Friday, February 19, 2010

18 Hours in Addis Ababa

So this isn’t really a blog entry.  It is just a little teaser of an entry because I have been in the United States for almost two straight months.  And I don’t blog about the US.  You all (well most of you anyway) live there and don’t need me to point out life’s little absurdities.  Not that I wasn’t tempted during those long 10 days where I was snowed in my apartment in Washington, drinking High Life and watching the Shining, watching my food stocks diminish to the point where I was debating between eating my roommate’s greasy frozen dinners or just eating my roommate…

But regardless I’ve been sprung.  I am writing this post 30,000 feet above the bleakness of northern Kenya, on my way to Dar es Salaam.  I was so excited to get back on the road again that I decided not to squander even my 15 hour layover in Addis.  Usually with these things I just go to the hotel, order room service, fire up the BBC and wait to go back to the airport, but not this time!  I was going to sample Ethiopia!  Unfortunately in my zest for life I forgot one of my cardinal rules.  Just as in college it was “never follow a hippie to a second location,” in my professional life it is “never ask the concierge to recommend a local restaurant.”  I ended up at a pseudo-traditional tented eatery, complete with live (and loud) Ethiopian band, and 50 very drunk American tourists.  Fortunately the food itself was epic, and the St. George’s was moderately cold, so all in all I was happy with my foray.

But it didn’t end there!  I woke up this morning at 4 am.  By 7 am, I was dressed, showered, packed, had answered my e-mail, sent off a powerpoint, downloaded two others, and was itching to do something…  So I asked the hotel taxi driver to take me on a quick tour of town before he dropped me back at the airport.  There really isn’t much going on a 7 am anywhere in the world, but he gave it his all.  We went by a number of interesting closed churches and museums, drove through empty historic squares and past quiet monuments, and through what would be the bustling downtown market had anything been open.  The only thing that I did get out and see was the Holy Trinity Cathedral – burial place of Haille Selaisse – former emperor of Ethiopia.

The cathedral was open for morning prayers - which meant I basically had to slip the bishop a couple of bucks to walk around.  But, despite the urging of the guide that I should please use my camera – the morning worshipers *like* getting their picture taken mid prayer, I couldn’t shake a weird voyeuristic feeling, so I took lots of pictures of stained glass and wood carvings, and only slipped in a couple of shots when I thought I was being unobtrusive.   Then we did a quick uncomfortable swing past the altar and tombs before I insisted that we walk around outside and look at the statues. 

In any case, I am landing and heading off to what I am sure will be five fun filled days of work in Tanzania, then on to teach a three day course in Kenya.  I will try to do something interesting, but it might be until I get to Malawi that I have another post for you.