First impressions

I’m now in Addis, having flown out with Ethiopian Airlines last night. As well as ploughing on with Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari – he is a miserable bugger, but I was glad to see that he warms to Addis and Ethiopia – I read the Times, opting for that in preference to the Daily Mail on the plane. Was interested to see an article in there suggesting that “25 years after Live Aid, Ethiopia is trying to cover up another disaster“. It’s an interesting piece and includes (well, a side-piece called “Ministers just can’t make the F word go away” does) the provocative line “No other country in Africa shines the light quite so brightly on the folly of unconditional international aid”, but without much knowledge of the reality on the ground it’s difficult to know whether the headline is accurate – see also Bill Easterly’s most recent blog. Anyway, the word on the street is that while there are food shortages and efforts do need to be made to prevent them becoming more serious over the next few months – there is no room for complacency  – the article is inaccurate; there is no famine, as yet, and the Government acknowledges and is working to address the ongoing food security challenges.

I got picked up at the airport and whisked along the Bole Road – a mixture of dilapidated buildings and some newer and smarter ones – through some big army-marching style squares, to the Hilton, which is where I am to be accommodated. En route, I got invited to some combination of church and a 10k run on Sunday morning … Apartment is so big and the altitude so high that walking from the bedroom to the lounge leaves me out of breath. Have spent the day sorting myself out and finding where everything is in the Hilton enclave.

I was interested to see that the bookshop is selling “Lords of poverty: The power, prestige and corruption of the international aid business” – I wonder how many of the Hilton’s clients opt to snuggle down reading that? Perhaps I should do an ethnography of aid folks and their shenanigans at the Hilton as a side-line over the next six months Anyway, with the quest to not be a Lord of Poverty firmly implanted in my head, I decided to take advantage of the Hilton’s thermal pool. Very hot and very nice. I’m doing a deal with myself. If I work especially hard on the stuff I’m supposed to be doing, then I won’t beat myself up too much about the perks of the Hilton. There are always compromises …

Oh, I’m putting my photos up on-line, or some of them at least. Nothing much yet other than some aerial shots of Addis as we flew in this morning.

Oh 2 – final quandary. In a country where there internet access is poor and slow – not to mention the fact that most people don’t get anywhere near a computer – is trying to use Skype or equivalent amount to hogging the bandwidth commons?

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