I’ll be leaving for Addis in about a months time. Excitement levels are high – but so are my FOMO levels. “FOMO” is the “Fear of missing out” and Tim maintains that I am incredibly susceptible to this. My FOMO levels are high because Tim is already over there and I don’t want to miss out on all that amazing initial fun which you get when you first show up in a new place. When we went to Hong Kong earlier this year, as soon as I stepped off the plane I couldn’t stop smiling. I just wanted to go out and adventure and re-explore the city!! Baggage collection, the underground into town then the shuttle to the hotel THEN waiting to check in THEN having to wait for our rooms to be ready (we arrived early in the morning HK time) seemed like an AGE when all I wanted to do was race out to the streets to take in the people, places and the food!!!
Tim left not the Sunday just been but the Sunday before (2nd of October). Caron and Ria took us to the airport in Dunedin and it was a bit of a teary goodbye; I was glad that I’d only have to wait another month and a bit to see him again! Tim enjoyed business and first class flights to Brisbane, Dubai and Addis. This was his first time on a long-haul flight. I maintain that he doesn’t know what it’s like to fly long-haul! No one does until they are crammed in coach class next to an arm-rest hog with a crying kid behind you, some arsehole kicking you seat from behind and an hour long wait to use the bathroom facilities. (I’m a little dark after enduring a particularly bad flight from HK to Paris CDG). Having beautiful women wait on you and bring you coffee every two minutes does not count!!
Anyway, he arrived after about 30 hours in transit and I was glad to hear he’d made it. People always say how dodgy African airports are, but Bole airport in Addis sounds pretty legit; Tim said that his bags showed up in tact and that he breezed through cutsoms. He spent the first few days in a hotel before moving into the apartment which is next to his office. The hotel he was staying in sounds so funny – he told me that he forgot to tip the guy who brought him dinner the previous night and had consequently been waiting for 2 hours to have his breakfast brought to him in the morning! I’ll have to get used to tipping once I get over there – it’s a little foreign to me. When do you even tip? Is it only in hospitality or do you tip if you go to the store? What about if you get your haircut? Do you tip then? What if they give you a terrible haircut? Do you deliberately not tip to tell them that they’ve wrecked you hair and it’ll take a whole month to grow back?
Through much email correspondence (we haven’t been able to Skype much due to poor Ethiopian internet speeds) I’ve gathered from Tim a bit of an idea of what I expect Addis to be like when I arrive. Mayhem and Chaos are the two main words that spring to mind, but that’s cool with me. Tim said there is an element of “what-the-hell-have-we-gotten-ourselves-in-for?!” but I think that will be half the fun for me! Apparently goats and batshit crazy drivers in blue and white cars all roam the streets, combined with women who all look and dress like supermodels who teeter down the streets in their high shoes, avoiding the goats, cars and potholes! I will allow my self to take ONE (maybe two) pairs of high heels as I do not wish to be left out of all of this fun! Tim described the scaffolding on a building outside the window of his hotel as something that “boyscouts got carried away with while building a bonfire”. Bamboo scaffolding is prevalent throughout Hong Kong and China, but apparently in Addis they see random sticks and branches as fit for the task! Tim says (and he is probably right) that being delicate about death is a Western phenomenon (I don’t know if this is actually the right word) from too much soft living. I don’t know if it’s from soft living or if it’s just a cultural thing. Death is just seen as part of life to most other high context cultures, whereas it is something I fear! When I was working in the goldmine in Perth there was a girl who had a husband working in Africa. Sometimes the local people wouldn’t show up for work and it would be casually revealed that they “got the big one” (they had died from aids). Then there’s the group of people who go swimming in the same waterhole every afternoon: one day one of them gets killed and eaten by a crocodile. But the next day they all return to the same waterhole, as usual for their daily swim. But what about the crocodile?! It could come back to get another feed! The receptionist at Tim’s work told him that about one death a month occurs from someone falling from the scaffolding (they wear no harness, even at twenty stories high!) You can see that their approach to death is vastly different to ours.
As for food: well salad, Tim says, is now a commodity to be feared as it is washed in local water. Luckily bottled water is readily available, as is sparkling water from a local CO2 rich spring called Ambo, which Tim says is “not bad stuff”. The ham is brown and looks and tastes like beef – Probably because Ethiopian Christians and Muslims avoid pork, according to the lonely planet guide.
Coffee beans account for 55% of Ethiopia’s exports and apparently they do coffee well. According to Tim it “looks like tar, tastes like roasted chocolate and would give a “P-head” the shakes.” There is a lady that makes it in the office, and it is served in a smallish cup (about a macchiato-sized cup) alongside a bowl of sugar which is even bigger then the cup!
Coffee ceremonies in Ethiopia are said to be a sign of hospitality and are a mark of respect or friendship for those who attend. The beans are roasted in a pan and it is considered polite to draw/fan/waft the smoke from this towards you, inhale deeply and express pleasure at the aroma. The beans are then ground up with a mortar and pestle before being served brewed up. At least three spoonfuls of sugar go into the small cups of coffee and at least three cups must be accepted (!!!) The third cup represents the bestowal of a blessing (berekha). Sounds much more meaningful than my usual morning take-away flat white (which the barista always corrects me for saying wrong: “it’s a big skinny flattie, not a large trim flat white”!. Sor-ry!
Ethiopia was partially colonised by the Italians twice – once in the 1700’s I think, and again for three years in WW2. I wonder if it was the Ethiopians that made the Italians so into their coffee? Dad says that you can pull into laybys on the Italian autobahns (whoops – that’s the German word for it) and they will have coffee stands which pour the most perfect shots. People knock them back then carry on their way again.
Either way, I know I will feel at home in Addis if they are into it as much as I am.
This has turned into a really long post. I guess I kind of went off on several tangents…But I should finish up by telling you all that I have had most my vaccinations and received all of my prescriptions for various medications I may need over there (malaria!) Tim came with me for the first lot (five in total -ouch) and I forced Jak to come with me for the second round because Tim had left (Yes, I am a wuss). My third round is tomorrow morning and I think there is only one more lot after that. Yellow Fever and Rabies were the two main ones – Countries like Australia won’t let you back in if you have been in Africa or South America and haven’t been vaccinated against Yellow Fever. So it’s as much to protect other countries from being infested as it is to protect yourself. However, the nurse at the doctors told me that actually Australia now has Yellow Fever in some parts…
Okay…back to my last ever Uni assignment. Then exams. Then Africa!