Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ethiopia: Fish in Awassa, Day 10, Wednesday

Post Rendezvous. Photo credit: "Hawassa" in skyscrapercity
Went to breakfast at the Post Rendezvous (recommended in Bradt guide). Shady courtyard. When I thought to look up into the "roof" of leafy branches, I regretted how easy it is to take such beauty for granted.

Too bad the place was filthy - the menus, the salt shaker, the fork looking unclean, as did the plate. Even the paper covering the straw was speckled with berbere marks. Yuck. There were colorful, fresh, julienned tomatoes, peppers, and onions on the side of my egg sandwich, but given the ick factor, I nibbled (even that stupidly, probably) only a few.

Today's destination goal was the fish market, to which I walked. On the way, I made my customary stop by a stork tree to admire these birds.On a neighboring tree, I saw a flash of blue (no, not the testicles of a vervet monkey). It was a brilliant cadmium blue on a woodpeckerish bird with a crimson beak. I'm not saying "crimson" as a purple-prosy way to say "red." No, the bird's beak was more than red, and the blue striking. After just staring for awhile, I continued my walk. A l-o-n-g time later, I arrived at the ballyhooed fish market. I planned to have lunch there, and was prepared for a ten-birr entrance fee to the area. Well, hell, they wanted to charge me 20 birr. After some discussion, with neither me nor the guys at the gate budging from our positions, I said, "No problem, I'll leave. I'm not paying 20 birr just to walk in this place."

Photo credit: "Abnet" at skyscrapercity

With this being my last day in Awassa, I decided to stop at the Time Cafe, along the main boulevard. It had caught my attention every day with its courtyard shaded by trees and hanging umbrellas. Most of the shaded spots were taken on this hot, sunny afternoon, but I found a protected corner.

Oh, strawberry juice! I'll take it! Oh, they're out. OK, a cold Ambo, then, and a fish sandwich. I should say at this point that french fries are a common accompaniment to sandwiches here. That'll bite 'em in the ass down the road, and then they'll blame the Americans.

Returned to the hotel, read for awhile, and had a glorious afternoon nap. Soon after I awakened, there was a wonderful afternoon rain - a real drencher! As I have come to expect, the power went out and so I ventured out into the rain, caught a bajaj and got off at Dashen Bank for cash, and also to spend my last evening in Awassa at the Network Cafe atop the building.

I was a little rattled. The bajaj driver had professed his love for me, promising either a lifetime of marital bliss or at least one night thereof (that darn language barrier). It seemed to have something to do with my wet hair ...

Anyway, going to the Network Cafe was all I'd hoped, after a faltering start. The staff had stacked the chairs and tables under the center of the tents, and the tile floor was slick with a layer of rainwater. Nevertheless, I was game, and I found a dry table. Some of the staff and I had a good time making small talk. When the rain slowed to a drizzle, I walked to the rooftop edge and just took in the lovely view.

A stork swept by gracefully. A mist of remnant rain hung over the lake. The palm-lined boulevard median shone lushly green. Scores of blue bajaj, with their flapping curtain "ears," zipped up and down the boulevard. (Gosh, I love those things!) Via the house stereo, Aster Aweke sang Tizita (Memories), a poignant Ethiopian classic. It was a beautiful way to say goodbye to Awassa.

[In Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese talks about the importance of Tizita in Ethiopian music culture here.]

I ate a very good dinner at the Network Cafe - fish lebleb with seasoned rice. A DJ showed up, as did a number of college-age kids. The DJ threw out a mix of American and Ethiopian music, including some rap, blues, and r&b.

I caught a bajaj back to my hotel (one bozo wanted to charge me 10 birr instead of the usual 1-3 birr!), where I watched some television, read, listened to a podcast, showered, and packed for my departure the next day to Addis Ababa.

I had a wakeful night, probably due to that afternoon nap and evening coffee. At some sleepless point in the night, I heard a man outside, howling like a dog, which set the neighborhood dogs to howling. It was kind of intriguing.

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