Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ethiopia: Wednesday in Addis, Day 5: Ethiopian Yin Yang

Wednesday. Got up fairly early, had a stupendous shower. Had just put the finishing touches on my morning routine before heading out for breakfast, when there was a knock on the door.

"Hello!" A decidedly American voice called out.

It was Betty. We ran into each other again last night at the internet cafe. As promised last night, she'd come this morning to give me the lowdown on places she's been and where I might go in the coming month: Harar, Gobe, Roba, Arben Mincha, Jinka, Awassa. Bless her, she also bequeathed me her large
spray can of insect killer, as she will return to Nepal late tonight. 

It was about 10:00 a.m. when she left to lodge her complaints about her Ethiopian experiences (especially the fracas at Arba Mincha) at the Ethiopia Tourist Bureau downtown. We agreed to meet for dinner at Queen Taitu Hotel.

I went to breakfast for my usual egg sandwich and coffee at K Corner.

I had tasks to complete before leaving for Dodola (in the Bale Mountains) tomorrow morning.

First, I finished the final installment of my January 23 "Glory Road, Elephant Ears, and Culture Wars" story, and emailed that to the usual suspects.

I pulled out cash from the Dashen Bank ATM, and traipsed home to stash it in various hidey-holes. Paid for my room tonight.

I emptied out some things from my bag in preparation for a minibus ride to the Autobus Terra, a bus station next to the Mercato. The Mercato is notorious for pickpockets.

I asked Saba where I should catch the minibus for the Autobus Terra, and how much it should cost. She told me where, that it should be 2 birr, and admonished me to "watch your bag! Lots of pickpockets by the Mercato!"

Saba is the daytime clerk at the Ankober Guest House. She is pretty and funny and gracious. And she loves to watch the Simpsons.

I bumbled around for a bit finding the minibus, and eventually succeeded. With the serial assistance of many kind individuals, I made my way to the correct ticket window and bought my ticket to Dodola. (I need to be there at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow.) Then another solicitous person helped me get to the right area to catch a return minibus. And yet another helpful person, also looking to go to the Piazza, helped us both get a minibus. This last, Mahmie, was on his way to an English class. An investment in his future.

When I gave the minibus assistant 2 birr, he gave one back, and he and the passenger next to me let me know the fare was 1 birr and 10 cents on this return trip, rather than 2 birr.

Got off the bus (thanks to my seatmate, who said, pretty much, uh, this is the last stop). I was "met" by a VERY helpful man named Joe. In truth, he WAS helpful, escorting me to directly to the places I needed to go to replenish my anti-diarrhea meds stock plus paper and pen.

He assured me several times what a good person he is, to which I agreed, and then it all kind of veered over into the .... well ...."I'm 35 years old, which is a very good age. I spent six months with an American woman here and I did everything for her. I did everything for her. I did ... everything ... for her. I am 35 years old, a
perfect age. You know, Africans are strong and we are fast and we can go long distances. I would like to accompany you on your trip to Dodola. ... I am also very smart. I am 35, which is a good age for a man to be with an older woman. ... " [Hey, didn't he know I was only 30? It's in the police report!]

I had previously offered to share a coffee with him in thanks for his assistance, but it turned out he sought something more green (not to mention his, um, "upselling" of services). I expressed my sorrow that his claims of being a good person were empty, and brushed him off.

I ran into the two Brits who'd had the Ipod stolen. It turns out they knew the thief from a visit a few years back, which is why they'd trusted him to "borrow" the Ipod. After going to the police, they went to the guy's house. He'd already sold the Ipod and could not retrieve it. Current status: The Brits are giving him time to pull more money together to compensate them for the theft or they'll let the police do what they will with him. The thief is feeling very uncomfortable right now.

Today's experiences reflect the stark yin and yang that is Ethiopia.

I met Betty for dinner, as planned, at the Taitu Hotel. Indifferent dinner, and rather pricey. It did have sugar-free Coke, though, a rare treat. Betty did make the rounds today at the Tourism Ministry, Transportation Ministry, and somewhere else to lodge her complaints about how tourists are treated in Ethiopia. She can't wait to get back to Nepal. She gave me two colorful pens. (No begging required.)

We laughed about the assumptions about why some women come to Ethiopia; when she arrived at dinner, she told me she remembered reading a magazine article about this very thing. It said that the most common country for women to go to for this form of tourism is Kenya, and the nationality of most of the women is American.

Gee - I'm just a simple girl from Missouri.

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