Oh what a glorious day. After an intense week of planning, teaching and making new friends, we have had a day to relax, recharge, and explore Addis Ababa.

PictureAs if it had been planned the night before, most of us showed up to breakfast together—a few hours later than normal. It was nice to linger over the meal and share stories from the week. We had until noon to ourselves. I used the time to run the eight flights of stairs in the hotel eight times. The first few sets weren’t so bad, but at 7600 feet elevation, the air was thin. This extra challenge was made up for by the cheers of the hotel staff who clearly thought we were crazy. Someone from our group ran the stairs almost every day.

PictureOthers on the trip had been eyeing art by a native Ethiopian and set up time to visit his studio apartment. Five of our number headed off in a cab to this older section of Addis and had a wonderful cultural experience. Yohannes and his girlfriend showed their art and talked about life in Addis. Five paintings were purchased and will hang in our homes as reminders of this fantastic country and wonderful people.

At noon we set out for Arcoboleno, an Italian restaurant which serves no Ethiopian food. This was the best meal of the trip so far and a well needed boost of nutrition. Who knew spinach could taste so good? Yohannes’ art adorned the walls of the restaurant and two more paintings were purchased. It was a good day for Yohannes.

Next stop was the Mercado. This is the largest open-air market in Africa. Wow! Sights and sounds and smells, oh my! After 45 minutes, I had to go to the bathroom. Uh oh! I sheepishly asked our Mercado “guide” what my options were and gladly, I was told “It is possible.” He asked a 10 year old girl, Makades, who was selling gum, crackers, and tissue, to show me the way. Moments later, I was chasing this girl along busy streets and eventually underground to the public bathrooms. Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as I had expected and fortunately, I am a guy. However, I did get a very startled look from the local teen who wasn’t expecting a ferenge (foreigner) next to him at the local urinal, but hey, that just added to the experience for me. Makades followed us the rest of our time in the Merkado. She was beautiful both inside and out. Before leaving for another market area, I spoke to Makades a bit more and learned that she speaks Amharic, French, and English. I am glad to hear she has hope for a better future. Unfortunately, she is one of the few getting the education all these precious children deserve but a small number receive.

PictureA bit later, we headed to a smaller market area near the post office. A few wandered through the shops and others had superb bunna (coffee) and machiados at a street-side coffee shop. They were less than 40 cents each. Next, we headed back to the hotel for a rest before our “cultural experience” dinner at Yod Abyssinia.

PictureDinner was fun. We had front row seats to the singing and dancing. We ate goat, lamb, and beef, but skipped the hardboiled egg purported to induce immediate stomach problems. Since a few in our group were already weak in the intestinal track, we didn’t want to take the risk.
Each set on stage was representative of a different region of the country. All the dancing included neck and back gyrations I did not think were possible possible. At one point, they spread out in the crowd and enticed us viewers to emulate their moves. It made what the dancers did seem even more impressive. The only exception was the family from the Afar region who joined the professionals onstage. It was fun to see them challenge one another to more and more difficult moves.

Long after we expected the show to end, we headed back to the hotel for a short night in bed listening to the Tam Tam club under the hotel, the constantly barking dogs, and the 5:00am call to prayer before our 6:30 departure for Roggie Village (3.5 hours south). The concept of noise ordinances is still foreign in Ethiopia.