Work has begun to get busy this week, after last week’s easing in to things. Lots of interesting stuff. Other than work … thursday night I went out with a couple of folks from DFID and the Foreign Office in London, for some Lebanese food and then friday night went out with the bloke from DFID. He used to live in Ethiopia in the earlyish 1980s, at the time of the Derg, so was excited to be here.
We got a taxi north, heading for the Addis Ababa restaurant, someway north of the Hilton, past Arat Kilo and Sidist Kilo, where the University and the Lion Zoo are. Restaurant is in an old church, with the church constructed in concentric circles, with the Ark at the centre, then a circle for the priests I guess, then the posh folks, then the peasants. Interestingly, despite the fact that it’s not been a church for decades, the churchy rules/norms still apply. No hats and no smoking. Neither of which caused us a problem.
Very few people smoke in Ethiopia, although paradoxically you can smoke anywhere. Perhaps the latter will change if and when the former does, but the former might not. Apprarently in the mid 19th Century the ruler of Ethiopia felt that smoking was a very bad thing and if you got caught doing it you would have your lips cut off. And – unsurprisingly – that seemed to work as a deterrent.
On another bit of culture. Apparently, if I wear shorts and still worse sandals, I am marking myself out as a poor and stupid country bumpkin. Wearing trousers and not sandals in Addis says, “look at me, I’ve made it and escaped my country bumpkin past”. For a white man staying at the hilton to be wearing (occasionally) shorts and sandals must really mess with people’s assumptions. Is that dis-respecting the culture or exercising my freedom? Not sure. Might get some 3/4 length pedal pushers.
Meal was good. I had a big injera and a selection of fasting food. Tim had something meaty. We both had some tej – mead/honey-wine (honey, hops, water I think) – in something called a brille that looks like something you get in a chemistry set.
We wandered back from the restaurant, through some pretty pitch black streets – me trusting that tim knew the deal. But as things have changed a wee bit in the past 25 years, what with a new ring road etc. we got a bit lost and were worried about falling off the edge of an unfinished road. I let him go first, as he’s got proper medical evacuation cover! After a while, we got a taxi to arat Kilo, then wandered back to the Hilton before Tim got on the big bird back to the UK. Talking of big birds … somewhere up near Arat Kilo there were some monster doves outside a church. Perhaps 3 metres long and 2 metres high. Photos to follow if I can find them again.
Today’s challenge involves navigating the delights of Mercato -supposedly the biggest market in Africa.