Tuesday, October 11, 2011

We're not in Kansas, anymore.....

I landed in Addis Ababa at midnight but fortunately the hotel had sent a driver --- a sight for sore eyes after 22 hours of travel.
Airport at Addis Ababa

I was happy to get into bed after the long flights!
The next morning I flew to Mek’ele in the Tigrai region and Roger was there waiting.  He has been here for nearly 6 weeks and kept emailing me to “aim low....go lower....avoid disappointment”.  That actually worked well and while I definitely know I’m in Africa, the city of 200,000 people seems fairly well ordered and surprisingly clean.  

Airport at Mek'ele

Cool sign on the main road
Main road outside our hotel
Just outside Roger's warehouse....those horns look lethal

We’re staying at a very good hotel that is currently building a new tower.  In North America, you would be given a hard hat and steel toed boots to tour the building.  Here, they give you a key. 

The new tower of the Axum Hotel where we are staying
Nothing like a few loose wires, no railings, holes in the floor and walls...not to mention an elevator that doesn't always work.
View from our balcony
The bar in the Axum Hotel --- beautiful carvings on the ceilings and furniture
It’s funny to see people looking at me as much as I look at them.  There is definitely no blending in for me, but I feel safe. People have been friendly and English is quite widely spoken. 

The people are fascinating to see and while I am hesitant to take some of their pictures, the images are crystal clear...hunched over Priests in colourful robes carrying staffs....groups of men drinking coffee on small stools outside cafes....shepherds herding cows and donkeys through the town....women in white robes carrying children in slings..school children stopping to say hello...countless shoe shine stands.... and men playing billiards in the many pool hall. 

A young school girl was happy to pose for me
These school boys stopped by to say hi to Roger
Shoe shine chairs are all over the city.  Some are metal like this one.

Roger is trying hard to get the first drill ready and sent off to Shire. 
The warehouse with the new drill that just arrived
I visited the warehouse today and he told me he had a guard that carried a loaded AK47.  It took a bit of charades, but eventually the old gentleman posed with his rifle.  The best picture would have been the look on his face when I showed him his photo.
This is the guard's home.  Check out that he is holding his rifle with pride

This is one of my favorite pictures
Last night we had dinner at a traditional restaurant.  We ordered lamb served in individual cast iron pots set over hot coals.  The meal for both of us, with a drink was $11.
Lamb dinner served in individual hibachis

Really tasty
I tried not to think that my lamb had just been taken from these carcasses!!!!
I have been checking out some housing options arranged by a tourism agent I met when buying a map. He is a young university student who speaks very good English, and has been very helpful.  I’m hoping I find a place for us to live and stores that cater to foreigners.  I know...sounds elitist, but you’ve got to see some of the food stores to believe it.  

I’ve also found a couple of taxi drivers that speak some English so that is a big step.  Today’s driver, Mek’ele (from Mek’ele) took me all over the place buying a cell phone, office supplies and some food.  It’s great to have someone who knows the ropes and is willing to show the way.  When I said “yekanyelay” (thank you) to the telecommunications agent, he and another agent just about fell off their chairs laughing but gave me the thumbs up.

Since leaving Calgary I’ve had many pinch myself moments when I can’t believe I’m in Ethiopia. We see only a few tourists using Mek’ele as a base to visit the Danakil Depression or the rock hewn churches in the area, and various UN and NGO personnel.  I’ve had a couple of long conversations with Ethiopians and they both stressed the country has come far, but has a long way to go.  One gentleman, when learning I was from Canada thanked me for shipments of wheat sent over during famines.  Both say it is important for Ethiopians to become self reliant, and credit steps made by the government in teaching birth control as well as providing accessible education.

It is a place I never planned on visiting, and I know it won’t be easy. But I also know for as long as we’re here, we will be changed by the experiences and the people we meet. And you have to love a country where you say “Salem” when you greet someone.  It means....peace.
 “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful! Thanks for refreshing my memories from when I went back in 2001. Mek'ele was my favorite city. Please post more pictures if you can and share experiences. I an others are following you! :)

-Mike, USA, FL.