Posts Tagged ‘Addis’

Three years ago  when I was new to Ethiopia I hesitated, somewhat fearful of the options before me – a line of blue and white taxis heading up the hill on Togo Street from the Haya Hulet (22) intersection on one side and a line of donkeys in tandem as I made my way to the VSO office. Should I risk getting kicked (I had read that donkeys can kick really hard) or brushed aside by a moving vehicle? In truth, there was nothing to worry about. Over the past two years I have come to enjoy these neighbourhood donkeys as they peacefully and stoically go about their work of carrying heavy loads – they are for hire and people order x number of “donkeys” of sand, wood, etc. When they have free time they lounge about, frolic in the open spaces or peacefully graze along the ditches.

donkeys in laneAfrican proverb: “If a donkey kicks you and you kick it back, you are both donkeys!”

My Addis Ababa neighbourhood has transformed drastically since I moved here two years ago; currently it has become a massive construction site along the main road and intersection due to construction of a light rail system for Addis. A reminder that nothing stays the same. Still, Haya Hulet has retained a sense of community for me as my small daily/weekly routines reassuringly continue. As I bid farewell to my volunteer life in Ethiopia, I want to appreciate the ways I have been nurtured by my neighbourhood in Haya Hulet (22) over the past two years by providing some glimpses of my routines and the people who enriched my life.

Amasha bread bakeryThis bakery sells tasty pita-like breads called ambesha, that toast up nicely for breakfast or sandwiches

flower shopBread and roses! This year I decided I would treat myself to fresh Ethiopia grown roses all the time – why not when they cost 10 cents each and are so fresh they can last for up to ten days?

black and white hair studioThe Black and White Hair Salon near St Gabriel’s Hospital of Djibouti Street where Dereije took good care of my hair

hairdressersBlack and White is a hive of activity on a Saturday afternoon!

breakfast with AnkeThe Mesti Cafe is a good quiet spot for breakfast in the sunny courtyard

Here I enjoy scrambled eggs in tomato sauce with a new friend Anke, who came to visit from Mombassa during the recent Kenyan election. She opened a nursery school there but lives most of the time in Vancouver so the next time we meet will be back home for a buna on Commercial Drive I expect! Anke and I met online in a discussion group last September while taking a UBC course on Culture, Communication and Development that is part of the International Development Certificate we are both completing.

construction at getfamThe Getfam Supermarket, my “go to” place for whole wheat pasta and other products not available in the smaller shops, is having a massive new building attached to the side

getfam constructionEucalyptus scaffolding is a common sight with so many buildings under construction 

The main drag near my place at the Haya Hulet intersection is Haile Gebre Selassie Street (after the Olympic runner). Over the past few months all the shops have had to move back about 10 meters to make way for the road construction. It is amazing how quickly they de-construct and re-establish themselves in a couple of weeks. All this moving makes walking even more hazardous, and really, really mucky now that the rainy season has arrived!

ditch at 22 It began a few months ago with roads being dug up and new pipes laid; some people say that also accounted for power and water cuts and internet cable problems…

Fruit and veg shopUp Togo Street and along the “middle road” closer to my place things are a bit more tame. This small shop has become my favourite shop for  fruits and vegetables – the sunny smiles of the helpful friendly staff  could brighten even the most overcast rainy season day. They will tell you not to buy the papaya if they are “not good” and are expert at selecting the best pineapple or avocado

inside fruit and veg shopThere is a lot packed inside this tiny shop!

fruit shopColourful produce brightens up many corners of the neighbourhood

golugul tower and donkeysThis building, the Gollugul Tower, was unwrapped about a year or so ago – when I first arrived  it was swathed in blue plastic and we used it as a landmark to find the VSO office, which has since re-located about a 20 minute walk away, down off the Getfam RoadBasket weaving manBy the park along Togo Street is this man who weaves baskets – I got my laundry basket and tiny side table from him and he has never given up trying to sell me more

veronica hotelThe Veronica Hotel is another landmark on the way up the hill to my place, right next door to the Pride Bar that was a gathering place before the VSO office moved out of the neighbourhood. Togo Street has become even more crowded and hazardous since the construction began

hole in the wall sewing centerLiterally operating a “hole in the wall” shop, this guy magically appears and then puts the fence back up when he closes;no one would guess he has his sewing machine inside!

haya hulet intersectionThis is what Haya Hulet intersection looked like a few months ago before the start of construction…on the right are the contract taxis that make Haya Hulet their base

daniel taxi driver and daughterHere is Daniel, an excellent taxi driver based at the intersection, taking his daughter to school!

The past few months I have gotten very expert at negotiating reasonable taxi fares due to my painful knee ligament flare-ups. I am hoping that my knee will heal up nicely once I am home on solid and even pavement.

new years day at haya huletAll these shops had to move back about 10 meters and many disappeared altogether – this is what it looked like in January

haya hulet from gollugulAnd now, in the midst of the construction, people dodge heavy equipment and shield their eyes from the dust

haya hulet under constructionThis is what Haya Hulet looked like this week!

haya hulet juztapositionA sign showing more construction to come as the vendors “carry on regardless” amidst the construction dust and noise   mitiku phone card manAto Mitiku is always cheerful, efficient and fun to visit – his shop is where I always bought my phone cards to top up the phone and the laptop

When the shop disappeared a couple of months back we were worried but my nearby neighbour and sister volunteer Judy found out from the guy selling newspapers on the sidewalk that Mitiku had relocated kitty corner and down a bit under the Chicago Pizza place. We were delighted to find him again and to learn that his 3 Birr discount on a hundred Birr card was still in effect!

judy and Lamaz at Ato Negash shopAcross from the Mesti Cafe is Ato Negash’s shop where we go for local gin or wine, Ambo mineral water and sometimes candles, eggs and laundry soap.

Here Judy is trading in some bottles and Ato Negash’s grand-daughter Almaz is in charge. Ato Negash has a perplexing system of noting down the bottles you have taken in a large notebook and then leafing though pages and pages to locate your name to see if you owe him or he owes you. He scolds me because he cannot find my name for the gin bottle because it was two  months ago – why not drink faster, he suggests!

mpo and brrom guyI will miss the distinctive and loud cry of the mop and broom guy who plies the laneways and never gives up trying to sell me his wares

mrs and Mr Hope electricThis has to be the nicest couple in the world

We call them “Mr and Mrs Hope Electric” with their side-by-side shops. She sells pajamas and clothes while his electric shop is jam packed with everything you need – and he can fix anything! Often they give you a cup of traditional coffee when you come by. He rigged up a creative three piece extension cord system so I could have a bedside lamp;for this I am eternally grateful. Then when the front of my iron fell off, he screwed it back together – no charge. Same thing when the dial fell off!

Nahuta MarketNahuta Market became a favourite soon after it opened this past year – it’s where I go for candles, olives, soft (toilet paper), coffee and imported wine, local cheese, eggs, yoghurt and butter- they also sell party hats!

outsdie NahutaAnd gas canisters

ditch at 22Walking around the neighbourhood has become more challenging each day, especially with daily rains that create thick, goopy mud

snesible shoes (not!)So when I saw these platform shoes for sale on Djibouti Street I had to laugh out loud. Imagine wearing them in the muck!

wini in cafeHere is Wini at her Gourmet Cafe about a block from my house

This amazingly popular place, open now for eight years, serves very tasty high quality “ferenji” food. Wini’s friend Mimi creates fabulous cakes, including carrot cake, and her strawberry tart is the best ever! Wini also has build a school near her home town and over a bowl of her chicken soup yesterday she told me she plans to be back in the US soon to raise funds to support it.

me and wini at gourmet cafeThe cafe patio is a great place to meet friends on a sunny day

Yesterday Wini inherited the remains of my truffle oil and vanilla beans since she is the only person I know who would actually appreciate and use them! A few months back she came over to my place to learn how I make biscotti.

marian and henok last ful mealHenok and I met for a final lunch at Tedy’s Snack off Djibouti Street near the Awaris Hotel- one final bowl of Ful. Amazing how different the Ful is in every cafe!

road runner jamboThe Road Runner Cafe, scene of my last jambo (draft beer) last night with this gang of volunteers, come to bid me adieau.

I was happy to hand over my leopard housecoat to Brian and the non-stick frying pan with glass lid to Sun and Howie. It has been a busy few weeks of giving away most of the worldly goods I’ve accumulated over the past three years.

Immediately after, I had a final feast of Almaz’s famous tibs (she knows they are my favourite and surprised me with some – how sweet). Soon after, we had a round of tearful hugs, I scratched Titi and Rocky behind the ears but Pico was uncharacteristically elusive and refused to say good-bye; I think he was punishing me for leaving. Earlier in the day he snuck into my packing madness and peed on the floor! Ato Kifle and Sami took me to the airport and after hours of check-in, two security checks and immigration fingerprinting I finally flew off about 1:30 am on one of Ethiopian Airlines other (not grounded) Dreamliners to London – I must say that despite the troubles Boeing is having with these planes, they are lovely, spacious aircraft.

Almaz and coffeeAlmaz served one last cup of traditional Ethiopian coffee just before I left for the airport

I hope to be back in a few years for a visit. Shelagh and I have talked of coming to see Henok graduate from medical school and I will want to see how Sami, Meron and Eyob have grown up as well as  connect with old friends from Woldia and in Addis. It would be fun to see the transformation of this city; by then there should be a functioning light rail system to ease the traffic problems and many more completed buildings. In the meantime, thanks to email and Facebook we can stay connected, as they like to say here, “from time to time”!

rocky and pico sleeping in sunSon and father sleeping in the sun – yes, I will be missing these guys!

But for now it is ciao to Ethiopia and my good neighbourhood as I head home with a pit stop in London to see VSO friends and relatives before the big wedding in Nelson, BC of my niece Lea and a chance to reunite with the whole family at a joyous celebration at the August long weekend.

Thank you Ethiopia – you have taught me a lot! Over the next few months, as I transition to  life back in Vancouver, I’ll be reflecting on how I have been changed by this experience before I close this blog following the Cuso International RV (returned volunteer) weekend in Ottawa next November.

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Returning to Addis Ababa from Italy last weekend after 3 glorious, rejuvenating weeks of vacation, I found myself weeping with laughter as Angela translated the Italian instructions for the cockroach traps and mouse “glue” I had brought back with me. Not your usual tourist souvenirs to be sure!

“Put the traps in places they like. The cockroach will enter the trap through one hole and exit from another, having breathed in the poison. Do not worry if you do not see the dead cockroaches – they have 24 hours to die and may go somewhere else OR you may see them upside down with their legs in the air.” The glue is said to be strong enough to hold a rat captive – just squiggle it on a piece of paper for easy disposal. Also works for ants. I don’t think I’ll have the heart to use it as the picture shows a trapped mouse with eyes wide open! Ants in the bathroom, maybe…

Yes, if anyone had inspected my suitcase they would have found an odd assortment of items including cockroach traps, mouse/rat/ant glue, duct tape, a small bathmat, Italian dog “biscotti” and dental chews, Sicilian lemon juice in a plastic bottle, a kilo of fresh walnuts, dried cranberries and cherries and several small jars of truffle sauces and some truffle oil. Oh and I did get two new pairs of shoes…after all this was Italy!

Arriving early Saturday morning after an overnight flight from Rome, I was greeted with the usual abandon by the dogs, Titi and Pico. I have to admit I had missed them! They like their dental chews but the Italian dog “biscotti” are not such a hit – maybe because they have vitamins in them…

Angela (who is English but has lived in Italy for 30+ years) and Judy invited me round for dinner and, in addition to the hysterical translations by Angela, I gave them the highlights of my “quattro staggione” trip. Here, in a “nuts shell” (as I read in a recent missive from VSO-E – I love the way language plays out in translation) is what I told them…

First stage – A week at Lake Como

Cool fresh air, snow on the Alps framing the lake, boat rides daily to visit idyllic villages, some refreshing rain with hikes and villa visits in between, incredible gardens brilliant with azaleas and rhododendrons, fragrant mauve wisteria everywhere, an Italian a cooking class with Chef Moreno on a stormy day, good wine and pasta and pork products galore!

View from the  boat as we crossed over to Bellagio

What a relaxing way to travel, hopping on a boat for 10 minutes to get to another small town, enjoying views of fresh snow on the Alps

The gardens of Villa Carlotta

Making pasta for ravioli and fettucini with Chef Moreno at Il Caminetto high up on the mountainside in his tiny village populated, if I remember correctly, by 82 people

Interior detail of the Como Cathedral

Lakeside cappuccino after a vigorous hike along the Lake Como Greenway. A surprising benefit of living 7 months at 2300 meters above sea level is that I was almost never out of breath even on steep inclines, and believe me, there were many steep inclines and stairs on this vacation!

Like this climb up to Varenna’s castle tower, looking back to where we stayed for the week on a hotel right on the water

The view was worth the effort!

An olive grove

Wisteria perfumed our walks through the gardens of many villas around the lake

After another steep climb Canadian friends Judy and Sharon wave from the source of the shortest river, charmingly named “Fume latte” (foaming milk)

After sampling so many local delicacies we named our selves the “Wild Boar Tour Group” . Well  fortified, we packed for a short train ride, via Milan to Comogli for stage two of our journey

Onward to the crashing surf of the Mediterranean on the Ligurian Coast

Crashing ocean waves, refreshing salt air, pastel trompe l’oeil houses cozied against each other on the hillsides, lots and lots of steps, seafood and pesto and more good wine, an enchanting baroque cathedral, wonderful hiking, a day trip to Genoa for some art and a palace visit and a visit to nearby Chiavari by train.

Yes this was our longest and steepest hike and worth every step to eat seafood and pasta overlooking pounding surf while sipping white wine. Oh yes, we did have to walk back after lunch but it always seems shorter on the way home…

Since 1952 Camogli has hosted an annual  Sagre del Pesce (Fish Feast) that attracts thousands of people to enjoy local fish deep fried in mesh baskets set in the giant frying pan

Fresh from the seas of  Italy’s Ligurian coast!

Sunset over the ocean +  fresh sea air + seafood with pasta and crisp white wine  = Paradise!

On a day when rain was  forecast we trained into Genoa for some indoor gallery and palace viewing,including a climb up for a rooftop view of the old port city,  followed, naturally, by an excellent lunch

The massive baroque cathedral in Camogli enchanted us, especially when all the chandeliers were lit

We were lulled to sleep each night by the music of the sea

Pasta with a view. Pesto is a specialty of Liguria and here I sampled the traditional pesto on hand made trenette pasta

After four delightful days at Comogli, it was time for some city life!

Stage three: Florence – Epicenter of the Italian renaissance 

Uffizi Gallery with Rick Steves commentary on my iPhone to guide me to the highlights, Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, Santo Spirito church, supermarket forays for provisions to take back to Addis, the Duomo in late afternoon sunlight, Duomo museum sculptures, super Tuscan red wine and fabulous food, including pasta with wild boar and beef filet with blue cheese and radicchio, street markets for bargains and a new pair of shoes!

The Duomo of Florence in late afternoon light

Sculpted reliefs in the Duomo Museum

Crossing the Arno River with the sun going down

Lusting after lettuces and radishes at a street market

Florence seen from the Boboli Gardens overlooking the Pitti Palace

Poseidon is still fishing

Trip finale – Roma!

Decadent lunch of truffles with pasta prepared 3 ways, walking around being reminded of how amazing Rome is with the piazzas, fountains, art and sculptures everywhere, off on my own for a walk around Trastevere, a working class neighbourhood that felt more like home (Commercial Drive in Vancouver, Canada) than anywhere else I had been. A pit stop at the Pantheon and on to Campo di Fiore market to acquire nuts and dried fruits to take back to supplement my Addis diet, finale at the Roman forum for a taste of history followed by a long lunch and a visit to Piazza Navona to photograph a Bernini sculpture – “Moor Wrestling with a Dolphin” that one guide book claimed is of an Ethiopian.

I had no idea truffles could be so delicious – we ordered one of each to share and came back another day for more!

Trevi Fountain from the perspective of the souvenir statues…

In Trastevere there is an old cafe with this sign, said to be Ethiopian women greeting Italian sailors disembarking at the port of Massawa in Abysinnia in 1880.  Little did they realize the Italians would be soundly defeated by the Ethiopians at the Battle of Adwa in 1896… The cafe was closed so I could not check if they served injera but certainly the Italians left a pasta legacy in Ethiopia!

Approaching the Roman forum through the lens of a poppy

We spent the morning back in Roman times, wandering the site while listening to an enlightening commentary by Rick Steves. Flowers, including poppies, are still being placed on the spot where Julius Caesar’s body was burned

Piazza Navona has “Fountain of the Moor” with a Bernini sculpture of an Ethiopian wrestling with a dolphin

These days the pigeons are the winners here, comfortably nesting all over the art!

After three weeks away, I am happy to be back “home” in Addis Ababa feeling rejuvenated. My first day back at work, I found myself sitting in a meeting at the conference center in the UN Compound with Ministry of Education colleagues and representatives from Italy and two of Ethiopia’s four emerging regions to discuss a $500,000 project funded by the Italian government to support education for girls.The project has the overall goal of retaining girls in lower secondary schools and increasing their learning outcomes in the Afar and Benishangul-Gumuz regions. It will be overseen by UNESCO/IICBA and we will have some involvement as it unfolds. Pasta and injera were on the lunch buffet!

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