Now I’m here:
I’ve landed safely in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after about 30 hours of travel. I found that after this much time on a plane, I felt like I was in the air even when the plane wasn’t moving on the ground. I also discovered the concept of “air legs” kind of like sea legs, where I felt like I was still walking in an airplane aisle long after I landed at the airport in Addis Ababa.
The passport control and customs process went smoothly at around 2:30am Addis time. I changed some money (1 US$ to 8.8 Ethiopian birrs) at the airport so I could grab a cab to the Hotel Ethiopia.
Although I heard in advance the fare would be no more than 70 birrs even this late at night, I found that all the yellow taxi drivers had a “published” rate of 80 birrs for this time, so I ended up paying that rate rather than risking a ride with all my luggage on a less dependable blue taxi.
When I arrived, the guy at the hotel desk told me and the taxi driver that the hotel had no rooms available. For some reason, I didn’t panic and just persisted. Eventually he called another guy who handled the reservations who was probably sleeping somewhere in the hotel. When that guy showed up, he recognized the reservation immediately and sent me up to my room with two porters rolling my bags. I gave them each 2 birr tips. The hotel is old and worn down. My room is on the third floor overlooking the entrance. The toilet seat is broken and the dirt is worn into the room so it would be real hard to get it really clean again. I tried to plug in my laptop, starting with the plug adapter and the surge protector – I heard and saw a spark. Oops, I shorted out all the power in the bedroom, so I had to make do with the hall and bathroom lights.
This morning, I looked down from the hotel window for some people watching and to get the lay of the land. The entrance of the hotel is chained off and security guards keep random people, cars, and taxis kept clear. I saw a tall man with very thin legs wearing a tourquoise cloth wrapped around his shoulders and women apparently begging with their children on the street. What appeared to be a police officer chatted with one of them and seemed to give her some cash, then she moved on for a moment. She returned to give some money to her friend or possibly husband. A brief heavy downpour scattered everyone for shelter from the rain.
Leaving the hotel on my way to this Internet cafe, I reported the electrical problem to the hotel front desk. For this, the Lonely Planet Ethiopian Amharic Phrasebook came in very handy!
The Internet cafe is functional, although web page loading is sometimes very slow (up to 3 minutes). Most of the time it’s just slightly slower than what I get at home though.
Next I’m off to try to contact human origins researchers at the University of Addis Ababa, to scout out a better hotel, and to eat some fabulous Ethiopian food. It turns out the trick to getting vegetarian food here is to request “fasting food.” Many Ethiopians apparently “fast” on certain days and eat no meat on those days.