Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ethiopia: Awassa, Day 3, Wednesday

Artist unknown. NYT archives via Ethiopianforums.
 Today is Adwa Day in Ethiopia, recognizing the battle in which thousands of Ethiopian warriors repelled a much larger Italian invading force.

Left the hotel about 9:00 this morning in search of a particular restaurant for breakfast. (The Blue Nile Restaurant, while pretty, has uninspiring fare.) My map was unhelpful and so I eventually hailed a bajaj to take me to a different place altogether in the piazza. This would put me closer to an internet cafe, anyway.

My typical omelet and roll and coffee for breakfast. It all tasted good. Received my bill ("hisob" -- HEE sob). What was this?! Charged for two coffees, for a total of more than 8 birr for same? I asked the waiter about it, who said I'd received the larger cup (versus the espresso cup), therefore I was charged for 2 coffees -- two shots. Well, hell, all I did was ask for black coffee; nothing said about this resulting in two coffees. I asked to see the menu (looking for a price list). After a little to and fro between us, the waiter changed the bill to reflect one coffee instead of two.

So the total bill now came to 31.5 birr. I gave the waiter 35 birr, intending to give him 3 birr as a tip (the customary 10% here, excluding tax).My change came back without the bill (which had never happened before) and I received only 2 birr in change instead of the 3.5 birr I should have received.

(At this juncture, if not before, the reader might say, what the hell are you doing quibbling about such small amounts of money? And I would completely agree, and in fact, I tolerate a certain amount of "faranji tax" without comment. But it gets so, so, so tiresome to be constantly nickled and dimed here for the sole reason that I am a foreigner. But heck, maybe it's done to Ethiopians, too. ... Note: Later, I learn this is, in fact, true. )

OK. I tried the get the attention of a waiter to ask for the bill so I could re-check my math. Hey, maybe I added incorrectly. No waiters. I pulled my stuff together and went inside to the cashier counter. My bill was on the counter and I held out my 2 birr in change and took the bill, added it up, and yup -- should've received 3.5 back. Showed my math and the 2 birr to the cashier, who seemed to speak right smartly to the waiter who'd handled my bill, and he pulled the rest of the change out of his pocket and gave it to me. I left without tipping him. And that's the stupidity. I had actually wanted to order a second cup of coffee and I had wanted to tip him. Both he and the business lost. And now here's a negative story about the place -- the Pinna Hotel Restaurant, by the way. I won't go back.

This experience is an example of why a tourist in Ethiopia always has to keep his guard up. Sheesh. It gets tiring. And I really hate to have to get so petty.

From the restaurant, I walked across the street to an internet cafe. Ooh, la, la! Fast! The keys worked without requiring violence! I keyed in a couple of journal entries. I passed 2.5 hours in this way. I must be a slow typer. (I sure appreciate that Cat re-keys these entries into my blog. It just plain takes time to do this. Unfortunately, a copy/paste maneuver doesn't work.)

Network Cafe atop Dashen Bank building. Photo credit: "Yosef" at skyscrapercity
The day before, I'd seen pavilion tents atop a tall building, signalling to me there'd be a cafe there. So for lunch, I walked down to check it out. When I walked out onto the rooftop terrace - oh! How beautiful! I could see the lake, the mountains beyond it, the avenues of Awassa. Falcons flew by at my eye level. Storks, 15 at a time, coasted up and down a thermal air column like synchronized swimmers.

I refreshed myself with a cold Ambo, had shiro tegamino with injera for lunch (smooth and garlicky), finishing with an excellent coffee.

I returned to my room for, I confess, a little television fix. When I got my disappointing fill of that, I went out to the restaurant for peanut tea. Oh, jeez, what a culinary piece of magic.
Peanut tea. Photo credit: Eric Christopher Perry

It is like a tiny peanut milkshake in an espresso cup . I had this once when I was in Ethiopia in 2006, and the next day, I was hit hard by traveler's diarrhea. I'm hopeful that that was a fluke, and that this small cup of heaven will not do me wrong again.

Returned to my room and much later had some vegetarian pizza from the hotel restaurant, which made me vow to myself never to eat there again. Blechh.

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