Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ethiopia: Going Home, Tuesday, Part 1

Woke up at Azeb's house in Nazret. Drank the last of my Nescafe, made with water heated via Azeb's propane stove.

Yesterday, I'd begun the end-of-trip discarding process -- I will go home much lighter than I arrived, shedding two pairs of pants, a blouse, some medications, a parcel of duct tape, two pairs of white socks, my fast-dry towels/washcloths, two pens, the cell phone I "bought" from Habtomi, and some birr. (I sloughed off my tennis shoes in the Bale Mountains.)

For a week I've coaxed the last bit of anti-perspirant from a stick I'd bought in a Chicago hotel when I forgot mine at home. This morning, I used the last of it.

Photo credit: Wastegeneration
The travel-size toothpaste is almost spent, as is my sunscreen.

I gave Stephanie the orange scarf I bought for cover against the dust on side streets.

When I completed my packing (plus finished reading a book of Stephanie's), I walked up to the Dire International Hotel to upload the photos I took yesterday. Unfortunately, no internet connection, but I was able to transfer the photos from the camera to my flash drive.

Presently, I took a minibus taxi to the bus station to pick up a public bus to Addis. Even on my last day in Ethiopia, there was a bit of excitement. First, there was this crazy man, teeth almost completely blackened from .. what? Chat? Poor dental hygiene? I don't know. He lifted my very-light bag into the bus and then says, "tip," "tip," "tip." I just look at him stupidly. As it turned out, I don't think he was even with the bus company; at some point, he gets off the bus and disappears into the street after a mystifying, angry exchange with the bus assistant.

Photo from travelpod

The bus took a cruise around the block to muster more passengers, and we eventually pushed off for Addis. It was early afternoon, thus chat-chewing time, and not a few passengers climbed aboard with chat "bouquets" in their hands. (I noted the chat in Nazret is a treacly version of the robust green product sold in Harar.)

Several bus passengers (and, possibly, the driver) chewed chat in the bus. One idiot, seated on the upholstered hump between the driver and the two front seat passengers, manicured his cluster of chat twigs, breaking long sections of the twigs and dropping them on the bus floor right smack in the passenger off-on area. I observed this for a few minutes, irritated, then picked up two offending sticks and tossed them over to a safer location on the floor, ensuring the slob could see what I was doing. He didn't get the hint, however, and when he again tossed his chat detritus onto the bus floor, right where all passengers had to walk, I clapped his arm and said, "Hey!" and pointed to the twigs, "people can break their necks tripping on these!" and I gestured for him to pick the things up and move them. Which he did. I wondered if there is an Ethiopian equivalent to the American phrase, "Were you born in a barn?" Probably none of this would have bothered me if it weren't for the fact this bus was identified as a "1st level bus," indicating it is in the best condition and has the most comfort of the three levels of buses (for which passengers pay a premium).

The good part of the bus trip was that the driver played this song by Aster Aweke several times. It's Ameseginalu ("thank you"). This happens to be a word I like to say to Ethiopians because it almost always makes them smile at me.  Don't know if it's because of my accent or what, but I like the reaction.

Photo credit: quarrygirl
Photo credit: quarrygirl
Got to Addis around 3:00. Bought my last samosas from Ethiopia to share with Dawit, Stephanie, and their family. Dawit picked me up and we went to their house to hang out til it was time for me to go to the airport. We talked budgets and fundraising for the school.

I'm not sure Stephanie and Dawit fully appreciate all of the good they're doing -- in addition to providing a good education for many children, they provide jobs for almost 20 people, including teachers, administrators, cleaning staff, and guards. That is impressive in a country with such a high unemployment rate.

Stephanie served a delicious dinner with shiro and misur -- so simple and traditional, so good. Perfect meal for last day in Ethiopia.

Stephanie stayed back with the two kids while Dawit took me to the airport. I'd kept back 100 birr for spending at the airport -- not sure for what exactly; I"d given all of my other birr - a little over 200, to Stephanie and Dawit.

So I went through security with my one, now-slender wheeled bag and my shoulder bag, feeling very carefree. I had a pleasant chat with the immigration officer; she was so gracious and smiley -- turns out she came from Gorgora (that tiny town on Lake Tana).

Had a coffee. Then caroused the souvenir shops thinking I had to burn those birr by buying something - anything. 'Course I couldn't bring myself to buy junk food or junk souvenirs, and the amount I had was insufficient to buy what did look attractive. I wasted an hour going from shop to shop in the airport, wishing I'd given Stephanie and Dawit all but 20 birr.

Bole Airport, Addis Ababa. Photo credit: vobo8

But then I got it - I took out a 50-birr note, sidled up to the bathroom attendant, said "tenastalin" and slipped her the note. I had 38 birr left, and I gave that to a woman cleaning the floor.

And away I went. 

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