Friday, March 12, 2010

Addis Ababa

Before I continue with day three in Ethiopia, I thought I should post about Addis Ababa, the city where we stayed for most of our trip.

Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia. It is --almost impossible to describe. For those of you who have never been there, here's my best attempt to give you a feel for the place (and keep in mind that I watch and read too much science fiction).

Okay, first, rip a hole in the fabric of time and pour through it everything and everyone from 10,000 years ago up to the present. Then, spray over the big chaotic mess every ounce of exhaust fumes and pollution ever created. And then you'll have Addis.

This is Addis.

This is Addis (kudos to Pat, by the way, who captured most of these images from inside a moving bus).

I had heard about the pollution. I was unprepared for the intensity of it. The smells were awful. If you asked me to describe Addis in two words I would say: "car exhaust." You could not escape the awful smells. Even in our hotel room, exhaust fumes seeped under the windows to stink up the room. A layer of soot covered even the nicest of buildings. Every day we gave thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency back home and to all the little rules and regulations that drive us crazy but ensure that we live in a place where we can breathe.

Okay, deep breath of fresh air--that covers the smells. The sights: wow. Every city I've ever been to is boooring compared to Addis. One minute you're driving by the Sheraton where Brad and Angelina stayed, two blocks later a herd of donkeys is galloping down the city streets foraging for grass.

See, I'm not making this up.

Shacks made of corrugated tin line the streets in front of even the nicest buildings. The traffic is horrible and the drivers seem crazy but no one seems to get hurt.

And the people. There are people everywhere. Walking. Walking. Everyone seems to be walking somewhere. Six, seven, eight people deep the people are walking on both sides of the roads, always with a purpose. The buses and cars are crammed full of people and are stacked high with mattresses, watermelons, you name it. I had no idea Ethiopia had so many people.

We saw an old man as big as Buddha ambling naked down the street, a slaughtered cow, bright and bloody, being offered for sale? on the dirty sidewalk right next to all the traffic. We saw a "Denver Broncos cafe," its blue and orange sign covered with the same soot as everything else, an "Obama cafe," and this store that sold "Burgers, Coffee and tea and wedding cakes."

We saw a young girl leading her blind grandfather across the busy street, goat herds just sitting on the side of the side of the road, school children in their matching uniforms, and a man with no fingers weaving cloth (at the Leper hospital).

Traffic and road construction.
We saw "scaffolding" like this all over the city. Anyone want to volunteer for construction work?

School children.

Bathing and washing clothes in the river.

The pictures are inadequate. The words are inadequate. But I hope this gives you a little glimpse of Addis from our eyes.

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