Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ethiopia: Saturday in Addis, Day 2 - Camera Gone!

Credit: Home Owner Care
This morning I had a killer shower at the Ankober Guest House! Tremendous water pressure! Hot water! It was a sensual experience!

Later, I walked across to the Wutma Hotel Restaurant. Although the food is only so-so, it is close to my hotel, the ambiance is nice, and the staff are cheerful and friendly. Rahel, one of the waitresses, greeted me with a surprised and welcoming smile when I walked in.

I settled down to a leisurely breakfast and coffee, along with writing and a little reading. (I borrowed a book from Stephanie's library, The Ghost, by Robert Harris.) And who should appear? British Mike! Still here! He reported his new departure date is March 7. He did finally get his "paper," which I think is the affidavit from the police. I get the impression this paper is being processed by the British bureaucracy. In the interest of fairness to British Mike (seeing as how I've mentioned him in a public venue via my blog), I told him that I'd shared his story with a fellow Brit (Stephanie) and that she could not believe it! (OK, one can take that statement several ways.) Mike indicated that this is just the way the British Embassy is. At any rate, he said, it hasn't been all bad. He put on a Valentine's Day event at the restaurant and it was a grand success. He said he's been working to help the manager build new and repeat business.

I returned to the Ankober, as I needed to change rooms because mine had been previously reserved by another party. Once the transfer was complete, off I went for lunch - an egg sandwich at K Corner, a nice little place with jazzy bluesy music, a shady, cool terrace that provides a quiet escape from the hurly-burly bustle on the street. I smiled as I reviewed some of the photos on my camera.

After lunch, I walked around the corner to the Dashen Bank, in hopes the ATM was still accessible on this Saturday afternoon. It was! Flush with cash, I bounced brightly along the sidewalk, feeling good. I stopped to take a picture of a large building with a rooftop terrace on which colorful table umbrellas fluttered.

Omar Khayam Restaurant in Addi Ababa
I continued back toward my hotel, enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells on this sunny day. I'd take a little break in my room, then go to the internet cafe to upload my new pics from the school and get caught up on more journal entries. A teenager offered me gum or "soft." At first I declined, but as he walked away, I changed my mind and bought a package of "soft" for 2 birr. While I was completing that transaction, another teen approached me with his tray of gum and soft, which I declined. Then darned if the first teen didn't ask me to buy a second item, which I declined.

I got back to my hotel, unloaded my gear onto the bed and realized, hell, my camera wasn't in its case! I searched my pockets, turned out my bag, looked all over and around the bed. No camera! Oh no, I left it at the K Corner Restaurant! Nope - I took the picture of that building with the umbrellas.

With a sinking feeling, I determined to retrace my steps in case the camera fell out of its case and it was laying on the ground. It was entirely possible that when I returned it to its case, it fell out if I didn't latch the case properly. On my reverse trek, I ran into Rahel and her fellow waitress from the Wutma Hotel Restaurant. I  explained the situation, and the two were confident it had been stolen. Bummer. However, I expressed faith
that it could turn up and that I intended to give it a go. I did retrace my steps, then reversed again. I thought I might make a sign in Amharic offering a reward for finding my lost camera. I did broach that subject with
two men sitting by the magazines-for-sale section of the pavement. They recommended I go to the police station. They gave me directions.

Not having much faith in that plan, I nevertheless started in that direction, and went by two security guards, one man and one woman, in front of a building. I starting explaining my quest to both, and saw that the woman had begun to laugh, at which point I said there were pictures on the camera of school kids from Nazret, and I needed them to help gain donations to their school. She kind of sobered up a little then, and about then a man walked by, and asked what the problem was. I explained it all again, noting the important thing was the photos. He also suggested I go to the police, and accompanied me to the station. Along the way, I learned he was a member of the Addis Chamber of Commerce!

This gentleman delivered me to the police station, gave a policeman a synopsis of my predicament, got my phone number, and then went on his way.

My first impression of the police station, sorry to say, was the walloping stench of urine. It was horrific. Otherwise, I noted men sitting on a couple of benches. I was invited by one to wait my turn on a bench as well. I also saw two Brits standing in the open-air corridor. Eventually, I asked them what their deal was, and one said they were at the station regarding his Ipod. I inquired, "Stolen"? He replied, "Long story," so I took that as a signal that he really didn't want to talk about it.

At one point, one of the "bench men" asked what I was about, and I mentioned the camera. He invited me to follow him, which I did, and we walked across the street to a car with two men in it. He briefed them on my deal, and the guy in the passenger seat asked me, "Did someone sell you 'soft'"? Whoa! "Yes!" I exclaimed. And the guy asked if the vendor was a skinny dude, to which I was noncommittal -- the teen had a t-shirt and an over-shirt on, so it was tough to remember his build.

Inexplicably, this exchange seemed to go nowhere further, as the "bench man" returned to the station across the street and I followed. I resumed my place on the bench, waiting my turn for an audience with the investigator, who was closeted in what was evidently the station's action room.

In time, the investigator came out of the action room, approached me, and said, improbably, "What's up?" I kind of smiled, maybe even repeating what he said, then he said, "Come on!" and went back into the action room. I followed.

The investigator had me take a seat. The only nearby chair was impossible; it looked like the seat cushion had once been bound in leather (or a facsimile thereof), but it had been chewed through to the point where only the barest layer of stuffing remained. I sat on it gingerly and surprisingly, it held.

The investigator was a tall, handsome man with a big smile and a blue and white striped shirt.

I told him my sad tale and he asked a few questions related to when and where. Then he grabbed a police officer and gave him some instructions. Obviously a man of few words, he instructed me, "Go with him."

I ended up with two escorts, a uniformed officer and a plainclothesman. I asked the uniformed officer about the other, "also a policeman"? The guy in street clothes laughed and said, "CIA. FBI." Along the way, the uniformed officer asked my religion (a very common question I receive). We three chatted amiably, I  showed them the area where the camera disappeared, and we returned to the station.

Upon our return, I was invited again to take a bench. The two Brits were still about. A Muslim "bench man" stood up, carefully laid his jacket on the cement porch where we sat, then stepped down to a water
spigot at the bottom of the steps, and washed his face, hands, and feet. Meanwhile, his companion prayed standing, then knelt on the jacket and prayed. The first man completed his ablutions and then conducted his own prayers on the jacket.

Photo credit: The Telegraph

Eventually, the investigator summoned me back to the action room. He had paper with carbon between pages and commenced to write a report. He asked if I had insurance and, surprised, because I'd forgotten that I DID have insurance, I said yes. The investigator asked the value of the camera, then said, "Do not file insurance for the camera" because he was certain his people would retrieve my camera. This was great
news to me.

The investigator asked me my full name, where I was staying, and then asked my age. Wha?! "Do you really need my age"? I asked. He indicated yes. I wondered aloud if it needed to be the true age and his response
was more or less a shrug. I looked him square in the eye and said, "30."

As I sat chuckling gleefully to myself about my outrageous response, he asked some more questions, ending with "What is your identity"? Huh? I told him I didn't understand the question, the realized he was asking my national origin. Oh, got it.

His report complete, we chatted awhile informally, and then I left, returning to my hotel.

Although I felt very hopeful about getting the camera back, it was a depressing loss in the moment.

1 comment:

Geoff Reed said...

Wow! That is a lot of doo-doo for a dime. But of course, how do you put a dollar value on your images. It seems that they became more sympathetic to your plight after her the part about the pictures. Are we talking about a point and shoot or a DSLR type camera?