Harya and her parents have been so welcoming to me here in Ethiopia. From greeting me early in the morning at Bole International Airport to introducing me to numerous Ethiopian dishes to teaching me about the local culture and customs, they have gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable and at home. On one night, they take me to a restaurant that also provides entertainment of local music and local dance. The food is good, and the dancing is even better. At one point, one of the dancers approaches our table and approaches us one by one to dance a couple 8-counts with her.
Thank you so much to Harya and her family for making me feel so comfortable!
Although the minibuses are technically a means to get from one place to another, when taking them in and around Addis, they become an adventure in themselves. Step one of the adventure is getting on the right bus. Each bus is painted blue on its bottom half and white on its top, and each holds about ten passengers plus the driver and money-collector. The money-collector leans out the side window and yells the bus’ destination. However, even if I know which bus I am looking for, the names of the final destinations are pronounced so differently than what I would have expected, that I still find a hard time figuring out which bus is the correct bus. For example, if I am headed to the stadium, which is near the center of town, “stadium” is pronounced as a one-syllable word that only contains the consonants from the original. Harya and I hear “stdm, stdm” as they pass. As of a couple years ago, there is stricter regulations surrounding over-packing these buses, and therefore, every passenger must have a “seat”, which is still not large by any means. Harya and I eventually find a bus that has two open seats and is heading in the direction we want to travel, we board the bus, pay the very reasonable fare, and then continue on our way.
We take many of these buses in our time in Addis as well as when we venture on our day trip to Kuriftu Lake. For the most part, it is a relatively easy even if not the most comfortable experience. However, there is one occasion where Harya and I find the last two available seats located in the back row, which they claim can fit four people across. In the rows ahead of us, we smell that someone has lathered their hair with butter in the morning, and then probably has spent most of the day outside in the sun allowing the butter to become rancid. I learn that buttering one’s hair can make it incredibly soft; however, I would prefer not to be victim to the smell of this process. We are lucky that in this particular case, the windows of the mini-bus have not been sealed shut (as they often are) and we alternate between being smelling the heavy exhaust of the road and the rancid butter from the hair ahead of us. This is a bit of a longer ride, as it is part of our journey back from the lake; however, we chalk it up as just part of the possibly too-authentic mini-bus experience.
One of the highlights of today was our trip to the Enrico Bakery. This bakery, which has been around for at least 50 years, makes a couple pastries that are known citywide and they are sold out minutes after taking them out of the oven. Therefore, Harya and I venture over with some time to spare to ensure that I get to try this delicious treat from her childhood. We get there a little on the early side because we hear that these delectable items are supposed to emerge around 3pm. In the next half an hour, nothing appears except for more and more people that are clamoring for their snack. Harya and I are meanwhile seated at a table near the window watching a girl no more than three years old sprint circles around the bakery. Eventually, the impatience level rises among all of the customers, and Harya and I feel that the moment is near. We agree that I will watch the table while she sneaks her way to the counter to collect our cakes. She returns early and I am impressed not only by her ability to navigate the shop, but also by the taste of these pastries that have just been built up in my mind over the last hour. We order more than we can eat because the price is relatively inexpensive and anything that we don’t eat, we are sure that we’ll be able to find others who will.
After the bakery, Harya and I walk through much of Addis Ababa taking in the sights, smells, and scenery. We take turns holding the leftovers from the bakery and I later learn that based on the wrapper surrounding these extra pieces of cake, most people passing us can suspect what we are holding. I had assumed that the funny looks coming in my direction had been because I don’t exactly fit in with the other people walking the streets of Addis, but I now think that it is probably a combination that includes my holding such a desirable snack. When discussing said cakes amongst Harya’s friends later in the evening, I learn that some received them as treats for doing well in school or not crying when visiting the doctors or on very special occasions. The Enrico Bakery with its very unassuming storefront seems to have been a delicious part of life in Addis for many years.
After visiting Harya’s dad, who works as a professor at the University, and swinging by the Red Terror Museum to learn more of Ethiopia’s past, we venture up into the hills just north of Addis. Although we are not far from the city, the air is clearer and cooler, the trees are more numerous, and life seems calmer. We visit St. Raguel’s Church, where we inspect some very old caves and enjoy explanations on some of the very intricate paintings within the church. We then continue on to Entoto St. Mary, where we learn of the history of the church and of Ethiopia more generally. In front of Entoto, we witness many of the sick who have come to try to heal the illnesses of themselves or their children. Today is both relaxing and educational.