Friday, March 18, 2011

Ethiopia: Leaving Harar, Friday

Photo credit: Jungle Walk
Got up at 3:30 a.m. to prepare for my Harar departure. I was ready with time to spare, and walked down to street level with the night clerk, who awakened one of the young hotel boys to walk with me to the bus stop and to lug my bag (which I was prepared to lug myself, but had learned early on that was a futile fight on my part). It was around 4:45 as we walked up the road in the dark; even so, the city was rising. I turned around once to look back at the Harar Gate. A hyena stood quietly in the middle of the street. A fitting goodbye to Harar.


I slept sporadically in the bus, but appreciated the second time seeing the quiet, vast beauty of Lake Beseka in the Awash area.

Photo credit: Currently unknown

Oryx. Photo credit: African Butterflies
I even saw a herd of oryx.

If only it looked this nice. Photo credit: Helman

The only other event of note occurred when the bus rolled into the town of Fentale. Time for the lunch stop. We passed a couple of hotels where I thought, "Oh, I bet they've got decent toilets ... " But we passed those by and pulled into a hotel courtyard where I knew, with a flash of annoyance, that the toilets here would be dark and dirty. And when I saw the women rolling up their pants legs before even entering the toilet area, I started getting really annoyed. You know why? Our Selambus had joined a Skybus already parked. A few minutes later, a second Selambus pulled in behind ours. Later, two public buses piled in. Five big buses, with the bus companies surely getting compensation for stopping at this particular place and the hotel/restaurant owner raking in money from the debarking bus passengers who ate here -- and to have filthy toilets?! All these women passengers with their long skirts or pants, sometimes with children in tow?!

After a fascinating lunch of two whole fish (with eyeballs removed, thankfully, leaving only the empty sockets upon which to gaze), fried, I asked the waiter for the owner or manager. Said individual happened to be within earshot and he (to his credit) identified himself. I pointed out that he had five (five!) buses with many ladies (and I pointed out several of us for emphasis), spending money at his establishment and they had to contend with dirty toilets! I told him he ought to be hosing these out every hour, that his lady customers shouldn't have to suffer these conditions, particularly when he received income from them. The owner was appropriately apologetic, but this only matters if he changes conditions in the future. And Selambus and Skybus are just as much to blame for allowing their customers to tolerate such conditions - the companies should be ashamed of themselves, their lofty, wordy mission statements about quality customer service notwithstanding.

See? A clean toilet. 
The fact that these are the traditional hole-in-the-floor latrines is irrelevant; these should be easier to keep clean than seat toilets -- all you have to do is is hose them well. And for God's sake, why are there never any hooks on which to hang one's bag?

 OK, we moved on, and arrived in Nazret around 1:00 p.m. (Much to Stephanie's surprise; she was expecting me much later, even though I said it'd be around 1:00. Despite my kvetching above, what used to require an overnight trip between Harar and Nazret, really only takes a half day now, and this will only improve nationally as more roads get improved, i.e., paved). I got dropped off in front of the Dire International Hotel, and walked to Azeb's.

Stephanie and I talked school business for most of the afternoon, then we walked up to the Rift Valley Cafe, where we met the school's new volunteer teacher, Paul, from San Diego. He is here for about 10 days, and seems very congenial.

Poor Azeb suffered from flu -- headache, congestion, coughing.

Mosquitoes plagued me throughout the night. The damned bimbies.

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