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May 07

Arriving in Addis

I suppose all blogs fully get going with really boring content… Taking flights, landing in new places, and settling and learning what its all about. So I guess lets make this one no different.

Day 1 consisted of an early morning rise. My wonderful neighbours and equally wonderful Tania ventured with me to the airport for a 8.40am take off. The emotional goodbyes followed which was proceeded by sitting on a Lufthansa airplane for 1 hour while it waited to take off from Brussels. I started to think was this a sign… being late as a result of a German company sounds so wrong… Anyway eventually it took off and I had 1 hour in Frankfurt to change over to the flight to Addis Ababa..

This was successfully accomplished and on an half empty plane, we started to make our way to a country unknown.. Now what I was not aware of was that the plane had to make a stop on the way. It was like being on a Dublin Bus that wanted to stop wherever it felt like. 6 hours into the flight we stop in Khartoum, Sudan to drop off some friendly faces. All I got to see of Sudan was the airport though that glimpse gives you an insight… When you see a spate of UN helicopters around the airport in addition to a UN plane just after your plane, you know something must be up in town! The news agrees with me. Such a glimpse doesn’t in any way attempt to reflect the complexity and gravity of the situation between Sudan and South Sudan.

After a refuel, the plane bounces its way off again for another 2 hour journey towards Addis Ababa. The rest is normal stuff… Land, get visa, get bags, get out and meet the guy I am meant to meet, Shakeel from Camara who will bring me to the hotel that we we are staying at for this week! I know I have yet to really post what I am at here and who I am working for, but never fear, more to follow!! Ok.. so it all sounds straight forward now eh! Oh I wish I could say it was. Some people may panic but I always say there is a solution for everything… Anyway, Shak was nowhere to be seen so I told him I would wait in the arrivals lounge for him and give him a call.. Well it turns out that no phones want to work in Ethiopia. My Irish one which is usually the most reliable didn’t work at all. Luckily i though, lets try my Belgian one with €0.76 credit and see what happens!! So i sent Shak a message and boom.. yes it delivers so all is good… erm… or so I think!

A few minutes later a lady comes to me and tells me that nobody is allowed in the Arrivals Hall and that you need to call your friend to find out where he is. She offered me her mobile phone. Not knowing anything about the culture or attitude of people here, I decided to take her advice with a pinch of salt to make sure I was not being dragged into some elaborate scheme. Times of travelling around Senegal, Thailand and the likes have put a thick skin on me that takes a bit to crack.  After a half an hour and no reply from Shak, another guy comes up and tells me the same.. “New security arrangements, Sir. Nobody is allowed into the Airport unless they have a pass and they can work here. Please ring your friend from my phone. It is a local number right?”. I said it was and he rang it… “eeloo elooo… (Something in amharic) ……”. I gave it to the guy who gave me the phone and he spoke in Amharic…. Wrong number…. crap…  I check my phone again… check my journal where I wrote it… its the same number.. we try again.. still wrong!!

Plan B… check the contacts on the laptop. Well…. would you look at that!! The number is the wrong one. Ring ring… again  “eeloo elooo… (Something in amharic) ! Its a different number this time for sure. I try again. Same thing  “eeloo elooo… (Something in amharic)! I say sorry and hang up.. The person calls back speaking in Amharic. eep.. I hand the phone to David my new friend and he apologizes left right and center.. oops!

Anyway! Usually a Plan B works.. Now I am kinda screwed. Irish phone doesn’t work. No credit on Belgian phone. No contact numbers for anybody else in Addis Ababa. Whats next? Well, up steps David! He suggested that I buy some credit for his phone and ring somebody I know. All i had was numbers for people in Kenya! That was my only option. Call my new boss or the friend, Philip, who got me on the plane here! I suppose when you are out of options you have to listen to complete strangers every now and again… So I get him five dollars credit and start ringing around the world to find a way to get in contact with Shak. Eventually I get a number and its different from the two I initally got from Shak.. I call.. YES! I find Shak. He is outside waiting for me in between the madness. Security will not let him through. Anyway I finally locate him and while chatting I realise that the number he gave me via skype a few days ago was wrong and the number on his email signature is wrong! double Fail. He told me never to tell anybody cos it would ruin his reputation. I just hope he never reads my blog cos its a story I wanted to tell.

So… An hour later I had a St. George Beer in my hand and we were relaxing in my home for the week, Hotel Taitu, The oldest hotel in Addis Ababa. Its not the Raddison or Sheraton though it has character. Basic rooms, smelly toilet and internet that has its own mind to where it stays up or not! After about 5 days here I only found out you have to ask the reception for a toilet seat if you dont have one! Why was I not told!! Anyway luckly so far, I haven’t been inflicted by the normal health issues that affect all people coming to Addis or Ethiopia for the first time and involve spending lots of time on the toilet seat (or lack of it!)

On that enlightening note about my health, I’ll finish this first post. I have no photos this time as of yet. But there will be some soon!

6 comments

  1. Shak

    You bastard!

    1. Keith

      I try my best to be one! Only in work though!

  2. Edite

    I wish there was a ‘like’ button! :) great story. great comments. made me laugh :D

  3. qian

    haha.. I am following your adventures! Yes, create a like button.:)

  4. anita

    laughing my socks off ;) u’re a good storyteller.
    indeed being in a new place makes one more resourceful. lucky u still have that 5 dollars with you!
    I’m waiting for more stories, but i guess you’re supppeeeerrrrr busy right now.
    We went to Rachel’s legal wedding last Saturday and missed you!
    hope u’re doing fine!
    *yaaay*

  5. olgashka

    hi hi hu ha!

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