Old 09-28-2017, 10:43 AM   #1
RubenR
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Abroad

When you read this, it means I found a place with decent Wi-Fi. Still not too common in the place where I am, or I'm looking at the wrong places. I do have an Ethiopian simcard, but for some unknown reasons it refuses to provide internet.

Arriving at night in Addis Ababa, I was awaited by the biological father of my oldest son. It didn't take too long before the taxi arrived at the hotel; the hotel was average, meaning, a door with a broken handle which could only be closed by locking it; several missing tiles in the bathroom; a shower, but not a working shower; a lamp next to the bed with a broken plug and not yet stripped electricity wires to be stuck in the socket; a door standing in front of the wardrobe, instead of hanging in place; ...

The next day was spent reaching for an autobus. The next day was a special celebration called Meskerem, if I'm correct, it is a celebration of the return of yellow flowers after the rain. I guess it has something to do with wishing for a good harvest. Because of that, all busseats had already been reserved long time ago by people wishing to celebrate with their families. My companion didn't want to wait another day, and finally he did manage to get a minibus.

The bus would be near our hotel at 10 in the morning. That's always tricky; the day starts at 6 o'clock, at sunset, so 10 o'clock means 4 in the morning. Then we were called at 3.30, that the bus would be coming, so we quickly left the hotel, after which we had to wait another hour.

The bus travel was long and shaking us through pretty well. I can't complain, as being their guest , I was told to sit in front, where you get much more space (two passengers + driver in front, and quite some of the space was occupied by bags). Others, like my companion were packed in the back (14 people + 3 small children which don't count + the driver's assistant) and could hardly move, except for following the shaking of the bus. It didn't take long before the driver was asked for plastic bags.

I guess it is a bad sign if the driver almost took the wrong turn at one of the first roundabouts, taking us out of town; the passengers had to give him directions. It is nice to have a driver who knows all the bumps and holes in the road; our driver didn't. Yet it wasn't the first time he had driven that road.

Despite the discomfort, I liked the trip, as you get a really good view of the country. For me, it isn't a common sight to have large numbers of sheep, cows, donkeys and even dromedary camels walking on the road. And the people, a few dressed in western clothes, others in various types of traditional clothes, ranging from women totally covered with only a small slit for the eyes, to colourful dresses and beautifully arranged hair. Men's clothes, as usual, not very exciting; some in shorts and t-shirt, most wrapped in long white cloths. Shortly after the rain season, everything looked really green. Unfortunately, in the area around Addis it was still raining a lot, and apparently that isn't favourable for the crops.

We had a few short pee-breaks on the road, and around one (seven according to their system) we had lunch. It was... interesting. But, no gut-bugs, no story, so I took the risk and finished my plate.

The driver had bought some quat, and the second half of our travel went faster, but not necessarily safer. Crashed cars, but especially minibusses and trucks, are a common sight along the road, and it was obvious that several accidents happened just before we passed.

At some point we were stopped by the police, who checked the papers and then started talking off the numberplates of the car. The driver had an unpaid fine, and the police didn't want him to continue driving. Lots of talking later, the driver paid, the number plates were put back, and we were on the road again.

After one more coffee break, one long stop to put plastic over the luggage on top of the roof, we arrived at my destination at nine in the evening. The last part, in the dark again, wasn't much fun. Especially at twilight, it is better not to look outside. For some reason, they don't turn on their lights before it is completely dark.

The bus stopped near a hotel, and the driver didn't want to continue any further. Fine for me, as I was at my destination, but the others still had about three more hours of traveling. They all gave an additional amount of money, and the driver continued. It's no wonder so many traffic accidents happen; probably the driver would make the same trip back the next day, working at least six days a week.

One of those very small three-wheel taxis took me and my companion to the house, where we were awaited by my mother-in-law (MIL, not to be mistaken by MILF) and three nieces (or is it cousins; I always mix those) We got some food and coffee ceremony, and went to bed.

The next day, nothing remarkable. I had a short walk in the neighbourhood, ate, and drank lots of coffee. The next day I was told, there was a celebration, high up in the mountains. They recently built a huge cross out of steal, and decorated it with those lights which change in colour; not particularly beautiful, but it is big, and big is impressive, which is good, and according to some, therefore it is beautiful. Near that cross, they would celebrate Meskel, the celebration of the burned cross. It was busy...

One of the people renting a house of us, owns a travel office and has a car. So we were driven upon the mountain, which was quite tricky, avoiding all the walking people. Once on top, there was music, people dancing, and people giving speeches. We were not allowed to get near the huge cross, not that I wanted to, but the travel agent told the security that I was a tourist, and then there were no more objections. Even close to the cross, it was big and ugly; just like I expected.

While walking around a bit, others of the organization asked if I wanted to sit. My companions told them I wanted to, so I was given a scarf, pushed to a tent, and told to sit down. The travel agent was also allowed inside, the other one wasn't. When we found out, the travel agent tried to get him in as well, after which he also wasn't allowed to return. I didn't want to stay either, but they convinced me I should wait at least a little longer.

So, I was sitting next to many people in suits, and church people; I guess I kind of stood out, being the only non-Ethiopian, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was some kind of pr action, with all those cameras registering everything. It is always good to have an international public. It turned out the Ethiopian president was there to give a speech too. It wasn't the celebration I was promised... Not impressed, we went back to town, where we had a few drinks.

The next day, I finally got the expected diarrhoea. It could have been anything; the meat, vegetables, fruit, washing my hands or the plates and glasses with tap water, the huge amounts of unfiltered coffee, the home-brewn honey whine, ... Still, we went walking quite a distance to a church in town, where the real Meskel celebration would take place. Of course, we were too late; still, it was nice seeing all those people being dressed up for celebration. Some church schools walked in possession, being dressed up, singing and making music. Later, on tv, I did see some small fragments of the celebration. It is... unusual, seeing people, dressed up in white clothes, burning a cross...

In the evening, still not feeling well, I was given a table spoon with honey, mixed with grind coffee powder. That was supposed to help. And I have to admit...

The next morning, 'my' son's father returned to his home, so now I'm left with my MIL and three nieces. An interracial incest bunny plot? Not my type of story.
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Old 10-06-2017, 04:43 AM   #2
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The second half of the first week has been a quiet, almost boring, spending time eating, drinking coffee and some reading. With three coffee-ceremonies a day (each having at least three cups, sometimes four or five), my caffeine level is sky-high, but I’m not complaining.

In the house are three cousins, all from different families related to MIL.
The oldest is, I guess, a few years above twenty. She studies Nursing at college, and during the day, she is teacher-assistant at a private primary school. Her mother died soon after she was born and her father, a not-so-wealthy farmer, was having problems taking care of her. Therefore, at very young age, she was supposed to marry. At that age, it doesn’t mean she would already ‘perform all duties expected from a wife’, but I guess it is like a ‘reservation’, and she would probably be working as a help for housekeeping with her family in law. At the time she would be given away, my wife was around, and she decided to ‘kidnap’ her. She took her home, took care of her, made her go to school, and until now, she stayed. She still has some contact with her father—I’ve seen him a few times, and he is very grateful for the opportunity given to his daughter.
She is in her last year of education and, if I understand it correctly, after finishing school, she is supposed to work for at least two years as a nurse before she gets her official diploma. It might be that she will have to leave the place she now lives in, in order to find work. She told me that most of the other students are much older than she is—several are nearing their retirement. They ‘need’ the diploma as, for them, the amount of money they get from retirement is based on the level of education.
She is really thin, and it bothers her; her friends comment on it, and I guess she feels somewhat ashamed about it. She is very friendly and, like a good children-teacher, she constantly tries to educate. Before she became a teacher-assistant, she had worked at the reception of an ‘international’ hotel, and her English is reasonable.

The second cousin is, I guess, around eighteen years old. For Ethiopian farmer standards, her parents are both doing well, I guess; they are relatively wealthy. But since the opportunities for education around their place is low, she was sent to her aunt. It may be that the family ‘claimed’ this opportunity, because the other cousin was also living with MIL. Now, this girl studies engineering and does most of the home-keeping duties. She is one of four girls in a class together with 30 boys. She is smart and, I think, good looking.
Five or six years ago, we (my wife and I) bought the place they now live in. At that time, the existing houses were of bad quality, so two years later, we had new houses built (nothing huge, think of houses with only one or two rooms, the size of a small living room. Two of the houses are being rent to others and the money is used by my family to pay for electricity, water and other costs, plus some extra money for their living). This cousin, at that time still at primary school, was heavily involved in supervising the building, checking the quality of materials, the quality of work done, etc. Apparently she enjoyed the work and that’s when she decided to study engineering. Now she dreams of building water dams.

The youngest cousin, who is, I guess, thirteen years old, also came to live with MIL for better education. She is still in primary school, just started grade eight. At the end of grade ten, students are examined, and those with the best results are allowed to continue primary school for two more years, followed by university; the rest can go to college. The youngest cousin wants to study Business in the future. She is a cheeky one; a drama queen, laughing and smiling all day, while the other two are much more serious. She doesn’t speak any English, but likes watching photos and videos with me. The other girls are teasing her (in a good way) because she has the darkest skin of all. They asked me: “Who has the darkest skin of us,” and I had to admit it was her. But then I whispered to her to ask me a second question: “Who is the prettiest.”

Before the youngest cousin, there was another girl in the house, a real grand-daughter of MIL. Her mother died about ten years ago. She expected that, because she was the only real grand-child in the house, she would have more privileges, and wouldn’t be expected to do any house holding duties. With MIL out of the house, she would fight the other two girls. Not tolerating that behavior and unable to improve it, MIL sent her to live with another ‘family’, she got pregnant, and I guess she is the shame of the family now… So far, I haven’t seen her at all this time.

MIL is, I guess, around sixty-five years old, although it is really hard to say. When I first met her, she looked years older, being exhausted from hard working. At that time, she made an almost crazy impression on me.
She is illiterate, has a very hard and unpleasant history, and now she earns some extra money by making honey-wine and preparing food and drinks at celebrations.
She is a hard woman; not nice to the girls. She doesn’t appreciate them doing homework, and tries to keep them busy for as much as possible, which is why the girls can’t get the best school results. From a distance, there is nothing we can do about that. Sometimes, her demands to the girls borders craziness; maybe something did go wrong in her head.
Like many (old) Ethiopian people, she loves medicines. She often goes to the doctor, complaining of (imaginary) pains and discomforts, and the oldest cousin is having a hard time keeping the medicines away from her. She did have some pretty serious illness almost two years ago, for which she got surgery and a stoma for some time. The stoma was a mess, she just couldn’t stop playing with the plastic bags…
Apparently, there are a lot of weddings these days, and MIL is pretty busy. Last Friday, she took the youngest one with her, to help her, and she (the cousin) was totally excited when they came back. “The clothes! Oh my God, you won’t believe me; the bride was beautiful, Beautiful!!! And gold; lots and lots of gold. There were hundreds and hundreds of people invited. And the food, only the best quality. Only the best of the best. Piles and piles of beer-crates, wine bottles, boxes full of whiskey… (imagine her telling this with dramatic hand-waves, eye rolls, etc. etc.)
MIL was pretty pleased too. When they left, she received a new dress and a new bed cover. In addition, she had tucked four small mineral-bottles in her dress… According to her, the whole wedding had cost two million birr, approx. eighty thousand dollar.

The next day, I took the girls for dinner in a traditional restaurant. They don’t like to leave the house unattended, so MIL stayed behind; after all she’s the one who will later join me to stay for three months in our country.
All dressed up, the girls were very good looking, and I felt quite privileged to be with them. For the youngest one, it was the first time to go to such a ‘high class’ restaurant, and she was really excited about it, constantly looking around, taking in the surroundings. I guess she was a little disappointed by the fact that there were hardly any other guests who would see her sitting there, eating and drinking with class.
It is the Ethiopian tradition to eat together from one plate, and it was a constant battle between us, to make the others eat more. Normally, those diners are very quickly; food is served within a few minutes, you eat, pay and go. Now, after I paid, the youngest girl ‘panicked’; she hadn’t finished her drink yet. The others suspected that she didn’t want to leave the place that soon, so we stayed for another half an hour, taking pictures of each other (it was far too dark to make good pictures, red eyes and somehow each time one of us looked ridiculous, so hopefully those photo’s won’t be shared with too many people) and enjoying the music. When we came back, the girls showed some of the Ethiopian music videos they have stored on their phones and laptop. The oldest girls tried to make the younger one dance, she refused, saying she would only dance when the other girls would join her, and in the end the three of them did get up and danced shortly, showing off their skills in the living room. Ethiopian dancing mainly consists of rapid movements of the shoulders; I guess it is something you only can learn when you are young, and there is no way I could possibly come up to their standards.
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Old 10-11-2017, 11:58 AM   #3
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Time flies; it’s almost time for me to return home, and my wife is getting nervous. She regularly calls, telling again and again that I should either accompany MIL myself or find someone else to accompany her when she needs to go to the toilet in the plane or airport; she wouldn’t be used to locking the door and perhaps might lock herself in; she doesn’t know she has to flush after she’s finished; she might enter the wrong toilets. My wife constantly changes her orders for (the amounts of) spices and other food we have to take home with us, and she asks me again and again if I have all visa-forms and the passports ready. Besides that, there is hardly any time to tell how things are going, either in Ethiopia and at home. For now, my wife has ordered MIL to buy and prepare two coffee-pots; these are made of clay, and require heating for a very long time, followed by boiling (used) coffee powder, also for a long time. In addition, there is, I think, four kilos of raw coffee beans, four kilos of teff (used to make injerra; a sourdough pancake on which they put their meat, sauces, vegetables or whatever they eat), four kilos of berbere (hot, spicy pepper-powder to make sauce or just pour over the injerra and meat) one kilo of mitmita (even spicier than berbere; dangerously hot), two kilos of shiro (Ethiopian bean sause) and four kilos of cotton, which is a lot! (for spinning, so MIL will have something to do when she is with us). Also all clothes and shoes MIL wants to bring with her, have to be described and approved by my wife.

‘At home’ in Ethiopia, nothing exciting is going on. We regularly get visitors saying ‘hi’. Mostly old women, sometimes accompanied by their daughters. One time, we had a visitor dressed in a stylish red bathrobe. When MIL is in, they can talk for hours, and I’m supposed to sit with them and kindly nod at appropriate times. If MIL is not around, they still come in, exchange some words with the cousins who then quickly leave the room, I speak my five words of Amharic asking how they are doing, telling I’m fine, telling I like being in Ethiopia and in the town, and then, after a few failed attempts to continue further conversation, it remains uncomfortably silent. Sometimes it only takes one or two minutes and they’ll leave; sometimes the cousins manage to offer them drinks and it can take up to an hour or even longer. When there is electricity, the television brings some distraction (only one channel, EBC, Ethiopian Broadcasting Channel), during the times without electricity, I learn to know every little spot of the wall in front of me.

In Addis Abeba, every day another area gets electricity. Most shops, bars and hotels have their own generators, but streetlights and many houses remain dark when there is no electricity, those houses only lighted by electric torches and candles. In the town I’m staying, it just breaks down for ~ 30% of the time; mostly during the day, but also sometimes at night, and it takes hours before the power returns. At night, it can be seriously dangerous to walk the streets without light; everywhere in town there are large sewer-systems, but the huge concrete plates covering their openings are regularly broken, leaving large, very deep (meters deep), stinking holes in the pavement.

Although it is quite common to have a dog in the compound, Ethiopian people are generally afraid of them; with good reason, but dogs also have good reasons to be afraid of Ethiopian people as they don’t pet dogs but throw stones at them. Street dogs are a common sight, and they gather together at night, at the edge of town, to fight the hyenas trying to enter. The dog in ‘our’ compound is quite unusual; according to MIL, she got the dog from foreigners who brought him as a puppy from their country; I’m really not sure if it isn’t a dog ‘adopted’ from the street. Anyway, for MIL, it is a good reason to think the dog isn’t as bad as Ethiopian dogs, and in her own way, she spoils the poor animal. He gets washed and brushed regularly, he is sometimes allowed to enter the house (very unusual in Ethiopia), he gets baked meat (the kittens too), but like almost all Ethiopian dogs he isn’t trained and certainly doesn’t have to listen to the cousins.
One time, we had guests and Bobby (also called Wouchi or Bouchi, not sure; it’s probably a pet-name derived from wusha, Amharic for dog) was walking freely around through the compound, which is also very unusual in Ethiopia; they normally are tied to short chains. As the guests were scared to death, we first had to pull the dog inside one room, let the guests enter another room, and then let the dog go outside again. When the guests left, the dog managed to get inside the house, smelled the chair one of the women had been sitting in, lifted his leg, and marked his territory… For reasons unclear to me, the cousins didn’t get mad at the dog; maybe they thought it was a fitting reply to the presence of the guests.

Besides the dog, numerous other animals try to invade the house; among them, two kittens, three chickens, ants, cockroaches, flies and mosquitos, hairy caterpillars, lots and lots of different types of beetles… Unlike the dog, the cats and chickens are never allowed to enter. Most other animals are generally ignored, except for the caterpillars, which they are afraid of. I haven’t tried, but I guess it is because their hairs burn.
For some reason, the cockroaches are strongly attracted to the fridge. Every now and then they do manage to enter, after which they’ll find out the fridge’s environment isn’t suitable to them and die (or hibernate; I’m not sure). I’m not a great fan of cockroaches; we don’t have them at home, and the idea of them eating from the same food as I do (before they ‘sleep’ in the fridge) doesn’t add to my appetite. Not only do they enter the fridge; they get together at any possible and even impossible place; one time they almost gave me a heart attack when I was offered the photobook and, almost at the end, I discovered two of them hiding between the pages.

Although it is normal for families to eat all together when they are outside, in ‘our’ house, I eat alone. In the morning it’s bread with egg or marmalade, lunch often consists of pasta or rice, and for diner, injerra with meat. When present, MIL eats at the same time or right after me; she’ll eat bread or injerra with a different kind meat, often stuck to large bones. Then, after we (MIL and I) finished eating, there is the coffee ceremony, and only after cleaning everything up, the girls eat; sometimes their food has some meat but often it is just spiced injerra or injerra with vegetables. The girls refuse every time I ask them to take some of my food. On Wednesday and Friday, it is fasting day, and neither MIL nor cousins eat any animal product, but I’m not included in their fasting habits. It is a pity, as their bean-sauce is really tasty, and also other vegetables would be a welcome variation.
Despite my frequent requests not to do so, my wife had given food-instructions and as a result, none of my food is spiced. It is true, I can’t cope with the really spicy Ethiopian food, but mildly spiced meat can be really nice. Now, it is only plain baked meat I get, several times the “you can chew chew chew, but you’ll never bite trough” kind of meat, requiring me to swallow almost all of it in one, and hoping my stomach does a better job. So far, I manage to restrict my 'number two' to once a day, which I consider a good sign; I won't get into detail about the consistency. I guess my stomach tries to avoid another spoon of honey with grind coffee...
It is an Ethiopian custom to keep pushing your guests to eat more, even when you desperately try to convince them you are really stuffed. In addition to that, MIL, apparently tired of my wife’s comments, suggestions, warnings and food-requests, has given herself the task to fatten me; me gaining weight would be real proof to my wife she really can take care of me; perhaps even better than my wife. Maybe friendly, but certainly not nice…

Most of the people I worked with, nearly twenty years ago, have left the university. A few of them won the DV lottery or bought a winning ticket from others—one of the most popular lotteries is the DV lottery, the winners get a visa to America. I have strong feelings against this lottery—it tears families apart; often the whole family and even others have to bring in a lot of money for the extra costs that come with the emigration, expecting the lucky ones to send back much, much more money in return. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gives rise to many quickly arranged marriages and people even might divorce first, to enable other families to profit too, in return to the money they give… After the lucky couple gets the American nationality, arranged marriages can be undone, enabling each of them to bring another partner to the US.
Anyway, only few people I know are still working at the university, and I do have some contact with one of them. I called her this week and we made an appointment to have coffee together. My wife was fully against me meeting her. When we worked together, she was a very small, very slim girl, who hardly spoke any English. She was always happy and smiling, and all colleagues liked her a lot. I liked her too; I thought she was very cute and funny, even though she was too shy to talk to me directly. A few years after I had left, she got pregnant and delivered a baby, but to all colleagues, the father remains a secret. She isn’t the kind of girl/woman who would go out at night, let alone sleep with random men, so most people suspect she had been tricked by someone making false promises. The child is now being raised by her parents.
Now, she looks fat (for most women in Ethiopia this is the best compliment you can get, she doesn’t really look fat, but ‘healthier’), her English is reasonable, and she is still constantly laughing and smiling. While drinking coffee, we looked at some photos on our mobile phones, and then she asked me, out of the blue “If you married an Ethiopian girl, why not me.” What kind of answer do you give to such a question… Like most Ethiopian people, she is still looking for ways to get abroad, and asked me if I could arrange a scholarship for her, or some other opportunity to get to another country for at least a couple of months. It is a common request, but impossible for me to help with. All I can do is send relevant links of universities.
After coffee, we made an appointment to meet at the university later that week, so I could also see some other colleagues and check out what the place looks like now, but unfortunately, at the appointed day she was appointed to do fieldwork, and there is no more time to make another appointment now. Maybe next time.
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Old 10-11-2017, 12:48 PM   #4
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OK, I'll say it. WTF?

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Old 10-11-2017, 12:52 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjordan View Post
OK, I'll say it. WTF?

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Ruben's in Ethiopia to bring his mother-in-law back to the US. He's been treating us to a travel log of sorts. I, for one, find it very interesting.
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Old 10-11-2017, 01:58 PM   #6
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Whatever. Carry on.

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Old 10-15-2017, 06:55 AM   #7
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Thank you for your approval, rj.

I’m back. After spending more than two weeks in Ethiopia, I have returned to my own country, bringing MIL with me.

The days before we left, the number of visitors increased, and also the time they stayed, preventing me from buying the souvenirs I had planned to bring for my children. In the evenings, the cousins entertained me with music videos of their favorite singers, while I showed them pictures and videos I made before, both from my own country and from Ethiopia. They especially liked to see their own families and the place where they used to live. However, when I asked them if they missed their families, they gave me blank looks; “I’m living here now, and the other cousins are like my sisters. There is nothing there for me.”

We did manage to get seats in a decent coach for my way back. We had to board the bus at 4.30 in the morning, and fortunately one of the tenants owns a car and drove us there; getting a taxi can be difficult at that time of the day. The bus company we now used is surprisingly well organized, and the 50-passenger bus was on the road before 5 o’clock.

Because of its large size and good state of maintenance, the bus was less affected by bumps and holes in the road than the minibus I took a few weeks earlier, and it could drive quite a bit faster. Anything that can drive fast, will drive fast in Ethiopia. Sitting in one of the front seats of the bus, I would regularly hear the beeping sound, indicating that the speed exceeded 100 km/h (~62 miles/h); it regularly got up to 75 miles/h, while the minibus had barely managed fifty miles on the straight, good parts of the road. This driver was extremely confident that all other road-users would give way, and constantly felt the need of overtaking other traffic on winding mountain roads without being able to see the travel approaching us—if you can go fast, you must go fast. Several times he had to pull the brakes and get back in line, but somehow we did arrive without accidents (vomiting not taken into account). The ‘assistant’ had a busy day supplying plastic bags to those throwing up.

Besides handing out plastic bags, the assistant checks the tickets, he replaces the tires when needed, he takes care of luggage of passengers leaving the bus before they reach the final destination, and I guess he entertains the driver and makes sure that he doesn’t fall asleep. At the start-point and final destination, special luggage-handlers take care of all luggage, supervised by the assistant. The long pinky-nail of the bus driver is a clear statement that he won’t do any heavy labor.




These are pictures from an accident in 2014 with the same company I used, demonstrating why the front-seats aren’t always the best seats… It isn’t hard to find similar pictures on the internet.

We travelled for more than 13 hours, and only got three very short pee-breaks and half an hour for lunch. They did have ‘catering’ on board, though. Two times we received a small bottle of water, and once we got a biscuit. In addition, people were let into the bus to sell roasted grain and peanuts, oranges and sugar cane; while the bus drove on, they would walk through the bus selling their goods, and when they were done, they were dropped off at a suitable location. Unfortunately, there was no coffee being served; for me there is no such thing as too much coffee, but after all the coffee ceremonies I have had for the last weeks, going cold turkey gave me hard time.

The bus also had video screens on which they showed Ethiopian music videos and movies, regularly interrupted as the shaking of the bus caused the flash-drive to come loose.

Just before we entered Addis, the bus was stopped, police body-checked all passengers and went through the luggage, blocking the road with our suitcases. As usual, several groups of people are unhappy about the Ethiopian government, expressing themselves by rioting and placing bombs, which is why there was this extra checkpoint. There was a lot of traffic at that time of the day, and it took perhaps ten minutes until the police decided it was no use going through all suitcases, and moved on to the next car.

The traffic in Addis was crazy. Every road was completely blocked, and it almost took another hour to get at the final destination. At the bus station we were awaited by another cousin of MIL, who accompanied us to the hotel and then took us for diner.

MIL spent most of the next morning sleeping; recovering from the trip. At home, she usually gets out before six in the morning. I spent this time reading. After lunch we met some more family who guided us around through town. MIL had to buy more spices from Addis, and I unsuccessfully tried to find t-shirts or other suitable souvenirs for the kids. After we had diner together, the family left and we had to wait a couple of hours more, in which MIL demonstrated her impatience.

The plane would leave at midnight, but having bad experiences (once there was a major computer crash at the airport, which almost made me miss my flight), I always make sure to be at this airport three hours in advance. Another good reason for leaving early is that you can never be sure that the taxi really is coming at the appointed time to pick you up. Nothing went wrong this time, and quickly we got rid of our suitcases and passed the passport control. Despite my warnings, MIL did fall over when we got on the escalator, and preferred to take the stairs afterwards.

In one of the shops in the airport, I finally found some t-shirts to bring home for the children. MIL was horrified by the prices they dared to ask; at least four times as much as you would have to pay anywhere else, but I was relieved that I wouldn’t come home empty-handed. Another shock was the coffee they served; a double shock, both the price and the quality. It gave her a good idea about what she was about to experience for the following three months.

Every five minutes, MIL asked me what time it was; I knew she can’t read or write, but I didn’t know she can’t tell time either. Not interested in shopping, MIL spent her time watching people, and when we moved to the gate, she really enjoyed watching the planes take off and land. She shortly panicked when she finally realized that we no longer brought the large suitcases with us, and it took a quite some effort to explain that we could pick them up at the end of our traveling.

Since we got on the bus, it was obvious that people were curious about that old Ethiopian man traveling with a middle-aged white man who clearly doesn’t speak more than a few words Amharic. Most of the time I just let her talk and tried to figure out, based on intonation, whether nodding or shaking my head was appropriate. I generally seemed to do well, as she rarely stopped talking.

MIL was greatly pleased by the blankets provided in the plane, and wanted to know if she could take them with her when leaving the plane. I don’t know and didn’t want to ask.

Taking off went fine; We got a nice aerial view of Addis Abeba by night, and also other places were clearly visible. Nothing showed it was MIL’s first time in a plane. Food was not fine, though. We could choose between chicken and pasta and I asked for both, so we could swap if she didn’t like it; except for the bread, she liked none of it and I got both portions. I guess MIL slept through most of the flight. I never sleep well anywhere except for my bed, but I also managed to snooze a bit.

Halfway, we had a stopover lasting almost ten hours. Again not interested in checking out the shops or the rest of the airport, we stayed at one place, while MIL tried to get some extra sleep. Again, she asked constantly about the time, and she wanted further confirmation that the suitcases really would be sent to our final destination. More voluptuous people where observed with overt amazement; “Way… Wofram!” For sure, some of them must have heard it, and the intonation clearly indicated astonishment…

The second flight was clouded, but what is ‘cloud’ in Amharic? MIL thought we were flying above snowy mountains, and, although not scared, she was clearly wondering what was going to happen when the plane started descending.

Again, we had no trouble going through passport control. I just started on beforehand by introducing MIL as my mother-in-law who doesn’t speak anything but Amharic, and after a quick check we could continue; the customs told me they were glad she was with company, as they do get similar people traveling alone, unable to explain where they go to and why. Fortunately, we were not asked to open our suitcases—I am not sure if the amounts of coffee and spices are allowed—and then we were welcomed by our family. The first time MIL and my father met.

My father drove us home, we had coffee (freshly roasted Ethiopian coffee), MIL was given a tour through the house, and then... I had my hot shower! That certainly feels good, after two weeks dealing with cold tap water (and feeling grateful for having cold tap water available…)

So, (un)fortunately it was, all in all, a pretty uneventful stay in Ethiopia, although for me it was nice to meet the family and take in the Ethiopian atmosphere. Sorry for not being able to describe anything more exciting, but you never know what you're going to get. For next time, I do have plans to go traveling to other places, for example to Dallol, which
Quote:
... currently holds the official record for record high average temperature for an inhabited location on Earth ...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dallol,_Ethiopia



And now we only need to survive three months with MIL in our house.
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Old 10-15-2017, 07:10 AM   #8
ChloeTzang
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Fascinating trip. Good luck with 3 months of MIL in house
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