Day 14 - Dilla
Trip Start Aug 07, 2007
68Trip End Nov 07, 2007
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Beard: That Serbian guy who chases that American guy in Behind Enemy Lines
Distance Travelled: 2427km
Frame of Mind: Culture Shocked
Left Mega early and headed to Agere Maryam. Was going to stay for a while but have no recollection of what it was I was supposed to do here. And it is raining and cold. So I go to Dilla (Dila) instead. No recollection of what to do here either but it's only a short morning drive to Awash, which I do have plans for!
The 300-odd km here are a dream. Fast, smooth roads and beautiful countryside that I can afford to enjoy because I'm not having to watch the road 5m in front of me constantly. It's not that the roads are perfect, they just seem to be well maintained. The potholes are filled. It's almost as if they have a maintenance schedule. Incredible idea. Tanzania seems to wait till the President drives down it before contenmplating repairs.
The country is stunning. It seems so much bigger than Kenya/TZ. And they are BIG. You can see for miles and miles. The variety of scenery is also bewildering...all of it so dramatic. Volcanic cinder cone strewn valleys; rolling hills, tropical forest-covered mountains with deep gorges; and scrubland dotted with squat, white termite mounds almost like a Henry Moore scupture park. All in the 400km I've been in so far.
I am feeling something I've not felt for a long time though: out of place. I'm experiencing a pretty heavy dose of culture shock. It started pretty much when I went into immigration at the border. No signs in English or Swahili. All in Amharic, which has an Arabic-like alphabet so good luck guessing meanings there! The immigration chap spoke no English or Swahili at all.
I had not considered how used to East Africa I had become. I certainly never felt integrated in any real sense but I guess I was to quite an extent. I could communicate with everyone, I knew how eveything worked, how much it should cost, what was for breakfast! Here I know nothing. I feel a bit schoolboy.
Incidentally Joey you clearly do have some Ethiopian in you. The immigration chap looked like (a less good looking version of) you. Especially when he put my helmet on and started Beavis and Butthead-like facial expressions.
Have enlisted the help of a local Dillanian English teacher to take me through some Amharic, tell me what people eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner (everyone assumes you want to steer away from all things Ethiopian and only offer you eggs, toast, hamburger, spaghetti etc) and generally show me the ropes.
There is a lot of what the Lonely Planet quite accurately describes 'Ferangi Fever' (being amazed with, interested in, badgery towards white people). There are constant shouts of "YOU YOU", "HI HI" or just screaming in your ear as you drive past (no, not over their toes). Crowds assemble to marvel at your ability to put on gloves and start a motorcycle or even more amazingly to unpack your bags. Woah! There is also an incredible amount of begging from obvioulsy well-to-do Ethiopians, which I always found very annoying in TZ and so when Samuel (my teacher) was chatting to me I was waiting for the catch. We went to dinner, chatted, learned some things about eachother's culture, drank some beer, drank some tea, met his family and then...at the end of it all...he shook my hand and said goodnight. Fantastic. Top bloke. The only thing he wanted aside from conversation was a bit of advice on his son getting a visa to the UK. I am both pleased with the way the evening went and embarrassed at my cynical attitude.
Tomorrow I'll take a short drive (110km) to Awassa.