's neighbourhood on Sunday.
Addis Living Conditions:
The beggars: Of course you will see plenty of them, some being polite... many being rudely direct or rudely expecting it is a need for you to give them because you are white. The only remaining trick is to ignore them. There is no way you can't give to all, and often giving to one would mean that they all surround you. And naturally many of them does not need any money or food (as they would sell it) so that is a careful thoughts.
Children especially are naturally coming to beg you, although school is free. They are still prefer to be street children and earn money on the street which will be a really bad thing for their future.
Some grown-up also begs, for the only reason that you are white and they might get some bucks. They don't need it as they can usually work and are fit to work. Basically they are just being a pleg and sadly some people do give them, so it encourage them.
The only real beggars would be an elder or a disable, the only ones that are really in needs as it is being pretty difficult for them to get incomes elsewhere.
Luckily, the beggars and anyone on the street are usually friendly and never will be treatening. They can of course be a pain in the ass, but I definitely would recommend to not give or give only to those in needs. Not because it make you feel better or make you get rid of them. Learning a few words and being persistant will quickly make them away (or usually just keep on walking straight, as your pace should definitely be quicker than an Ethiopian). Giving them will only encourage them that white people are only here to give them, and discourage them on earning their life anyhow else.
Night Walk anyone?
It is Africa, and walking at night in a strange city can be somehow disturbing. Although, the city is pretty safe and the blackout problems are rarely generalised to the whole city. I personally never had any problems walking back home from wherever I was (if the distance was no longer than 40 minutes walk) and this usually end up surprising more the local than actually making them annoying you whatsoever.
Of course, basic safety as it would apply anywhere else remains. But if you know where you are going, know where you are and the road you will walk at a sure pace and it is pretty much more unlikely that you will be noticed as a potential target. You should alos look ahead and can then notice if there is people somewhere on the street, change side if you don't want to bump and be too much closer to them, then you are definitely more safe. The police is always around and the thing no one knows about Addis, is that there is always 'Eyes' watching you. Those eyes are all the guards keeping various buildings or other elements usually hidden in a dark corner. If you yell, you definitely get their attention quick!
Also, besides the taxi driver that will not believe that a white person can walk... the streets are calm and it is usually relaxing to do so.
I wouldn't suggest it so much around Merkato though.
Taxis and Minibus:
The minibus does not run any long than about 10pm (at max) so after that, you have to rely on the taxi (white and blue car; while the taxis are the white & blue toyota minivan). Night tariff will apply but of course also the 'white inflation'.
The minibus are the nice and cheapest way to travel around Addis although you need to know where you are going and where the bus is going. The conductor yells the destination, but this is not so useful when you don't know the city.
The conductor is rarely overcharging foreigners, but if this happens, simply ask someone on the bus what the right price is and you should manage to get your money. At worst, the police will quickly resolve that since the price are fixed and they can't overcharge. Anyhow, a short distance ride within the city will never cost more than 2 Birr ever. Of course sometimes the minibus continues on long distance and the price is broken into sector (so you only pay for your sector) and might have to pay more than once during the ride.
For taxis, the price is relying on your haggling talent.
Destination clues if you happen to be around Bole and need to go to: (by minibus)
The American Embassy: Listen for ''Arat Kilo''; then from there further to ''Siddist Kilo - Shero Meda''
The Hilton or Sheraton: ''Arat Kilo''
The Canadian Embassy: Listen for ''Mexico''; then from there ask for ''Pushkin''
Piassa / Merkato... have their own destination
In doubt, wherever you are... try to go to ''Stadium'' which is pretty much the transport hub for the city.
Enjoy Addis, carry a tiny flashlight at night if needed, and a raincoat during the rainseason!