Heading Back to Addis . . .

Trip Start Dec 25, 2008
Trip End Mar 28, 2009

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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Wednesday, April 8, 2009

After a wonderful time in southern Ethiopia, we made our way back to Addis - a full day's drive from Arba Minch. On the way, we stopped in a Silt'e tukol, where the woman of the "house" made us feel very welcome and prepared us coffee, as is customary. The tribe is a Muslim tribe and was probably the friendliest we'd encountered - no asking for money, pens, or even Highland bottles . .

When we finally arrived in Addis in the evening, we drove through the Merkato - a nearly impossible task, given the narrow streets, ultracrowded with people buying and selling everything you could imagine. The experience made us realize that it was actually a good thing that we couldn't make it to the Merkato at the beginning of our trip: (a) we would've been walking around with a bunch of money and a decent chance of being pickpocketed; (b) we probably would've gotten lost, considering it's the biggest market in Africa, and then missed our flight to Bahir Dar (after all, it was only our second day in Ethiopia and smack in the middle of our period of incessant "foiling"); and (c) we would've been there on a Saturday, the busiest day for the Merkato, which in hindsight would've likely been a little too much for the senses.

We spent the next day at the Hilton (the "beacon") - treating ourselves finally to guaranteed hot water and uninterrupted electricity. While Lydia basked in the glory of the Hilton's pool, I tried to find a decent internet connection - and lucked out after getting some good info from our friend Derege, whom we'd met up in Lalibela. We then went with Derege to dinner that night at the famous and delicious Castelli's restaurant - an institution since the Italian occupation, and very authentic (I actually had to bust out my paltry Italian to try to explain to the rather large, gruff proprietor how to use my camera upon asking him to take a picture of me, Lydia and Derege after our meal). The food at Castelli's had apparently also been previously enjoyed by Brad Pitt, whose rave review of the restaurant was posted up front - I guess he ate there during an adoption visit. . .

After our meal, Derege showed us a couple of the buildings he'd worked on (he's a well-respected architect) and then took us to the Sheraton - an oasis of luxury beyond anything you could ever imagine in Addis - owned by a sheikh. We went to the bar there, which featured a really fun band from the U.S., and wondered, "Who are these people - some of which are paying upwards of $500 a night for a room in Addis?" Since Derege seemed to know everyone in the bar (including the sheikh's "right-hand man" and brother-in-law), we had a few too many drinks piling up, as they all generously bought us a round. This was like another world - definitely worlds away from our entire trip thus far in Ethiopia . . . Lydia headed for the airport just a few hours later, as she exited Ethiopia just as she'd entered - in the wee hours of the morning. On my own for the next day in Addis, I spent the day doing a mix of relaxing, trying to use the internet (unsuccessfully), and attempting to purchase and pack (more difficult than you'd think) some Ethiopian art. Hence, I learned Ethiopia Lesson #6: There is No Bubble Wrap in Ethiopia.

I was sad to leave Ethiopia - probably moreso than any of the other countries I'd visited - and already started to plan my next trip there in my head. ("Would it be crazy for me to come back next year?") I would miss the sharp contrasts between the modern and the old; the ubiquitous donkeys; the strikingly beautiful people - both inside and out; amazing spaghetti bolognese, bula fir fir and macchiatos (and I HATE coffee!); countless antiquities and arresting landscapes; the tukols; and, even the rough spots, which provided much hilarity throughout our trip.
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