Monday, April 27, 2009


Addis Ababa - our rest day.

We got up in the morning and rode - I hung out with Erin in the back as she was sweeping that day. We rode past so many tej fields. Tej is the grain they use to make injera bread, and is the staple food of Ethiopia. It is also incredibly healthy - one injera a day will keep you alive and two will keep you in good health?

As we rode we ran into the usual kids, though not that many of them. Mornings are the easiest since a good number of the kids are in school or are doing the hardest/busiest chores of the day. But it doesn't meant they aren't still out there. A couple of little shepherd kids chased along a steep uphill saying "give me Bic, give me shirt, give me MasterCard" - pardon? Indeed, some kid was asking for a MasterCard. And I thought Visa was easier to travel with.

After a while we caught up with John, our 70-year-old rider, who also happens to be a little slower on the hills, so I headed off on my own. Ups and downs through beautiful lush countryside. A few kids were aggressively menacing, and I thought for sure I was going to be attacked by more than stones. I got off my bike, picked up some stones, and walked the rest of the way up the hill without turning my back to them. When I got to the decline the chase was on, but they stood no chance. Stones pinged past me but I got out of there. Apparently Erin was really worried going through there as well. These kids were about 13.

We convoyed into Addis - a long, controlled downhill that we managed to get through at about 30 km an hour. Our convoys are usually terrible. 10km an hour for an hour or two through cities. I don't recommend it.

In Addis it was Valentine's Day and Bruce's Birthday, so we went out. We had terrible pizza (no tomato sauce, no salt), and lots to drink. We pub-hopped along until I heard good music and saw tell-tale Christmas lights from the corner of my eye. We walked into the small club and started dancing like fiends. As usual, some of the women tried to get us shoulder dancing, but I think a lifetime of growing up in the West is enough to keep you from being able to gyrate your shoulder at 75 beats per minute.

Jolie-Ann and Malcolm both went into the back at different points and discovered that the place was actually a brothel - there were beds in the back and there actually were more women than men there, but the music was good and no one seemed to be looking for customers out of our lot, and so we stayed on until we longed for our beds.

The next day was a rest-day, and a great one at that. I had finished all of my chores the night before, so I decided to go with Malcolm and Allan to the Sheraton for the breakfast buffet. The Sheraton is a mixed bag - unscrupulous in that it's an example of wealth picking on the poor - there were thousands of displaced people when it was built as they just knocked down a section of the slums. Most of its occupants are UN workers and heads of different NGOs - hard to come by donations when they are just going to pay to make sure these people have a comfortable stay. On the other hand, it was the first time we had been somewhere clean in months, and we ate like kings. Right after we gorged ourselves, we made our way to the pool. We had no intention of leaving that day. It seemed like the first real rest day I'd had since getting here. I dozed on and off, played scrabble, and swam. At the day's end we decided to check and see if there was a dinner buffet - and there was! We stayed on, enjoying the feeling of sitting at a table, eating with real plates, and drinking a decent wine out of a wine glass, not questionable Ethiopian brew out of a folding plastic cup. But partway through Allan and I started to wind down as our stomachs wound up - in knots that is. Between the amount of camp-shared illnesses and the kids, Ethiopia is by far the hardest country I have ever travelled in.

No comments: