Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 3: Addis Ababa

I ended the last post with landing in Addis, so I'll start there...

Like I said, we landed right around 8am Sunday morning local time. The flight was easy, and everyone clapped, cheered, and whistles when we touched down. I remember they did that last time. They're probably all just pumped to be getting off the airplane after 13 hours! 

It's a loooooong ways to Africa!

Landing in Addis!
We walked down the stairs and on to a waiting bus. It was like 65 out and sunny - beautiful morning! I race walked through the airport and passed as many people as I could. I hate waiting in lines, and I knew what was coming: the "visa upon arrival" line. It was already wrapped around once by the time I made it, but it moved fairly quickly.

Walking off the plane...finally.

Oh and guess who was standing there confused trying to figure out where to go next?! The sweet lady from my hotel and naughty little Naomi - who still had hardly slept and was extra cranky now! She tried running off, so her mom left all her bags with me to go get her...and then left me with them when she came back to line because she had to hold Naomi. Bleh. I thought my arms were going to fall off. My shoulders and back are officially sore from dragging that along with my backpack for so long.

We made it through the line and got our $20 entry visas without issue. (I laid my money down on the counter and Naomi tried to snatch it and run, and then screamed like I stabbed her when I caught her. Not cool.  People were staring.) After that, another much shorter line for immigration - getting my passport stamped. The literally didn't ask me one thing. Just stamped it and waived me on through.  Love the lack of security here. ;)

Before heading out to the craziness of baggage claim, I exchanged a couple hundred dollars in to birr.  The exchange rate wasn't bad and I wanted to have some cash in hand just in case I needed it.  One dollar is 17.5 birr.  So $200 is ... a big wad of cash in birr.

By the time I made it out to the baggage claim area, all of the little baggage carts were gone. And it's impossible for me to carry my three bags! I actually tried to take a couple that were empty and unattended, but got caught both times, haha! I finally spotted one clear on the other side of the area and made a b-line for it. One of the wheels stuck and it didn't turn too well, but I was still happy to have it. And about 5 seconds later, I saw one of my blue tubs. YES! And then the other one right after it. The black duffle bag was a little harder to spot since all the other bags were black, but I eventually found it and got them all loaded on to the cart! 

SO happy to see all of this made it to Ethiopia!

Now on to the what I thought was going to be tricky part -- getting it through customs without paying the 100% tax.  I have 600 backpacks with me. And a bunch of powder dye in plastic baggies that probably looks like cocaine on an X-ray machine! ;) I had a plan in my head of which order to throw the bags onto look less suspicious, but some guy just started grabbing them and chucking them on for me. I was a little nervous, but by the time I got through and to the other side, all my bags were there on the conveyor belt. However, the belt was stopped and the guy was staring at me. 

"What do you have in these bags?"

Ooooh crap... "Backpacks and... Well, a lot of stuff!" and I gave him a big smile. "Do you want me to open them for you?" (as I'm already grabbing them and throwing them back on the cart)

"No, no.  Just go." with a smile. 

Score again!!

I walked through the doors in to the front of the airport and looked around for a minute. No white girls there. Decided I should wait in case she ran to the bathroom or something. Not worried yet because I knew she would be there. Then I remembered where she told me she would be: outside in the parking lot! Apparently they don't let anyone in to the airport anymore without a ticket. 

So out the door and down the ramp I went. And sure enough, right at the bottom - waiting in the heat - was Sophie!! We're friends on facebook, so we knew what each other looked like. She waived - I gave her a big hug! I was so happy she was there!! She actually had to bribe the security guy just to let her get to that spot!

We fought off all the taxi drivers trying to get our business  and walked up to a nice Rav 4 and her driver, Alex. He was so nice, and is basically at her beckon call as far as transportation goes. That is something really nice to have in Addis!!

Alex trying to get all my luggage in his car!

It took some maneuvering, but we managed to get all of my bags in to the car and took off for her apartment. She said on the way that the power had been off for a couple of days. That's just normal in Ethiopia I guess. It happened last time I was here too. 

About 10 minutes later, we pulled off a main road right by some apartment complexes and up to a gate. Sophie got out and opened it up, and we pulled up to another gate. Alex honked twice and it opened (there is a guard there 24/7) to a super nice house. Not even an apartment. It's a fancy 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house with nice hard wood floors, chandeliers in every room, balconies, marble in the bathrooms, and a jacuzzi. Are you kidding me?! I just walked around with my mouth open and kept saying, "I can't believe you live here!" Its easily the nicest place I've seen in Ethiopia. Heck, it's nicer than my house back home! I hit the jackpot with Sophie!  On top of the car/driver and fancy house, she is SO sweet and helpful! I'm so glad I found her.  (Oh, electricity was back on AND she has Internet at her house, too!)

We hung out and chatted for awhile before I remembered talking about going to church with Kiely, the FashionAble scarf girl. I sent her a text from Sophie's phone (yea, she's also letting me use her iPhone) and she called back to tell me where and when the church was.  11:15, about 20 minutes away. I didn't have much time so I just washed my face, put some makeup on, and took off with Alex. Sophie couldn't go because she was meeting a friend around noon for some work information, and we wouldn't be back in time.

I hardly took any pictures on the drive there. It all looks just the same as it did last time. Lots of sadness and very very poor people. People digging through the trash. Begging on the side of the street. It's all just so sad. There is such a discrepancy in living standards here. I mean, you are either really rich and you look down on everyone else, or you are the one getting by on pennies per day. Literally. The vast majority of people here are in the latter category.  It's just not right. 

As soon as we pulled up to the church, I saw a young white girl walking by with a scarf I recognized from fashionAble. I rolled the window down and asked if she was Kiely, and sure enough, it was her. She walked me in and we sat upstairs. It was an international evangelical church, so lots of people from all over the world. The service was in English and the pastor was from the US.  It was pretty cool to see so many people just worshiping together. And they got after it with their songs, too, haha. I just loved being a part of a group of people so passionate about their Christianity. Really glad I went, even though I was pretty worn out - and hadn't eaten or showered.

When church got out, I found Alex in the parking lot and gave Kiely her dye and special order trail mix from Target. Then we (Alex and I) went back to the house to pick up Sophie for lunch.

She knew I wanted to go somewhere with wifi, so we went to Lime Tree off Bole road. Free wifi!!! I got to iMessage with Matt a little while we waited for our food, so that made my day! I had pasta and Sophie had a grilled chicken sandwich. Each meal was under $4, and we were at a pretty nice place! It's crazy how cheap everything is here. 

The menu's at Lime Tree
I noticed a massage spa down below the restaurant when we walked in, so during lunch, I talked Sophie in to getting massages! My back and shoulders are really hurting from traveling. Guess I'm getting too old for this! ;) A massage just sounded great, and Sophie new the place was good - and cheap. 

Best $15 ever spent on a 1.5 hour full body massage. Ever. 

It started out kind of funny though. They took us down some stairs and in to two rooms across from each other. Before we shut the doors, I asked Sophie what we were supposed to do, because I didn't see a robe or anything to put on. She said they would come in to wash our feet first, and then let us change. So I sat down in the chair and kicked off my flip-flops, thinking they would bring something in to put on. Well, they came and washed my feet and left without bringing anything. I searched the whole room for something to put on. Nothing. So there I stood, in my bra and underwear (thong, at that) when she walked back in...

"Do I need to take this off??"

Points at me. "All off and lay down."

Ummmm, excuse me?! I don't think so. I took my bra off and laid down on my stomach under the towel that was on the table. She seemed irritated that she had to move the little strap of my underwear when she was massaging my butt, haha. Sighing and yanking it out of the way.  I'm glad i left them on.  The inner thigh massage would have  been a little too close for comfort for me! ;)

The whole thing really felt incredible, but let me tell you, it is HARD not to giggle when you're laying on a table almost naked in Africa and an Ethiopian woman pulls the towel down to massage your chest! (I had rolled over at that point.) I think she could see me trying to hold it in. Awkward!

When she was done, though, I felt like a new woman. For real. She literally did a head to toe full body massage with oil. I looked like a grease ball by the time she was finished, but was way too relaxed to care.  I was zoned out by that point. 

Poor Sophie only got a one hour massage, and not a good one at that.  She even talked to the manager, but they still charged us the same. I felt bad she got screwed over on that one! :(

I almost fell asleep on the car ride back home, so I decided a little power nap was in order. I laid down at 5 and set my alarm for 6:15. I don't even remember laying down. I was so tired and did not want to get up when my alarm went off. But we were meeting Kiely and some of her friends for dinner at Jewel of India -- an Indian restaurant, obviously. 

I didn't allow for enough time to shower, so I went to dinner still looking like a greasy mess from the massage - and from traveling for 18 hours.  Oh well.  Pretty sure no one cared. 

The food was great at the Indian place. I've only had that food a couple of times and couldn't remember what I liked, besides the naan bread. Whatever I ended up ordering was way too spicy for me, but Sophie ordered what I love: butter chicken! I'll remember next time. She was nice enough to share with me. 

(Left to right:  Alyssa, Matt, me, Kiely, and Sophie)

We sat around and talked with Kiely, Alyssa, and Matt (all from the US) for quite awhile.  Long enough for me to start feeling pretty worn out. It was getting late, too, and I felt too bad asking Alex to wait for me to go in and use free wifi at a hotel, so we just came back to the house.  They really are a fun group of people though, and Sophie is pumped to have some cool new friends here in Addis! In fact, they are planning on coming over to the house for dinner Tuesday!

It's almost 11:30pm now, and I'm pretty exhausted. Full day tomorrow, too! Sophie has her first day at work, but since it's a national holiday, it's only a half day in the morning. So I am taking Alex the driver to meet Alex the HopeChest staff member at 7:30am across town, and we are heading out to Trees of Glory. The plan is to make it back around lunch time to pick up Sophie, grab lunch, and then head to Korah! I hope it all goes as planned!

That's all for now. I'm off to bed. More tomorrow...


Sent from my iPhone


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