A Usual Morning
Posted by Cris on June 13, 2007
This morning was a perect distillation of a typical Addis Ababa morning for me. I awoke with an upset stomach, caused by Jonathan (our recent house guest) and I trying to break ‘the garlic barrier’ in dinner last night- garlic bread and garlic mashed potatoes, both with more garlic than was needed. The salad dressing had garlic in it as well, the only thing that didnt was the wine. Well, I got that worked out and left for work at about eight o’clock. Upon exiting the compound I heard, “farenji! farenji!” behind me, along with the patter of kid feet running to see me. Bracing myself, I turned to see three kids, two girls and an unknown, running up. “Hello! Hello! Hellohellohellohello! How are you? What are you doing? Where are you going?” they asked. They were all wearing pink, but that doesnt mean they are all girls. I dont those types of make assumptions anymore. The older ones were twins, I think. Otherwise they were clones or eachother. They looked exactly the same, and were wearing matching pink sweatsuits. The smaller one was wearing an updated version of the bunny suit from “A Christmas Story” complete with bunnyears on the knees and elbows, chest and shoulders. It also had a shaved head, hence my hesitance to assign a sex until I heard a name.
I replied to them, asking THEIR names and what THEY were doing, where THEY were going, etc. They turned out to be all girls, going to school. I told them i was going to work and my name was Cris. Their mother caught up with them and I said goobye and walked away. As I walked away I heard behind me, “Farenji! Hello! Where are you going…” coming from the same girls. I ignored them this time, waving over my shoulder and picking up the pace.
I bowed my head to the old beggar woman I give to sometimes and I passed, realizing I had no change for her. A few seconds later I greeted the resident crazy guy, and then was almost sent into a coughing fit by a dead chicken thats been stinking up the street for a few days now. I keep hoping a dog will eat it, like they did the mummified and reeking sheep a month ago (after three days all that was left was a few tufts of hair), and the cat before that, but so far none have taken the bait.
I weaved through the human and car traffic, said hello to Anteneh the fruit guy, waved to the butchers, said hi to Biniam who runs the internet cafe, and barely missed getting run over by a backhoe that mustve had somewhere urgent to go.
Then I reached the main road. This road is always an adventure, with shoe-shine boys trying to get you to stop, taxis and cars sometimes driving on the side of the road for no apparent reason, and intercity buses clogging traffic. I have to cross this road at somepoint, which usually means taking a calculated chance and walking in front of one taxi to slide into the next lane behind another and safely make it to the median. I usually end up walking along the median for a while, breathing the black exhaust from the cars passing, and then repeat the road crossing game to make it across to the other side. As I walked along the other side I dodged the taxis and buses that were picking up customers for the morning. Their preferred method of parking on the side of the road is to aim for the pedestrians, knowing theyll scurry out of the way and then they can park in the resulting empty spot. A few more people made comments to me, all involving the word “farenji”, but I couldnt understand any of them so they got ignored.
My taxi ride from this point is 10-15 minutes, depending on the driver, traffic, and the car we are in. There are four people who share the taxis and its one birr each, so there is a 75% chance youll be crammed into the backseat with two other people. I usually somehow end up in the middle, as I was this morning. The taxi this morning belonged to an old man- he looked 70 which probably means he is actually 50- who Id guess has been driving taxi for a long time. He was a snappy dresser, wearing a suit coat and slacks that may have been older than me. His car has definately been around the proverbial block a few thousand times as well. He had one doorhandle left on the inside, so we had to wait while he opened each door in turn with his one doorhandle. This was repeated at the other end so we could unfold ourselves out of the taxi. The drive was uneventful, no near donkey collisions or schoolkid-o-cides. Its was nice to be with an “experienced” driver, since maybe the young guys have nicer cars and go faster, but they are also more likely to pull a U-turn and drive the last 5 blocks in reverse to avoid traffic (yes, this happened to me once).
Arriving at work I dodge some beggars, cross another street, and sidle up to Demble City Center, where I am treated to my twice daily pat-down by the guards at the door. Then I am home free, ready to start work and have my habitual 1 birr ginger tea.
Life is good.