Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Sunday on My Own...With Marcos

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It's almost dinner time on Sunday and Geoff is still sick.  A kind CAFAC woman staying at the Weygoss very generously gave me four of her cipro prescription pills for him, because he has been hit hard by whatever entered his system.  Hopefully the meds will see him back to normal soon.

By mid morning, I was feeling stir crazy, so I ended up hiring Marcos again to do a bit of city touring and shopping.  I wondered if I'd feel ok going out without Geoff, and for the most part, I did.  Marcos is an awesome driver and guide!  Not only does he know the city extremely well, but he's an excellent shopper and has taught me the art of bartering...I did quite well in that department today...even Marcos was impressed!  When I didn't get the price I wanted, I walked out the store with my hands thrown up into the air saying "no, no - too much."   I didn't have to go very far before I was called back in to negotiate.  I was surprised that I loved the process.  And I think that the final price was always fair to both parties - I, in no way, wanted to gouge the seller.

First up, we went shopping at the outdoor markets on Churchill Drive, where I found (and haggled for) two lovely Christmas nativity scenes carved out of ebony wood, and some additional knitted Ethiopian hats, in smaller sizes than the ones I bought the other day (which, having seen our children now, would have dwarfed their heads!).

Next up, we drove up Entoto mountain, the highest peak overlooking Addis with an elevation of 3,300 meters (10,827 feet) above sea level.  I noticed when we were up there that my breath was shorter than usual, due to the high elevation; Marco mentioned that road winding up Mount Entoto is a commonly used training area for olympic and other athletes, specifically because of the thin air that affected me.

About half way up the mountain, we had to change vehicles (the road is too steep for the little taxis to climb the last part).  When we arrived at the vehicle change spot, I was secretly a bit reluctant to get out of the car.  In addition to people, cows, and long-horned ox gathering around our car, there was a fight going on right in front of us, and people were screaming heartily.  Despite my reluctance, I decided that there was a 99% chance that I'd be fine, and so I took a deep breath and got out of the car.  I was instantly (and I do mean instantly) surrounded by boys, men, cows and goats...luckily for me, the ox stayed put about ten feet away.  I put on a confident front and waited it out for fifteen minutes while Marco haggled the price of the mini van to take us to the top, and I watched the fight gradually come to an end.  I put up with touching (not meant to be invasive, just curious more than anything), hands reaching for mine, a hand on the hair, beggars of all ages pleading with "mama" to help because they were "hungry."  Note:  I did not give a cent (or birr) to any of these folks, as that would have been foolish - everyone would have expected it then.  The whole experience was a little unnerving!  But I have found myself surprisingly brave in new circumstances this past week, and am proud of myself.  Maybe for others this would be as nothing, but for me (alone with a driver I have only met this week, and the only 'rich' white woman in sight, amidst livestock and reaching hands and fighting going on right beside us) this was new and brave.  And it was fine.

Entoto has an incredible, panoramic view of Addis - breathtaking, in fact.  It is also a historical spot where Emperor Menelik II resided and built his palace when he founded the city of Addis Ababa in 1886 (I actually think it was his wife's idea, but he got the credit for it).  At the top of the mountain is the Entoto Raguel Church, considered a sacred location because it houses a replica of the Ark of the Covenant (Ethiopians believe that the original Ark of the Covenant is located in the city of Axum).  Marcos and I took a tour of the church, and though I'm not really a history buff, I enjoyed learning about the various paintings hung around the building (telling the stories of the Bible), and also liked walking about the old rock-hewn churches and tunnels outside.  Marcos has another business in photography and videography, and the other day already, he ended up taking a bunch of pictures for us; and he has a good eye!  Today, I laughed when, at the base of the mountain, he asked me where my camera was and basically commandeered it for the rest of the afternoon...which was fabulous, because not only does he take great pictures, but it meant that (with Geoff at the hotel) I got some (ie. a lot) of pictures of me, too.    The only thing I had to accept was that he took about a zillion pictures of the paintings inside the church; but I was so thrilled with his camera skills that I just let him do whatever he wanted, knowing that I could always delete some of the painting photos later!

The eucalyptus forest on Mount Entoto is an important sources of firewood for residents of Addis, and women and girls known as wood carriers carry impossibly heavy and large loads of eucalyptus branches and leaves the ten kilometres down the mountain and into the city, where they sell it for a pittance.  The sight of these girls and women hunched over to their knees, carrying inhuman loads is shocking and, for me, very sad.  My camera battery had died, and so I was unable to photograph any of the firewood carriers, which is too bad.  I am glad to know that there are organizations that exist which rescue these women and girls (including the weaving shop we visited the other day), but there are still sooo many trapped in these roles.

When we finally got back down the hill (back in Marcos' vehicle), we spent time at the Shido Mata (sp?) market, which I enjoyed far more than the Mercado the other day.  It wasn't nearly as intense or daunting (or large!) a place and the prices seemed better, too.  I enjoyed that place a lot.

The last big shopping venture I wanted to undertake was to find a bit of silver to purchase.  Ethiopia is known for its fine silver mining, and I very much wanted to buy a little of it.  After walking down Jewellery Road and visiting a number of shops, I ended up choosing a few simple cross pendants, one of which I will hold for our daughter some day.  They charge for silver by weight, and Marcos assures me that I paid a very reasonable price - I thought so too!

I also made a quick stop at the Weygoss Guesthouse, trying to assess whether that would be the place to stay for our second trip here (assuming it happens someday).  While there, I ran into someone I met last week, and she was kind enough to show me their room, which I really appreciated.  The rooms aren't as nice as they are at Afro Land, though the location is even better, and there is a greater community feel in the main floor's common area.  There are so many options, it's hard to know what to do!  But (sadly) we have time to think it through.

Though I had one more small item on my 'to buy' list, I was tired of shopping, so I called it a day, and invited Marcos to join me for a cup of coffee at the Tacoma coffee shop...which I'd already decided earlier in the week had the best coffee in the world.  I'd been itching for a machiato all day (at a whopping cost of six birr, or thirty-six cents!!), and the five or seven minutes that it took to sip from that tiny glass cup seemed to go far too quickly.  When I finally got back to our lodge, I hated having to drink some water, because I was reluctant to let go of the taste of that coffee.  I will seriously never be able to drink straight-up coffee again, after the strongly intense, sweet taste of the coffee here.

It's evening now, and I'm back at the lodge with Geoff, who has just swallowed his first cipro medication.  I seriously hope it takes effect soon because, though he seems somewhat better, he's far from fully recovered.

All in all, it's been a pretty good day.  I'm glad now that we didn't change our flights, despite the disappointments of Friday; it's good to spend a little more time here, even if we aren't going to get in any day trips outside of Addis this time round (well, except for our trip to Adama to see the kids).  As hard as it is to be in Addis at times, the city has really grown on me, and I find myself addicted to the people and the culture almost as much as I am to the coffee.


  1. Good for you for going out on your own. It would be too bad if you missed your opportunity to explore that amazing country!

  2. Having been terrified of international travel (although very curious to experience new sights & sounds & sensations), and even local activities (especially with groups - in fact, just went tubing for the first time on Friday as a youth leader, being too anxious about the whole group outing thing as a teen), I have found it SO empowering and healing to try some things the past few years (like backpacking & going to Thailand...both including "new" people) that would not be a big deal to most people, but which have freed me a great deal, at last, to anticipate and venture forth (will never be rid of all concern about the "unknown" and...yes, the availability of bathroom facilities...bad bladder...but have made great progress). Glad you have been able to make the most of this experience, and find yourself safe and successful in meeting its challenges!

  3. I am glad you were able to explore,it sounds like you had some good shopping!
    I am praying Geoff will feel well soon.
    Keep well,

  4. I'm very impressed you went out on your own. If you want, I'd be happy to share the photos we have of the wood carriers. We got some beautiful shots. Let me know. Ange

  5. way to go! And thanks so much for sharing about your experiences! I'm learning more from you than i did when we were there ~ primarily because we had our girls with us by day 2 and i was completely absorbed in them, plus they always wanted to sit at the back of the van, so i really didn't get to hear the adult conversations up front...

  6. Good for you Ruth...getting out on your own. I will be printing off all Addis blog entries for our trip. Thanks again for much great posts!