We began the day on a bus ride through the city of Addis Ababa. If you have never been to a city like this in a 3rd world country, there’s nothing like it. In the midst of the city, the traffic is congested and there are no stop signs or lights, so everyone drives completely aware of everyone around them. The navigate through the language of car horn and movement, and each driver seems to know which vehicles they can cut in front of and which to let pass. The streets are lined with people at just over 8am. Long lines of people waiting for public transit can be seen wrapping around corners. The cobblers are out shining and fixing shoes – one of the “meanest” or lowest jobs in the city. We see men dressed in blue camouflage carrying guns and people hanging onto the back of cars and trucks sailing by – no regard for seatbelts here. The air is warm and thick with a scent that a friend described as a combination of campfire, diesel and spices. That about says it. The buildings are constructed of various materials – from concrete bricks and slabs to sides of shipping containers to long branches tied together to grass to a kind of plaster made, I think, with grasses. We see long grasses bundled together – I think for fire. Everything is for sale on the street. I see a man walking by who is missing an arm, and a woman with her child asking for help. We learn about “chat,” a kind of chewable plant stimulant that has a drug affect which is legal to sell and to which many people are addicted. We see stacks of bananas and mangos for sale, a man selling corn, and street vendors galore. I wish I had pictures of these things, but they’re hard to take while driving.
As we head out of town, we see the rolling hills and beautiful landscape of the Ethiopian countryside. Child shepherds walk the sides of the roads herding goats and cows. Someone next to me spots what we think is a baboon. Increasingly the homes are made of thatched grasses and branches. We see large greenhouses where we find out later many of the locals work growing fresh flowers that are mostly exported to Europe. This is an amazing country, rich in culture and abuzz with activity. The people are beautiful and very nice, the men walk around with an arm around one another, I would almost dare say that all the people we have met are “sweet.”
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