Saturday, March 22, 2014

Day 2: Sunday

I remember the first time we drove through the streets of Addis. We had arrived to bring Daniel home. It was late at night and we were exhausted. It felt strange and uncomfortable. Everything was unfamiliar. No recognizable stores or restaurants. Our route to the hotel involved lots of twists and turns.

This is my fifth trip to Ethiopia. What was then unfamiliar is no longer so. The airport parking lot, once overwhelming because of its chaos, is a welcome sight. The ride through the city is now as easy as riding through Chicago or Boston (not that I would ever drive here...). I am comforted by what I recognize (places where we've eaten dinner or shopped, landmarks, buildings) and impressed by the new construction that has taken place since my last visit.

We arrive at the guest house, check in, and unload the bags. Fortunately, we didn't have to haul every upstairs. The elevation in Addis is very high and walking up stairs, even for someone in good shape, is tiring. This place has no elevator, so the thought of carrying fifty pound suitcases up to the third floor is tiring in of itself. We were able to leave the bags with donations in a small room on the first floor.

A quick lunch and a power nap and I was ready to go. However, the kids had not slept on the plane either so were wiped out. After lunch, they collapsed. They had wanted to go for a walk, but I couldn't bring myself to wake them up. Lori and I have always had a rule to not wake a sleeping child. We can't always follow that rule, but it's a good general principle. At 3:30 though, I started to worry that if I let them sleep much longer they wouldn't sleep that night. However, they were sleeping so peacefully, I left them alone.

Michael came down at 4:00. Allison was still sleeping. Knowing I would get grief for not waking her, Glen Michael, and I left anyways.

Boys playing soccer in the road's median
So here's another sign of how comfortable I am now in Addis. Six years ago, we would never have ventured out on our own. Three years ago, we only walked when we had specifically asked our guides where it was okay to go. This time, we just went. The others in our group didn't seem too keen on what we were doing! We walked by stores, past lots of people hanging out on the streets, and saw a bunch of kids playing soccer in the road's median with a ball that looked like nothing more than a big ball of string. Michael was tempted to go play with them, but opted out. We stopped by a store to buy bananas (we paid the equivalent of $1.50 for a dozen bananas).

Bananas are amazing here. In the U.S., our bananas come from Mexico or South America. So that they're not rotten by the time they get to us, they're picked when they're still greet. They're (sometimes) yellow by the time they get to us.

In Ethiopia, bananas are picked ripe from the tree. As a result, they're sweeter and have much more taste. The others at the guest house enjoyed the nice treat and Michael was thrilled to share.

Thirty minutes after our return, Allison comes sauntering down, still half asleep, but unhappy that I didn't wake her up. I offered to go on another walk, which she agreed to. Fikre, a member of the Children's Hopechest staff, went with us so we could buy minutes for our mobile phone.

On our earlier walk, a street vendor was selling socks and Michael saw a pair he really liked. Fikre asked the man about its cost. Fikre told us that they cost 20 birr, but he had negotiated it down to 18 birr (a difference of about 20 cents). Michael is thrilled with his new acquisition.

After our return from the walk we had dinner, got a quick talk from Rob and Becka about the week, and went off to bed. Although wakeup time will be early (we are leaving at 5:30 am), chances are we will all be awake as jet lag means most of us will be up long before then.

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