Sunday, February 3, 2013

the right side of east Africa

I have woken up on the right side of the bed today. Miraculously. As far as I can tell, bedbug-and-flea-bite free, too.

In my little skanky hotel room in Addis Ababa, which totally terrified me yesterday....but today, with the window open and the sound of literally dozens of different birds chirping away (and the occasional meowing cat-in-heat), after having an impossibly restful sleep....I do not completely regret coming here, to Ethiopia, like I did yesterday. I have given up the fear of spiders (saw one already), malarial mosquitos (had a duel with one last night, me smacking the walls until I think he was at least injured, if not dead), and basically am coming to the conclusion that being scared doesn't help so I might as well at least *pretend* to be brave.

Yes, my ankle is still swollen and sprained and sore. Yes, I am procrastinating on taking a shower because the bathroom seems like one giant hazardous material room - the hazard of hitting my head on the low ceiling and protruding pipes, the fact the toilet is on a little wobbly ledge, or the simple state of caked-on-grime.

Yes, walking the streets is still a somewhat shocking and humbling experience - a man yesterday "befriended me" (played friendly for an hour to ask me for money afterwards to help him buy a book), taking me into literally a shanty/corrugated metal/tin roof decrepit basement to chew qat (which I declined, feeling wobbly enough as is). Yes, I am in over my head and having to swim twice as hard to stay afloat...but today I am feeling a lot more optimistic.

I met a girl last night from Colorado, who took me out for peanut butter tea - the local specialty. (a bit like a hot peanut butter milkshake, but better then it initially sounds). She had returned from traveling India and was heading back to Uganda where she had spent 5 months working. She said those places were easy to travel, compared to Ethiopia. Even Kenya, she thought was much more "user-friendly", but she gave me a bit of much needed encouragement, seeing as she had spent 2 weeks here already. She talked about how Ethiopia really makes you confront your own issues, and if you are up for it, can be an incredible adventure.

 So here I am, in East Africa's most challenging country, feeling a bit terrified but at least slightly better than yesterday. Nobody comes to Ethiopia for an easy vacation, and its not because the sights and tourist draws arent there (Gondar Castle, and Lalibela could easily be the next Petra), but simply because it is so extremely poor, and ramshackle, it hasnt the infrastructure to support it. Which leaves me, the traveler with a genuine sense of between biting my nails and getting an ulcer stressing out on just how this.

At least the food is delicious and cheap!

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