Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Random Memories from Ethiopia

Random memory:

Addis Ababa is a city of over 4 million people. It has very little by way of public transportation, like subways or trolleys. They do have full sized buses, which I don't recall seeing, and minibuses. On the one day we arranged to travel about Addis, we went with one of the young men working at the foster home as our guide/interpreter, Musfin (whom LJ had a crush on). We traveled the same way most everyone else does, by minibus. A minibus is basically a minivan that have been converted to accommodate a few more people than would be comfortable here in the US. They travel along fixed routes and stops like city buses. The minibus has a driver, who has a partner who rides along hanging out the window calling out to people on the street. Now, I'm not sure if he's calling out his route, his fare or both. To save time, you pay after you get in and underway. The ride is relatively cheap and they cram in as many as 9 or 10 people - no seat belts or a/c, of course.

Musfin took us from bus to bus across town and back. You get to see the real life of Addis this way. The city is fast paced, dirty, yet very friendly. That day we went to the Mercato, a huge sprawling market place with hundreds and hundreds of little shops selling everything from apple to zippers. We were looking for clothes for the children, so that's what we concentrated on. Row after row, isle after isle of little shops (some only 5-6 feet wide) crammed with merchandise. None of the merchandise were price marked, so that meant negotiating. Musfin handled that for us. He wasn't treated too kindly because the merchants knew we were filthy rich Americans who should just pay what they wanted. I guess they figured he was some kind of traitor to them. Ever so often he had to tell us to move on because groups of men would congregate near us and were looking suspicious. Musfin understood what dangers that could entail and didn't want us to get robbed or worse.

We got a few items that day, just to tide us over for clothes until we got home. When we went out the next time, we hired a taxi for the day. It was a lot easier and less time consuming. It afforded us the ability to buy large items we wanted to bring home.

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