Another Look at Addis
It was good to be back. Chris and Lindsay treated us well at their house, as before, with hot showers, food you could trust, Sportscenter… we even got to go see Superman (we’re still trying to find the translation for “letdown” in Ethiopia) at the local movie theatre. We were back and fully immersed in civilization. And we love us some civilization.
Our first task was actually planning the next move of our trip. Kenya? South Africa? Tanzania? We had work to do, and no more time to put it off. Pair the big decision making (South Africa, here we come) with some R&R, and evvvverything started coming together. At 3am on June 25th (for us, June 24th for the history books) my eyes were glued to the TV watching game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals live, courtesy of the American Forces Network. (EDITOR’S NOTE: We will not, however, thank the network for choosing not to air commercials, but instead, PSA’s promoting safe sex, how to be a respectful roommate, discouraging soldiers from uploading videos of themselves dancing to the internet …you get the picture…)
To provide some quick background, me and the Hawks are like Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys: We ride together, we die together. And not having access to the outside world to find out what had happened in games 3, 4 and 5 while we were touring the north part of the country was giving me some serious anxiety. I even had dreams about the games while we were gone. It was weird. But once we got back online just before returning to Addis and I found out the Hawks had won both games that I missed, my first priority was finding a way to watch game 6.
So… where was I? Oh, that’s right…. THE HAWKS WON THE CUP!!! Just after 6am Jonathan Toews was hoisting the cup and there was no chance I was going back to sleep. While Chicago was partying in the streets, I was silent fist pumping and pacing with the volume turned low as the sun came up, trying my best not to wake up the rest of the house. I was fired up and ready to go for the rest of the day, which included a proper tour of Addis Ababa. And lucky for us (being the helpless tourists we had become in Ethiopia), Chris and Lindsay had “a guy” for Addis too. His name was Turiku, and he would drive us around his hometown for an afternoon to see a few essential sights to get a better feel for our surroundings, with a colorful running commentary. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Plus, his music taste ran toward Katy Perry and Justin Bieber. And when I sang along, he thanked me for liking “his music.”)
First destination was the Mercato, a giant public market. We were expecting to get out of the car to walk around, like we did in many other local markets in cities we visited, but Turiku made it clear we would stay in the car and we soon understood why. Imagine an area about twice the size of Grant Park in Chicago packed with local vendors selling everything from spices to car parts to medicine to groceries. Now imagine the space between filled with locals (and their donkeys, in some cases) busy buying or hawking their wares having no regard for cars going by, or other pedestrians for that matter, as they made their trades. Our car crawled through the streets. It was a lot to take in, but it had a feel of harmonious chaos (a Monty Bauer-ism) – for outsiders like us it was overwhelming, but you could see there was a method to the madness; just part of their everyday lives.
After taking our lap, Turiku took us to Tomoca, a place we were told had “the best coffee in Addis,” which was saying something. If there’s one thing Ethiopia does right, it’s coffee, which explains why it’s one of the country’s largest exports. You can find it everywhere, and it is delicious. Tomoca was no exception. We were told we had to order a macchiato (the drink of choice for many locals) before leaving Ethiopia. Their version of the macchiato is just coffee and steamed milk, at least before mounds of sugar are added. We like our coffee black, and whenever we turned down sugar to add, people gave us funny looks as if we were crazy for passing it up. But even sans sugar, the macchiatos and the ambiance at Tomoca were great. And with the quick caffeine boost we were ready for the rest of our tour.
Next stop was National Museum of Ethiopia. This modest looking building reminded me of a college dorm from the outside, but inside it housed that hot 3.2 million-year-old hominin chick, Lucy. Lucy’s ribs and other bone fragments that were unearthed in 1974 were, like the building overall, modestly displayed. I actually walked right past her display case without noticing before Noelle pointed it out. It was cool to see, but not as cool as you’d picture in your head. This was definitely one of those things that we felt like we had to see since we were there, but was more of a box to check off a list than an amazing site we’ll be talking about for any extended period of time. (EDITOR’S NOTE: In fairness, the last museum we visited was the Vacitan…so methinks our expectations were left high?) So yeah – we came for Lucy, we saw Lucy and then we moved on.
The rest of the day included stops at a small town and church atop a hill with a view of the entire city, and a quick drive through the main parts of town. The tour of the little local church was given by an incredibly kind old man, from which we understood nothing as he gave us his 20-minute lecture about the collection of cloaks, crosses and bibles. The interest level is apparent in the number of pictures we took – zero. Our tour ended at the U.S. Embassy, where we were dropped off to meet Chris and Lindsay before heading to our promised traditional Ethiopian dinner. A quick look around proved that it was a sweet place to work, with outdoor courtyards and a spacious cafeteria.
By this time we had acquired an obsession with Ethiopian food, but the restaurant that night also boasted traditional Ethiopian dance. In between shoveling food into our mouths with our hands and enjoying some coffee and honey wine (not nearly as tasty as it may sound), we were treated to traditional dances such as the Gurage. Ethiopians pretty much invented popping and locking, and this dance was filled with it. The men and women on stage move at crazy speeds with short, quick moves that look like they are “popping” and “locking” their joints.
I would never even attempt to do the moves, but I did find it entertaining to see Noelle trying to discreetly mimic the moves from her chair at our table thinking nobody was looking. (EDITOR’S NOTE: I may have be missing this season of So You Think You Can Dance, but by God, I’ll always have Ethiopia…)
Sights seen and stomachs filled, our time in this challenging, but rewarding, country had come to a close. We got a taste of a little bit of everything, from the foods to the cities to the geography, and were ready for the next adventure – South Europe Africa.