Any account of a country based on a nine-day visit is inadequate. We spent all of our time in Addis Ababa, making our exposure even more limited. But I’m unable to transition away from our trip just yet—so, one more blog post on Ethiopia. I've included quite a few pictures because they add so much.
In a sense, mountains define Addis. They rise above the Sahara and the jungle to create a high, rugged plateau. Elevations in the city vary from 7,000 to 8,000 feet. That gives an idea of the terrain. Temperatures are consistent throughout the year, reading in the low 70s during the day and mid-50s at night. It cools quickly; I wanted a sweater or jacket every night. Could a climate be more ideal?
But my dominant impressions involve people. I came away with a different understanding of servants. Marta has two close friends from childhood. One married a man of means, the other did not. We were blessed by both as they moved in and out of the guest house where we stayed while there—helping, serving. The privileged and the not-so-privileged worked together. During breaks, seated on traditional stools in the kitchen, they laughed while eating traditional food together with Genet, Ted and Marta's nanny/maid. The gals were beautiful and I'd love to provide a picture but feel I need to respect their privacy. Although social distinctions are real, they aren’t as divisive as I thought they would be. Servanthood and hospitality seem to be key cultural responses that cross social boundaries.
Then there's the pervasive poverty. Remember that Ethiopia was ravaged by famines; its infrastructure was destroyed by Mengistu’s communist government. I asked Ted about the necessary room for the many make-shift dwellings built by squatters. He said the unthinkable: Outside. Active beggars approached cars in the streets and the homeless draped ragged blankets or tattered plastic sheets against more stable structures for shelter at night.
Many come from rural areas, looking for a better life. There are very few jobs for these people, they must create their own employment. Many not only survive but thrive because entrepreneurs are a resilient bunch. Whether new to the city or whether long-time residents, they set the pace and are key to the future. Large modern buildings connect to each other not by wide walkways but by tiny shops built of rusted corrugated metal and other discarded materials. Many consist of a shelves lining a backdrop, but many others extend inward with larger display areas. A small percentage include make-shift dwellings attached to the back.
Marta wanted Ken and I to wear traditional clothing for the baptism. Ken and Ted were outfitted in a small shop that was completely enclosed—indicating someone was doing well indeed. We shopped for me in an area that I thought looked less prosperous, but the stores carried exquisite, high-end goods.
I thought the area looked less prosperous because sheep occupied a large fenced-in area across the road. However, that was also a place of business: buyers left with purchase in tow on a leash of some sort. The gals smiled when I asked who killed the sheep. I learned some go to a butcher, others are slaughtered in the homes. Ted explained later that all animals are slaughtered according to Old Testament law. He also said, They eat fresh meat.
A smaller sheep market regularly set up business about a block from the guest house where we stayed. Here Ted and Simon look them over. Again, an entrepreneur found a place and a way to make a living.
Because land is expensive, houses are multi-level to make use of space; townhomes are common. Built of concrete, these structures will be around long after American homes are gone. And look at the floors in our rented guest-house—made with exquisite craftsmanship from local materials.
But again, in a developing country, problems are the norm. Ken tried to find the source of a leak in our bathroom and determined it couldn’t be repaired without breaking into the wall. The rooftop tank, built to improve water-pressure, regularly ran dry. The small water heater in our bathroom was inadequate. There’s nothing quite like running out of hot water during a shower—and even worse, just after lathering your hair. Ask Ken. Nevertheless, they’re building houses, sturdy houses. People are moving up in the world.
The building on the right was our guest house. Although violent crime is rare, apparently property crimes are not. All private property is surrounded by eight foot fences topped by barbed wire or broken glass. Flowering shrubs that climb up and over the edge soften the visual impact.
Yards consist of courtyards that provide places for washing clothes and places for little boys to play.
Here's a picture I took that I'm especially proud of, a Sheraton walkway with a vista of the city peaking through.
Altogether, it was a time of sensory overload.