Addis Ababa - the Return

Trip Start Jul 25, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, October 13, 2006

The trip back from Lalibela seemed to take forever. I was eventually moved to the front seat of the bus, next to the driver. Despite the fact I had to pay extra for it (and had not wanted it in the first place), this aroused much anger in the aforementioned black Caribbean English woman who was also on the bus for the return trip. She seemed to enjoy ranting about the white man and his crimes against her family in the past. When Ethiopians would politely ask where she was from, as she did not speak Amharic, and was obviously a foreigner, she would get angry and say, "I am from Africa! I am from Ethiopia! My family was from here until the WHITE MAN came and took them away into slavery!" To reiterate, there was only one white man on the bus - me. When I was led to my seat at the front (one she had apparently wanted but didn't want to pay for), she ranted at the Ethiopians around her, accusing them of "betraying their race" because they let a white man sit in front of them. Yeah, that was comfortable.

Interestingly, I made many friends on the way back. She, however, left in disgust on the second day, waving down another bus after our bus broke down yet again. The Ethiopians on the bus were united in their opinion that she was crazy, but good entertainment.

(Also as a historical aside - and please excuse the apparent crassness of this - but, for the most part, Europeans were mostly involved in the slave trade in Western Africa. This is not to say it did not happen or ever justify any slavery anywhere, and certainly, later on, more people such as the Brazilians and the French would become involved, but the majority of slaves taken from East Africa, historically, were taken by Arab traders and Sultanates and ended up throughout the Middle East and Asia. Africans in East Africa would certainly suffer under European rule and colonialism, but this is different from the slave trade. Not any better necessarily, just different. Sorry, I'm a history teacher, and she was talking bad history. True emotions, but bad history. Talking with Ethiopians, they attributed their distinct looks and culture to the mixing that took place between Black African people, Arab traders and Nubian influences from places like the Sudan and Egypt. There is very little resentment towards white people, at least that I experienced. Ethiopia is also only one of two African countries that was never colonized by a European power. It was briefly occupied by the Italians during World War 2, but only for a relatively shirt period of time.)

Being given the seat at the front of the bus is considered somewhat of an honour - more leg room, better views, and access to an open window. The nickname for this seat, however, is the "Death Seat." For all of the reasons mentioned before in another post, head-on collisions are very common. The front seat guarantees you an extremely up-close and personal view of the action. I read earlier this month, "There are no old African bus drivers."

To make matters worse, the return bus was old and dilapidated, making the first bus seem luxurious by comparison. A small blessing was that there was no sound system so I was spared the ear splitting levels of Ethiopian pop suffered on the first voyage. This thing rattled and shook its way slowly back towards Addis Ababa. By the second day it began to break down - a lot. A few times there were spectacular explosions of steam and water as the radiator blew after just making it to a village where locals would run back and forth with buckets of water, refilling the radiator and throwing it on the sides of the bus in an attempt to cool down the entire thing. When the engine would begin to heat up again, wafts of burnt smelling steam would creep out from under the dash, and swirl around my feet. All of this contributed to a much slower finish to an already long voyage. Eventually, we reached Addis and I checked into my new hotel, the Baro.
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