Friday, August 03, 2007

Ethiopia Conclusion - o so long, sorry

So Lalibella Churches were beautiful, had a nice time meeting some other travellers in the area, and we went on a beautiful hike up to a monastery in the mountains (you can see some of the pics from the hike in the earlier posts).  Few disturbances on the hike only a couple villagers trying to carry our water or guide us for expected tips, we made it clear to them we won't be paying them.  At the top, the village was very nice to walk though, some farms, stone huts, and everything extremely green with a small creek running through the middle.  We didn't go into the monastery since it was a fairly high entrance fee...we only were in it for the hike anyway. 
Our plan for going to the north was to try and cram Lalibella & Gondor into the week of travel that we had, but the ethiopian bus system conspired against that.  The next morning we woke up at 5am to find the tickets to Gondor were sold out...since stacey had a flight in a few days without leaving for Gondor that day we couldn't chance trying to go there the next day.  We spent the day relaxing, I locked myself in the room to get away from the teeming masses and read the book Skinny Dip - highly recommended, very funny light read.  I played some Ping Pong again with some kids in the street, it was supposed to be .30 birr per game, and I played one kid and beat him, then played a pretty good teenager and lost 2/3 very close matches.  When I walked away all these kids watching surrounded me and demanded I pay 10 birr for the games...I said no way I'm paying that much...they all said i had to pay and I said I would pay 2 birr total - more than the fair price.  The kid who beat me was leading the mob, and finally he said "OK OK my treat"  so I walked away not paying anything...then he followed me demanding the money with the supposed table owner walking with him (a kid about 16)...I said it was very nice of him to treat me to such an expensive game and kept walking.  Finally, I paid him the 2 birr I was willing to pay from the beginning and that pacified him.  Nobody can just have fun playing ping pong with the white guy, they have to try and make a buck at it...I said from the beginning I would pay...the kid who brought me even told me the mob was yelling at him for telling me the correct price and not trying to rip me off...just another day in ethiopia.
The next day we woke up at 4am to make sure we could buy a ticket back down to Addis. We push and shove our way onto the bus (somehow most of the people already had tickets, but we asked around so many times the day before to buy one and no one would sell it to us!!).  We take another miserable bus ride for 4hrs or so, then stacey starts searching her bag and realizes her passport was missing.  Of course, this is very worrisome considering she has a flight home in just 3 days, but she didn't seem so worried about it at a few minutes it hit her what a big deal it was and she gets more and more nervous.  We searched around the bus and it wasn't there...we figure she left it inside her notebook and accidentally left the notebook in the room (these kinds of things happen when you are waking up at 4am two days in a row to catch a f-ing bus from hell).  So we stop at a town named Woldia, where we knew we could find a ticket down to Addis the next day.  I try to sell our $10 tickets to Addis , but the ticketmaster will only give me less than $2 for it...then i watch him turn around and sell them to someone else for $8...he wouldn't let me sell it directly to that guy for the $ big worry, we had other things to worry about, like whether we had to spend 6 more miserable hours riding back to Lalibella to find Stacey's passport.
Stacey went to the manager of the bus station, we only knew the name of the hotel we stayed at and wanted to call there and make sure the book/passport was there.  They were more than helpful, found someone to translate for us and ran around town trying to find someone who knew the number to the Blulal hotel we were at in Lalibella.  They ended up finding a woman who was friends with the owner of the Blulal and we got the owner's cell phone number.  We talked to the owner and she called the hotel, after a few calls back and forth they had found the passport, and even found someone who was flying down to Addis the next day who would meet us and give it back!  Insane luck...Stacey was still a little nervous it would work out, but everything seemed to be in order...she would get her passport back the day before she left...she was thanking her lucky stars over and over again. 
We checked into a hotel in Woldia and sat down to eat some lunch/ was about 4pm and we hadn't eaten anything all day b/c of the damn bus ride.  There was only a table with some guys chewing qat and drinking coffee so we sat with them.  We ask them where we could buy a ticket to go to Addis the next day and it turned out we were sitting with the bus driver and tickettakers for the bus!  Ended up drinking some beers, chewing some qat, and smoking hookah with them till late that night - they wouldn't let us pay for anything, but I made sure to at least pay for the hookah.  They told us they'll be sure to save a couple tickets for their new brothers...
Next morning we get to the bus station early, walk over to the bus, and our new friends usher us in through the driver's door and sit us in the front before they let anyone else in!  Had a 4-5hr morning ride, significantly more enjoyable in the front where i could stretch my legs out.  I kept trying to sleep but the driver kept saying "Josh Josh...if you go to sleep I'll fall aren't allowed to sleep"  so I chatted with him a bit and the people around me.  We stopped for coffee somewhere and the driver/tickettakers wouldn't let us pay...treating us to coffee.
At lunch we stop in some small town and stacey and I go to a cafe to get some cokes...I want to get some bread and a customer, not the waiter, says 2 birr and he will buy it for me.  I know it is supposed to be one birr so I try to call the waiter and pay him at the same time arguing with the scam artist.  I sit down and end up spilling my coke all over me and knocking the bottle on the floor...that jackass customer made me do it, he knew it too, and didn't even apologize.  I got the bread, and a new coke...then when I went to pay i had to pay for the broken bottle, which was more than the coke...I paid with a 100 note for a 13.25 birr check, the guy gave me 81.75 birr in change...then i said he owed me 5 more was like extracting teeth getting him to pay me...first he gave me two more, then i had to pester him again and he gave me one more, then i had to ask again and he gave me the rest.  Not sure what these people think...i can't count or I don't care about money or something...the money is small, but when people try to pull these little scams it pisses me off so much I'll fight for a penny just on principle.  In the end I still gave him a tip since he had to clean up the coke.  After that debacle, i'm a little angry, then our bus driving friends call us over and insist on making the whole bus wait while they buy us a papaya was delicious. 
Lunch is over, everyone is getting on the bus, and this little local kid, maybe 10yrs old, is standing near the entrance trying to get my attention by shouting "You You You" in my face...i turn around and say "what do you want"  and he screams "Fuck You!" at I say "go fuck yourself"...was not in the mood for this crap...he shouts back "fuck you" and I just get back on the bus visibly angry.  One of my new friends on the bus asks me if there's a problem, I said one of the kids just said fuck you to me...he asks which one and I point him out.  The guy starts shouting at the kid in Ahmharic, telling him off, then the manager of the restaurant where we just ate papaya comes out, grabs the kid and starts smacking him in the face...holding the kid's head with one hand and smacking him with the other, all while yelling at him.  Finally some justice in Ethiopia...I don't think he'll be yelling at foreigners again.  Yet again, Ethiopia proves to be a land of extreme annoyances and extreme generosity, one minute i'm arguing with a guy trying to rip me off, the next minute someone is buying me a meal and beating up a kid trying to insult me.  You can probably see how travelling in this country can be so exhausting, but the stories are worth it :-)
That night we stop at some town and the bus driver and his pals get us a hotel room at the best hotel in town (we paid, but they made sure we had a reservation b/c everyone on the bus rushed to that hotel).  Then we were relaxing in the room and they brought us down for dinner - again wouldn't let us pay for food or drinks...
Next morning we get to Addis, find a hotel.  The whole bus ride we were a little worried about the passport situation, stacey called the woman who would be delivering it, and she was already in addis and knew the hotel we'd be at.  We get to Addis, call the woman, and she showed up right on time at 11am, brought Stacey's notebook and passport...even tried to buy us coffee...Stacey gave her a thank you note with some money slipped in, and we bought her coffee after sitting with her for 20 awkward minutes of strained conversation...we were so thankful though.  This story is probably luckier than me getting my camera back after dropping it in the taxi in Thailand - at least then I noticed within 15 minutes and could take some the time stacey noticed we were 4hours outside of town. 
That night we took it easy and Stacey flew out the next morning.  I bought my plane ticket to Cairo.  Also, my friend Eitan from Israel was in town the next day, so I was able to meet up with him and tour addis with his group of Israelis.  Had a good time seeing some new sites and caught up with him.  That night we made plans to meet up and go to a bar, but somehow they fell through.  I ended up going to a bar with someone people I had met in Uganda that I bumped into in the Addis hotel, and a couple other people I met hanging around the hotel. 
We got pretty drunk on cheap wine, and these two prostitutes come into the bar with a slovakian guy who was at our hotel and immediately ditch him and start trying to flirt with us.  We joked around with them for an hour or so, all good fun...they ended up leaving with the slovakian guy...the bar closes we leave...I walk halfway down the street and realize I left my bag in there with my passport, camera, cell phone.  I go into the bar, the waiters pretended they didn't know anything about a bag...we searched the place and found it in some corner...passport was there, camera...but I forgot I even had my cell phone in the bag.  Later we decide to go surprise the slovakian guy, one of the people in our group knew where the prostitutes lived and we wanted to knock on the door and just see what would was 2am or so...and it seemed like a good idea at the time.  We go to knock on the door and one of the girls walks down the street and sees the other girl comes out and they kept trying to throw themselves on us...meanwhile the slovakian guy peeks his head out the door and we just start laughing...all in good fun, not sure if he spoke english, but he didn't get angry.  Nothing too exciting happened, it was all just a little surreal standing on some Addis back alley at 2am telling these girls to show him a good time while they kept trying to invite us in.  Eventually the joke got a little old and we went back to the hotel.
That night I got back to my room and realized my cell phone was gone my bag...making that the 2nd cell phone stolen on this trip.  Bad luck with phones..I blame myself for drunkenly leaving my bag in a sketchy bar.
Next day I didn't do much, just read and hung around, I had my flight to Cairo the next morning.  We went out again to a bar, turned out one of the prostitutes from the night before was hanging out at the bar with one of the friends of the people I met in Uganda.  We sit with them for awhile and this drunken guy keeps yelling at us about something.  I walked out to the bathroom at one point and that same drunken midget smacks me in the face unprovoked.  I'd never even seen him before that night...I've never been in a drunken bar fight and I wasn't drunk at all, but I almost punched the guy before considering the consequences of what might happen if I got arrested in Ethiopia.  So I had some angry words and walked away...the "security guard" from the bar did nothing...then I tried to go back in and the guard tried not to let ME back into the bar, not caring about the guy who smacked me for no reason...I pushed my way in and went back to the table.  The guys I was with were ready to help me jump the guy who smacked me, but I told them it wasn't worth it and we let it go. 
To tally it all up, in the span of two nights without stacey, I lose my cell phone, walk around Addis streets at 2am with a multinational gang of backpackers to bother some Slovakian whoremonger with no fear of AIDS (he was allegedly a 28yr old virgin trying to have his first experience...), and almost get into a bar fight with a drunken midget. 
For Sub-Saharan Africa tallies...7 flat tires, 2 cell phones stolen, $150 cash stolen through mugging, $161 in cash stolen by a fraudulent ATM that my bank says I can't get back, 2 emergency outdoor toilet runs, 11 countries visited, somewhere around 10,000 km travelled on truck, bus, taxi, minibus, whitewater raft, small airplane, jet, foot, motorbike, ferry, speedboat, dump truck, and probably more I've forgotten. 


Anonymous said...

Josh, interesting the web address from your parents when I saw them up at State College..I am traveling vicariously...What a life changing & enhancing travel experience....Keep the faith...enjoy...Jill Voshell

August 4, 2007 4:10 PM  

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