Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tuesday in Ethiopia


Tuesday was one of our only “free” days where we didn’t have any appointments or plans already made. We decided we would like to head out on foot and discover some of the areas around us. We walked out our hotel and instead of going out to Bole road (the main thoroughfare here) we went the other direction down a couple of side streets. We ended up finding a few shops, mostly fixed price, with nice clothes and treasures. These shops were more like American boutiques, which was a nice change. Our plan was to mostly buy souvenirs for our kids and a few other people, but I seemed to have no problem finding plenty of things for myself. I got a nice belt, a cute purse, and salad tongs and other serving accessories that look like ivory, but I think are made from polished ebony and have beautiful black and white patterns.

Next we headed out to Bole road and enjoyed the sights and stores along the way. I noticed an internet café, which I am still hoping to get to so I can update my blog or send an email, since I haven’t been able to connect from our room. We walked past some men selling woven baskets, who were also making them right there on the spot. I took a picture of them making the baskets, and promised we would come back to buy some, which we did. We walked by a pastry shop that we decided to check out, and saw that they sold gellato, so we sat down on the patio and enjoyed a tasty treat. Soon we crossed the street and came to a supermarket, and since I hadn’t been in one yet we decided to check it out. There were mostly typical, boring grocery store things there (on a much smaller scale), but one thing that caught my eye was a few drops of blood on the floor as we walked in. I thought someone must have walked in who was bleeding, but a moment later a man walked past me carrying what must have been a cow carcass, followed by a man carrying a heart in one hand and a liver or something in the other. A few moments later another man walked in carrying a stomach and intestines. I guess that was their meat delivery and I guess that explained the blood on the floor.

All along Bole road we saw many, many soldiers standing with rifles slung over their shoulders. We also saw large trucks with open beds full of soldiers – some parked and some driving down the road. We finally asked about it, and found out there is a conference in town for the African Union, which has brought many dignitaries and important people from all over Africa.

After walking for a while, we decided we were ready to catch a cab to the Hilton. A cab driver came over to us; we negotiated a price, and followed him to his cab. We walked up to a 1970-something Datson, with crushed velvet and tassels decorating the seats and dash. Since I had Isaiah asleep in the sling, the front seat was offered to me, and Brian and Kathy slid into the back. My dad started to climb into the back as well, but quickly realized he had no prayer of fitting in there with his long legs. So I offered up my front seat and just about died laughing when I saw the remaining space for me in the back seat. Somehow I managed to get in and get the door shut, but my knees were pressed so hard against the seat in front of me I thought I might have knee caps on the back of my leg by the time we were done.

The Hilton is up on a hill with beautiful trees and gardens all around it. It is quite the little bit of paradise. There is a British Airways office at the Hilton, so first thing we did was confirm our flights back home. There is no problem with our flights, and we also found out that amazingly the strike is scheduled for the 29th – the day after we get home. What an answer to prayer! Next thing we did was inquire about vacancy at the Hilton, which of course there was none. I am okay with that though, because I actually like being surrounded by the community the way we are in our hotel. We had a nice lunch, which ended up being our most expensive meal so far. Even still, I don’t think we paid more than $15 for Brian and I together. After lunch we walked around the hotel a bit, checked out the beautiful pool, and made plans to catch a cab and do some more shopping.

We had the bell hop hail us a cab, and we got excited when a beautiful, black Mercedes pulled up – but were let down when it pulled forward a little more, and waited for an African Diplomat to climb in with his family. Another Mercedes pulled up – this time for us – but was at least 20 years old and quite beat up. At least it was a nice change to have enough room for all our body parts. We brought a brochure with us of a store we decided we would like to visit, so we showed that to our driver. We caused quite the commotion as the drivers and hotel staff conferred over the brochure, trying to figure out where the store was located. There was a pretty steep language barrier between us and our driver, but he managed to get us to where we wanted.

We had our driver take us to a few more stores, as we were looking for some specific items. We stopped on a street with a row of stores, and our driver led us to a specific one. There were about three or four men in this tiny, dark store, stuffed from floor to ceiling with wooden and metal artifacts. The men quickly ushered us to the back, where there was an even smaller room through a door. I have to admit I was feeling a little anxious as I realized we were pretty much trapped in the back of this dark store. The men tried to get us all to sit around a small table, but I opted to stand since Isaiah was sleeping in my arms. The men quickly started bringing item after item to display for us, asking how much we would like to pay for it. It was very high pressure sales, but they did have a few things I was interested in, so I got in the bargaining mood. Soon I had found a wooden bowl I liked, and talked them down from 500 birr to 200 birr. That was probably my most proud and most successful bargaining moment. We did a little more shopping, and then decided we were ready to head back to our hotel. The ride back was interesting, as a lot of it was uphill and apparently this Mercedes was pretty tired so it would lurch and hop the whole way.

That evening Kathy wasn’t feeling well, so Dad, Brian and I headed down to our hotel restaurant to have a light dinner. We spent some time talking about our day, and how we were feeling about things we have seen during this trip. We all agreed that the poverty was more wide spread than we expected, and we wish we knew some way we could do more to help. We also agreed that the people here are the most beautiful and friendly people we have ever seen.

Walking along Bole road.
Basket weavers.

Enjoying gellato.
Market with the fresh meat delivery.
Pool at the Hilton.

A house, much nicer than many we saw.

1 comment:

Susy Q said...

He is such a cutie!!