Being back in Ethiopia is a joy after Djibouti. The mentality seems to change as soon as I crossed the border. Suddenly people were eager to help me on my way, even if it was only to the embassy down the road. There are smiles, politeness, and cool highland air.
If continuing visa applications go well I could be out of Addis Ababa in a couple of days. That’s 15 days in the capital, plus enough time to get to Djibouti and back. I feel a real desire to move on for the final quarter of the circumnavigation and get the country count ticking over once more. I’ve lost all forward momentum for the moment and am just treading water. I’m at my happiest when struggling down a dusty road not having a clue what anyone is saying to me. I think I should enjoy Sudan.
I have spent my 15 days walking very slowly, except when avoiding pickpockets and beggars of which there are many. The best way to shake them off is to head for an Ethiopian elder, who will kindly shoo them away. Addis, being relatively young as it is (building started in 1887), is neither monumental nor intriguing. It has all the charm of Kettering, and almost as little to do. The problem is that its a modern urban conglomeration with all that entails: wide roads, parking issues, run-down government buildings, and oddly placed 4-star hotels gleaming amongst the slums. It would be difficult to find a city unlike this I admit. The widest road in town took me most of a morning to cross – giving me something to do – with its 14 lanes of roaring traffic. There are plenty of cafes to catch your breath after such a crossing, and plenty of ATMs with which to replace budgets given over to cafe expenditure. Addis feels like an African’s view of what a European city is like; failing to ignite my wanderlust for Africa, while making me want to be in an actual European city, the one with my home.
What would cheer me up no end would be the purchase of a mouse specimen ‘bookmark’ I saw in a cabinet of the Natural History Museum here (mouse skins stuck onto card for species identification purposes – yet very cute), and of course, some visas.