Thursday, March 22, 2012

Addis Ababa and the Jungle...Uhhh...This is Different

Cien and his Seratana in our new house in Jan Meda. That bag on the left is my Platypus Water absolute necessity for visitors with persnickety stomachs. 
I'm a pretty particular guy. And by particular, I mean an admittedly fastidious and possibly overbearing taskmaster of all things organizational and/or system-related. not. You get in where you can here. First day in, and I learned that quickly. If you like steak cooked a certain way, this is not the place for you. If you like people to use turn signals...this is not the place for you. If you think that you should be able to order a cup of coffee without a hair in it, and report it to the manager and receive some sort of justice....yea........this may not be the place for you. In Ethiopia, you get what you're given...especially if you don't speak the language....and look like you can afford to buy more of what you've already bought once and expected to work.

Aside from this caveat emptor, feel free to visit! There are so many wonderful things about this city. From the fruit and veggie stands on EVERY CORNER, the uhmaaaazing coffee at nearly every restaurant, to the posh hotels that offer free wi-fi (where I conveniently go to update my blog!)...Addis has a little bit for everybody.

Cien eating a dessert we mooched on the rooftop deck we couldn't afford to swim in
Alas, I was only to be in Addis Ababa for 3 days. I arrived on a Saturday night, and left back out on Wednesday morning to catch several buses over the span of 14 hours. While I was in the city, I got to meet our Seratana, go to a few restaurants, get a verbal tour of the city, checked out the Tesfa Office and met some of the staff like Mena and Galilah, and even hung out on a rooftop pool at a swank hotel mooching off of the food at a private party Cien and I crashed our last day in the city. The food wasn't that great, but beggars cant be choosers!

Cien and Tananaya, our Seratana

Dinner, Day 1: Two bags of Ramen Noodles and a piece of bread :)

Cien and I left for Kololo, a small village in the Kambata region of Ethiopia just south of Addis, early Wednesday morning to get a set on the first bus. If you have never been to an African bus yard, you need not rush. It is quite an experience. Imagine 2000 people clamoring for several seats, hundreds of young boys or teens scurrying about trying to match up people with the buses headed to their destination (and earning a Birr or two in the process), random people just looking angrily at you, 50 large buses with 60 seats and 120 passengers in them, and several minibuses crammed with tired looking people and decked out with luggage on the roof of the vehicle. Yea.

Our journey was somehow miraculous, although unbeknownst to me. It apparently is customary to have significant lag times between buses, as well as to be on the bus with about 3 people per seat. We waited for VERY little time, and aside from being stranded in Hidero and having to pay a guy with a pickup truck 300 Birr to drive us the 15 minutes to Kololo, traveling was as smooth as eggs! Cien has often told me since that I am magic. Every trip we have taken has been extremely smooth and easy....apparently he has lived here for two years suffering things I have yet to see from Ethiopian transportation! Cien warned me to wear my shiny new raincoat on the bus and to bring headphones. A raincoat because people here in Ethiopia are not used to traveling in cars and get motion sickness...leading to massive amounts of vomit; and headphones to drown out the many sounds of Amharic radio music and people yelling to each other. No vomit, and the headphones kept me occupied for hours as I listened to Chris Tomlin's new album and Jack Johnson watching the countryside. I should have brought a small pillow for my butt. The roads here are in terrible condition and 14 hours of bump-bump-bump is tough on a skinny man. We went from Addis to Hosaena, to Hidero, to Kololo...a tiny little mountain village set up in a jungle area. It's a 30-45 min walk to any town with a market, and has quite a few hyenas, but it was to be my home for several weeks.

From Left: Ichigu, Andiso (Village Minister), Andiso's children, Sallomnesh, and Shoa
Several bus yards, and a few hundred miles later, we arrived in Kololo to meet Ichigu, Andiso and Sallomnesh. Ichigu is Cien's partner in crime and fellow Program staff for Tesfa (the NGO I came to Ethiopia to work with).  Andiso is the local minister, chicken wrangler, mud layer, wise words sayer, late night hyena fighter, and the man who gave us him own home to live in while Cien and Ichigu oversaw the building of the primary school in his village. Sallomnesh is our Seratana. A Seratana (pronounced like Sarah-Tahn-ya) is a general cook/handy person that most middle class+ households keep around to handle the day-to-day operations of the house. We have a Seratana back in our home in Addis as well, and she comes in at 7am each day to fix our food for the day. As we were in a mud hut on loan from the local village minister, this meant that she would be making sure we got our 3 meals of local fruits and veggies, as well as kinda kept the place clean.

As far as cleanliness goes...I'll get to that in a later post. It deserves its own post.

Cien's bed in Kololo
But as for this gent, he was happily settled in, nestled under his mosquito net in his little cot. It was simple, and I was happy to have a place to rest my head...even if the sheets did smell like puppies.

Tomorrow was to be my first full day of jungle living! The adventure begins!

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