Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ethiopia: Part 3 of 3: The Glory Road, Elephant Ears, and the Culture Wars, Addis Ababa

The minutes ticked by while Girma and I awaited the guest house owners. I thought of how early I had to get up the next morning for the bus to Gonder.

I asked the on-duty manager to call the owners again to remind them I awaited their arrival. He did so, handed the phone to me, and the owner-wife promised they'd be there within the hour.

Finally the two did arrive, a young, pleasant-looking couple. I went through my concerns again: the quality of their affiliate guest house (D's) versus the quality of Z's (where I now was), though with the same room rate; and their tacit approval of Habtomi as a reliable character, though he engaged in inappropriate behavior that reflected poorly on their business.

In the beginning, the owners made no apology for charging me the same price for D's Guest House as they did for the superior Z's. I explained that the two were not even in the same class, and as far as I was concerned, I had already paid for tonight's room, as the other room at D's was worth half of what they charged.

The husband avowed that the happiness of his customers was more important than their profits (and I maintained an entirely straight face). Then he said he'd be willing to refund all of the money I'd already paid, and I heard an audible gasp from the wife; the appalled expression on her face as she looked at her husband was such that I could not help laughing out loud, saying to the husband, "Oh, no, you are in for a very uncomfortable discussion later!"

But then I said, "No, I want just what I said before, tonight's room free, with no need of a refund for the other nights." I added that I expected them to arrange a taxi for me for early the next morning so I could get to the bus station. They agreed.

With Girma present throughout, we addressed the "my brother" thing, and the owner corroborated what Girma had said - that they are "like" family.

I told the owners that Girma had acquitted himself in my mind, although he and I continued to disagree about how his behavior contributed to my assumptions about his role (e.g. standing mutely by while Habtomi took advantage) in this drama. I took responsibility, as well, for my role in cultural misunderstandings. Finally, I told the owners how appreciative I was that Girma had, on his own time, accompanied and assisted me on Saturday morning errands, without asking for anything from me.

So all ended well.

I retired to my nice room and entered the bathroom to take a shower.

The light didn't work.

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