Monday, February 28, 2011

Ethiopia: Awassa, Day 1, Monday

I am in Awassa and I think I am in heaven. After a dismal look-see at three rooms at the Beshu Hotel, I walked down the street to the Blue Nile Hotel. A shower that works! Water comes out! The toilet flushes! A TV! And God-in-heaven -- an in-room mini-refrigerator, in which I immediately popped my bottled water. What luxury. For 150 birr (about $10).

And there is purportedly an ATM in Awassa!

After kicking off my shoes, stretching out on the bed, and watching a little television, I went down to the hotel restaurant for a late lunch. Pretty courtyard. Many round tables, most shaded by palms or other trees or a woven hut roof. A sweet breeze. The fragrant smoke of frankincense wafted nearby. A cold Ambo.

The menu was pricey, but for the moment, I didn't care. A little yellow bird even landed on one of the chairs at my table and tweeted at me. The waitress welcomed me to Awassa.

So let me move back to the beginning of the day, at the Bale Mountain Hotel in Dodola.

Got up a little before 7:00 a.m. Did the usual things. "Soft" paper a bit of an issue - the hotel doled out a small, nicely-folded ration, and I had used the last of the roll I'd purchased before going on the Bale Trek, and I had only a couple of kleenexes from my last little packet of soft. Three days of shiro, albeit delicious, had had an effect on things.

Got packed up and went out to the restaurant patio for a good cup of black coffee. My plan was to take a bus from Dodola to Shashamene; numerous buses work this route in the morning, so there was no urgency to leave super-early.

I was almost finished with my coffee when three faranji men passed through the patio area. They were all from Belgium; they had flown in to Addis with their bicycles, and were on a bike trek through Ethiopia. On average, only one to two faranji come to Dodola in a day. Indeed, one of the Belgians said I was the first tourist they'd seen since they left Addis on their trek. One asked what to expect next on the road through the Bale Mountains. Easy --> rocks and dust until you get out of town. Get a bandana. The Belgians assured me they'd already eaten a lot of dust and covered a lot of rocks.

At Lake Ziway, they took a boat across the lake to a "road" that was so deep in dust they couldn't ride on (in) it. They had to push their bikes through.

I mentioned my stay in Gorgora (can't remember why) and about the British couple who fell into the hole. One of the Belgians exclaimed immediately: "An Ethiopian tourist trap!" I loved this.
Example of a typical Ethiopian tourist trap
Finished my coffee, collected a small ration of soft from the manager, and returned to my room for that final trip to the bathroom before a bus trip.

One of the restaurant men offered to escort me (and lug my bag) to the bus station, which I accepted. He got me directly to the right bus, pushed my bag up into same, and saw me on my way. A gratuity was graciously offered and accepted.

Pleasant ride to Shashamene, where I got off to pick up a connecting bus to Awassa.

Shashemene really drives home how many Ethiopian boys and men there are without enough to do. The girls and women are, generally, behind the scenes. At homes, I guess. (In the rural areas of Oromia, at least, married women do not even go to a restaurant unless accompanied by their husbands.)

Over and over I hear about students who graduate from university, but there are no jobs for them.

So there are all of these boys and men who are un- or under-employed.

I got off the bus at Shashamene and there was young man after young man after young man who hoped for money from me in exchange for carrying my bag or getting me to the bus I seek. Nobody got anything this round. One guy mentioned to me he needed money for school, but it seemed mostly out of habit that he said this and not out of any belief he'd get anything. It must be so demoralizing. All of this pent-up talent and energy, with no place to go. A bleak future of one day after another, each the same. A dangerous situation for any regime.

It ended up that some women helped me find the bus I wanted. This was one of those bus boarding situations where it was every man for himself, and I tried to get myself in front of the johnny-come-latelys, giving them the evil eye, while making way for those who were before me. I was lucky -- a friend of the bus driver saved me a seat. A completely undeserved break, merely because I was faranji (I assume). The yin and yang of faranjidom in Ethiopia.

Back to the Blue Nile Hotel, a few hours later. OK, the refrigerator light came on, but that was all the work it was able to accomplish. The electricity went off a couple of times in my room, but resumed.

Bajaj in Awassa. Photo credit: Jirenna
I took a blue bajaj (tuktuk) to the Dashen Bank in the piazza. Flush with cash from the ATM, I started walking back to the hotel and went by a supermarket. Wow! Grapefruit juice! Nescafe coffee! Cheese! (Alas, this was before I knew the refrigerator really didn't refridge

I brushed off some aggressive beggars (who grabbed my arm, a first for me in Ethiopia) on my way back to the hotel. [Given the paragraph preceding and following, I'd like to just delete this statement, as the contrast between my life and theirs is galactic. But it is the reality, so I let it stand in its discomfort. Life just plain isn't fair.]

Upon my return, I relaxed the rest of the day and evening in my hotel room. Had dinner from the hotel restaurant. As with the earlier lunch, only very ordinary.

4 comments:

  1. Stupid ass said "Tourist Trap", they should have watched where they were going. Oky belgi :)

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  2. Well - almost heaven anyway. Ah! the simple pleasures.

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    2. Indeed. In fact, in any given moment, the ability to appreciate simple pleasures is what makes the aggregate of what we call happiness perhaps?

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