Monday – Day 3
Monday morning came all to soon, I awoke at 7:55am and lay in bed as I watched the clock click past 8am. Happy New Year USA! I go to be 5 minutes after midnight here, and wake up 5 before midnight there.
I ran to the bank to change some of the currency over. The motel gave an 8 to 1 conversion, but I could get 8.5 to 1 at the bank. And today was “shopping day” so I wanted the best rate I could get. Of course the black market offers nearly a 9 to 1 but I try to stay away from that scene, and so should you, as enticing as the black market may sound jail isn’t worth it, plush American jails don’t exist outside of the US.
On the way out of the hotel I looked over at the taxi’s waiting for clients and saw Dawit sitting on the hood of one of the taxis. As soon as he saw he saw me he took off running down the alley. I was so angry, I wanted to take off after the guy, but in reality just what would that accomplish for me, other than probably getting me arrested.
The money exchange went fine, last time they refused to take a few of the $100 bills, but I didn’t have any issue this time around. I was able to get in and get back out in record time as I got there shortly after they opened. It’s amazing how busy they were for just opening though.
On the way back to the hotel I swung by the gas station and picked up a few yogurts for breakfast. I’m not a big fan of yogurt but I figured we were here, and it’s Heather’s main staple back home. Well, neither of us really liked the yourt, it was very watery, and very sour. I’m not sure if it was just the brand or not, as we didn’t pursue trying any other brands while we were there.
There was a store next to the hotel that I wanted to see if was open, so I ran down the block while we were waiting for my friend to show up, and Heather was squeezing in a bit more sleep. The store was closed, in fact we never did figure out the hours for the store the entire time we were there, it was just open when they felt like having it open I guess. But when I can back to the hotel Meaza, my friend, was sitting there waiting for us. Suddenly I was curious as to what to do. You see she was a person I met the last time I was in Ethiopia at the internet café. She was the only one there that spoke proficient English, and she helped me out a ton with getting around and finding things while I was there. Well she had kept in touch with me via e-mail once I left, but I had no idea what was proper now. Well she made it very clear when she saw me and broke out into a huge grin grabbed me in a hug and pulled me in for the famous Ethiopian kissing greeting.
As touched as I was with this greeting you can’t imagine Heather’s face when immediately upon meeting her she received the exact same. Even funnier was as we walked out to the taxi Meaza grabbed Heather’s hand, not just the casual hand hold either, but interlocked fingers and everything. Really you need to be reading Heather’s blog at the same time as you are reading mine. As we are both blogging about the same stuff, and she has spent a lot of time on this experience on her blog today.
Well the first thing we headed to was a smaller market that predominantly dealt with clothing, the Sheromeda market was a very open and very organized market. Mostly clothing shops, and Heather found a beautiful dress there that Meaza help find a suitable price for. I mostly spent my time looking for unique little nick nacks, but nothing really caught my eye here. What I did enjoy watching was all of the donkeys carrying supplies and just walking around. As I was watching the donkeys I noticed there were a lot of these donkeys that were just walking around aimlessly, but I didn’t see anyone around really watching them, or guiding them I asked Meaza about this and she told me I couldn’t see the owners but if I messed with their donkeys the owners would make themselves known real quick.
Leaving here we spun over to Mercado, the place was nuts!! Imagine the mall on black Friday mixed with Time Square on New Years eve and you have Mercado. If you want it you can find it somewhere in here, really, anything you can think of, somebody here has is for the right price. From cars, to motorcycles, there is a travel agency, restaurants, I even saw a place that I am guessing was a real estate agency. Early in the day we decided against buying the drum, I played a few that I saw but was unable to find one with a tonal quality that I would actually use. And unfortunately we forgot about the diner table until it was too late.
Throughout the day we kept seeing a plant being sold on the side of the road and we tried to ask what it was but there is no American equivalent. Eventually the taxi pulled over and tried to negotiate a price for one single plant, but the vendor wouldn’t sell us that little. Finally he agreed to sell us 1 birr worth’s of this stuff (about 15 cents) and we discovered the Ethiopian version of soy beans. The funniest part of buying the stuff was the 5 minutes of negotiation over 1 birr.
Well we were picking up some roasted coffee for a friend’s fundraiser so we went to a very western coffee shop to buy the roasted beans. I’ve read about this place on line a few times, they tried to be a Starbucks, but they wouldn’t license a coffee bar in Ethiopia as they didn’t think the concept would be profitable in Ethiopia. Well the bar was painted just like a Starbucks and the place was full of ferenj and business was booming, but I guess Starbucks knew what they were talking about when they said Ethiopia didn’t have a market for a coffee bar.
On the way back to the hotel we passed a group of apartments that looked like HUD housing in the Bronx but Meaza told us that was where the rich of Addis lived. It’s funny how different cultures view housing, and what standards we apply to who lives where.
We had lunch with Meaza at the hotel, a wonderful meal of doro wat and various other Ethiopian dishes. We spent a long time just talking about America verses Ethiopia, family life, and life in the states. It was very, very educational on both sides of the table, well in reality I was the only one on my side fo the table as Heather was at Meaza’s side the entire day.
As our visiting time today was from 5:00-6:00, and the time was drawing near, we thanked Meaza for everything she had done for us and headed to the orphanage. When we arrive the kids were doing their homework so we sat next to them and helped them with their work .Yosef was working on his English work and I was able to do a mini study group with the group of kids that were working on English with him. The kids all go to one of the local schools in the neighborhood. As I was helping him with his homework we came to an assignment that really blew my mind.
Yosef’s homework, was to read sentences such as: (fill in the blank) “My Dad works__________.” “My Mom ____________.” My House__________________.” What was so very cool was that he was filling out the paper with all of the information that he could glean from the letters and photos that we have sent him over the last 15 months. It was so very sweet to see him so very connected in his mind to a family he knows so very little about. One of the funniest exchanges was when I tried to explain to him that his room was up stairs in our home. He honestly had no framework to understand the “upstairs” terminology so I wound up drawing a diagram on a scrap of paper showing him where his room is. He was very happy to discover his home had an upstairs, and that his room was upstairs as well.
But then his homework progressed to a piece of government propaganda that broke my heart, he read a paragraph that went like this: “These kids’ parents died from HIV/AIDS. They have nobody to take care of them or love them. They live on the streets. They have no clean clothes. They have nothing to eat. They are hungry. They don’t go to school. Nobody loves them or helps them. What can you do to help?” I know that in Ethiopia once you wind up on the streets no one expects you to ever wind up in school again, but it really broke my heart to have to sit there and help him answer the questions in the book about the paragraph because less than 2 years ago, he was that little kid.
The hour flew by way to fast and our visit was over.
Throughout the week we had struggle with what to photo and what not to. We wanted to capture the plight of the homeless, but face to face with it we just didn’t have the ability to remove ourselves enough to photo them. We had decided that there was no way we were going to be able to photo the Yesus on the Streets bags as we just felt like we couldn’t strip them of that small bit of dignity. Not to mention we still couldn’t get up with our contacts and had no idea how we were going to distribute the bags yet.
For supper we ate at the hotel, which is a good place to eat for clean safe food, but not for good food. I tried the Gordon Bleu Filet Steak (it’s exactly how they presented it in the menu; and yes, it was a “Gordon” steak; I don’t know who Gordon is though) and I received the nastiest peace of meat I have ever tried to eat. Basically it was a deep fried chop steak breaded with some sort of batter mixed with blue cheese. Even the ketchup couldn’t hide the taste. Heather tried the oriental fried rice, I think she stomached 5 bites, and I think we really just hit the bottom of the barrel because our fruit salad that we ordered to split was really bad as well.
The day was very long, and full of plenty of stuff that I am sure will slowly seep out over time, but we thoroughly enjoyed today, and it was very neat to be able to spend the day side by side with an Ethiopian who was showing us her life in her world.