Originally written November 21, 2013
The husband and I are pretty savvy travelers. We are good at finding our way around and don’t really get overwhelmed when traveling. We love new experiences and new cultures. We love to embrace the city we’re visiting; we want to take it all in.
But being here in Ethiopia we are limited in what we can do. We don’t have a car and wouldn’t want one. In this huge city of 2 million people we’ve seen three stoplights- and we’ve driven a lot. There is no public transportation, unless you count some VERY overcrowded buses. We can’t just go where we want when we want. We are dependent on others to take us.
We are a very clear minority- I think I’ve seen less than a dozen white people if you don’t count those we saw at the Hilton. Unlike the melting pot we call home, people know that if you don’t look like you’re from here, you’re not. Addis is a safe city with very little violent crime, but it is not enjoyable to go to most areas without a guide. You feel like prey. Most people don’t speak English. We can’t read the signs. The streets aren’t marked- most of them literally have no name. There are no “American” parts of town, no McDonalds or Subways. Our phones don’t work and our internet connectivity is spotty at best. We are totally out of our comfort zones and totally dependent on our guides. I’ve never experienced that while traveling before.
I like it- I think it is good to get out of your comfort zone. It’s good to be reminded that the world does not revolve around your reality; that your reality is not everyone’s reality.
But I also crave the security of my little bubble; the comfort of my home. I miss my comfy bed and traffic laws.
I think it is good to feel these feelings so that we can relate to our kids as they join us in the States. We are totally out of our comfort zone now, but it is fleeting. We’ll be back in the States soon. Our kids won’t have that to fall back on.
Here are some things you just don’t see everyday in the US. Nothing is included in this list unless we saw it several times (ie, none of these are isolated incidents, all of these are common sights).
Small water heaters in the bathrooms
Scaffolding made of sticks
Wild dogs roaming alleys
Pack of sheep walking down the road
Babies walking aimlessly (that baby does not belong to that woman. We watched her climb across the crack in the concrete)
Three wheeled cars (note blue cars on left and right of picture)
Horse pulled carriages
Houses that should be condemned (and this was a nice one)
Donkeys tied up outside shops
Toilets with no seat and no top- this was in the airport.
People pushing wheelbarrows full of produce
One thing that was very prevelant but I did not get a picture of was the open-air butcher shops. They are all over the place and basically have full animals gutted and hanging, ready to be sliced and sold. This might not be so bad, except that there is very little grass in the city. Where there might usually be grass between, say, a sidewalk and a building, is just dirt. This results in the entire city feeling dusty. The cars also emit a lot of fumes. So, while Ethiopian food is actually quite delicious, while here I prefer not to know where my food came from. This picture is not mine- I stole it from Google- but is what a typical shop looks like:
Men being close with other men. Ethiopia is mostly Orthodox Christian and Muslim. Its people are very religious- religious chanting and music from both religions plays over city-wide loudspeakers regularly. Homosexuality is not something that is tolerated here. But it is not uncommon to see heterosexual men walking with their arms around each other or holding hands. They just don’t have the personal space “hula hoops” that we Americans do. This isn’t a great picture, but I felt kind of weird trying to get a good one of men holding hands.