Monday, December 10, 2012

The Quirky Side of Addis

What a week here in Addis!  While most of our blogging and focus has obviously been in our son, our daughter, our health and such things... we have had our fun moments too.  We have also had a chance to see and experience Addis along the way, even if we have clearly barely scratched the surface.  So let's summarize some of the more interesting or quirky sides of our week... what we've learned or seen around town.

1. There are electrical outlets in the shower.  Every instinct is to not turn on the water.. or, at least not to climb in.  In fairness, it is on the opposite side of the showerhead.  And, it does serve a purpose.  Your very own water heater sits right above it.  Now if only that water heater had an indicator for how much hot water was left so you knew when to finish.

2.  There are no traffic lights and I'll be darned if I've seen a stop sign, ok... maybe one.  Keep in mind, this is a city of at least 3.5 million people and full of cars, vans and buses.  Pulling up to a 4 or 6 lane interchange where all these vehicles from all sides slowly glide together is an experience... which leads me to my next point.

3. No car accidents (that I have witnessed).  I know I have only been here a week and I'm sure in this week there have been accidents around town.  But, I could have guessed we should have been part of at least 20 if this was in the USA.  Somehow this chaos works, that alone is a miracle of evolution.

4. No street or road signs.  Sense a theme here?  God help you if you tried to rent a car on your own here, that's all there is to say.  Exceptions to every rule, I'll admit I did see one street sign at the intersection of a 4 lane and 6 lane road.  For those of you who like to drive and navigate by landmarks, go right ahead!

5. No crosswalks, but who needs them.  This is the most literal interpretation of the "Frogger" game many of us grew up playing (and I've been to some chaotic places).  People are constantly walking through traffic, on the side of the roads, middle of the intersections, etc.  Then, enter animals.  By the time the donkeys and goats have their say it's a real zoo around here.  But I will say, the way the donkey's merge through traffic is quite impressive... they have no fear.

6. Lifeguards wear track suits.  Yes, full on track suits.  I venture to say they wouldn't dare or dream of jumping in the water.  Instead they have a long pole next to them, ready to fish out any struggling swimmer.  Or, maybe they can also use the popular swimming pool verbal commands, "hey, excuse me.. you over there struggling to stay above water... please grab the pole."

7. Ratio of toast to jam is 4:1.  Kysa and I love us some morning toast... as long as we don't need much else, we're good.  The ratio seems astonishingly low.  It's ok, once you get the coffee you forget about everything else... man, this coffee really is amazingly delicious!

8. Blue buses to nowhere are everywhere.  There are 'regular' taxis and large buses that transport people, but perhaps *the* most common way are the small blue vans that shuttle folks of all ages and status around town.  To this ferenge (foreigner) they all look exactly the same.  Each is crammed to the gills, sometimes with people literally sitting in each others laps.  The sliding doors open and close, often while the vehicle is still moving with people entering and exiting.  Another example of chaos in motion.  I have a small desire to just jump on one to see where I end up.... hmmm.

9. African cockroaches are larger, harder and smell.  Luckily - and I mean that very very much - this hotel doesn't seem to have an issue here.  But, last night we did have a visitor.  This 1 inch critter was similar to those back home, but looked meaner... almost like a small dinosaur.  *Squash*... then it smelled up the room too.  Like a small chemical factory had opened up shop, lovely.  Selam (peace) be with you little bugger.

10. Ethiopians build buildings, Chinese build roads.  There is major roadwork everywhere here in Addis and the Chinese are in charge.  When asking our driver, he says it is because the Chinese are much more efficient and do the job much more quickly.  Maybe that explains the many many unfinished construction sites around town.

11. Injera.. not just for breakfast anymore.  Wait, I didn't actually realize it was for breakfast until I got to Ethiopia.  But perhaps not unusual.  In Japan, they eat rice any any meal.  In Korea, kimchi.  Now if only I could get a little bit more jam with that injera, is that wierd?

12. Let's call it the "pick up fetish".  Seems everywhere we go, someone or everyone wants to pick up Kysa.  Sweetly they all say, "konjo" (beautiful).  And luckily for Allison and I the same isn't true for adults!  Fair to say that a little blondie like her doesn't come around every day.  I want to pick her up too.  She's been a pretty good sport about it, most of the time.

Bonus!  The air quality.. yes, the lack of air quality.  I would hate to see my lungs right about now.  Best indicator of what I could expect?  Enter Kysa.  Her nose picking skills unveil parts of the human filtration system that clearly demonstrate how we stay alive over long periods of time.  Thanks for that... now, cut it out.  Wash hands, wipe face, lather in sanitizing lotion, apply chapstick... repeat.

/ fredrik


  1. Love these quirks and that you are writing them down! Our time there felt like such a rush! These wonderful descriptions bring back memories.... safe travels home!

  2. the blue minibusses are great and cheap! we took them all the time when we were in Addis (for 3 months). Learn the routes, listen to what they call out--it's the final destination like "mexico square" or "mekannisa" or "bole" (those are the ones we took most often). When it's time to get off you say something that sounds like "gurage" and they will stop at the next stop. They are crowded, smell, and you are squished, but everyone is usually really nice and for 2-3 birr per ride, it can save you a small fortune in taxis/drivers.