We arrived in Addis last night around 9PM, right on time. Always when you get off the plane after so many hours of travel, you’re soooo ready to just get to the place where you can lay your head for the night. But there are hurdles.
First you wait in line to get your visa, or permission to stay in Ethiopia for 30 days. This consists of a piece of paper glued inside your passport. One visa times 5 people takes a bit of time. Then you shuffle into yet another line to pay for those visas–$50 a person currently. I have yet to understand why the same worker can’t do the paperwork AND take your money. But on the bright side, our visa paperwork took so long that by the time we were finally done, the line to pay was almost non-existent.
Next on the agenda was changing some US dollars into Ethiopian birr, which can be done on the other side of that same big room. At that counter, while I was filling out that form, an American lady came up to me and asked how I’d gotten then to change my birr into dollars, which of course the opposite of what I was actually doing. Turns out they wouldn’t take back her birr, and as she was leaving the country that evening, she was a little distressed.
By that point, I was already in the middle of my transaction. But Lidya and Zeytuna, who also wanted birr, were able to trade some of their dollars for some of her birr. So we were able to help her situation out a little anyway. Ten minutes after we left that counter, she was still standing there earnestly discussing her predicament with the bank person.
The next airport line was to get your passport stamped. It was by far the longest line, and snaked through the whole center of the big room. By the time we got to the front of that line, it had been a good hour since we’d landed. Then it was on to the luggage carousel, where we happily discovered that all 6 of our bags had made it to Ethiopia. Hooray!
We flopped them onto a luggage cart and made our way out to the parking lot, where, just as agreed upon, the GT guesthouse driver was there holding up a sign with “GT” written on it. He flumped our luggage efficiently into the back of his van and we were off, zooming our way toward the guesthouse.
The guesthouse was a 15 minute drive, the last bit of which went down what looked to me like an alleyway, but was actually a (probably pretty normal) residential street, with lots of high fences and gates and greenery on both sides. In Addis there appears to be very little zoning. It is completely normal for a nice hotel to have tin-roofed shacks living in its shadow.
At the guesthouse gate, our driver honked, and the big metal doors screeched open. Inside was a nice big courtyard, and the entrance to a big weloming building, where Lewam, the owner of the guesthouse, soon welcomed us. Lee grew up in Ethiopia, but spend enough time in America that she speaks perfect English and also has a good understanding of how to help us finicky Americans feel comfy and at home.
The guesthouse is just lovely! Our apartment was on the second floor and consisted of not one, not two, but three bedrooms and bathrooms, along with a kitchen, and a nice sized dining room/living room. There was even a balcony where we could look out over the neighborhood.
Greeting us in our apartment was my sister Sophie who had arrived earlier in the day, and was just as thrilled with the accommodations as I was. The apartment allowed Emily and Julianna to sleep in a big king room with me– an additional bed had been added to make that very comfortable. Then Lidya and Zeytuna got the second room and Sophie the third. All in all it should work well.
We got our bags stuffed into the appropriate bedrooms, had a quick phone call with John, and headed off to bed. The girls were all asleep practically instantly, and we all managed to sleep pretty well, considering it was broad daylight Idaho time.
The next morning the guesthouse ladies brought us breakfast around 9:30, and several of the girls had to be awakened to come eat. We had french toast, scrambled eggs, firfir, fruit, bread, and injera. They even made special gluten free (teff) pancakes. And of course fabulous Ethiopian coffee and chai tea. There was lots left over, which we tucked into the fridge for later in the day.
Once breakfast was done, it was errand time. One of our six big suitcases actually wasn’t ours– we were delivering it to a missionary living in Addis.
When we called to talk about where to meet him, he mentioned a hotel to Sophie that turned out to be literally visible from the guesthouse. Talk about convenient.
Since we had several errands that day, we’d arranged for the services of Dawit, a driver who had also helped us with several other visits. It was fun to see him, and to find out that he now has a wife and a baby daughter.
It was raining pretty hard on the drive to drop off the bag, but the rain let up just a bit when we handed off the suitcase full of goodies to the young man, and he was thrilled with the care package from home.
The next stop was the grocery store– a rather American-style one called Bambi’s where somehow I managed to spend $90. It should be enough for at least 4 meals plus some car snacks for half a dozen people, but I was still rather surprised at how fast that bill added up.
Next on the list was a visit to the family of Kibrom, the man who owns the only Ethiopian restaurant in Idaho. He has many brothers and sisters in Addis. We had packages to deliver to them from him, and they very graciously invited us to lunch too.
We were a dab intimidated thinking of trying to converse with people we’d never met before, but they turned out to be delightful. Two of his sisters are nurses and his younger brother is half way thru medical school.
We had a lovely Ethiopian meal together, followed by a coffee ceremony and then some chai tea and more bread. We felt incredibly spoiled, and blessed to be invited to their home.
It rained off and on all afternoon complete with thunder and lightning, but again by the time we had to be back outside, the rain let up and we barely got our feet damp as we made our way back to the van.
By that time, it was nearly 5PM, so we headed on back to the guesthouse to relax for the evening. We were all feeling the effects of jet lag. Lidya and Zeytuna got a nap in before dinner, and Julianna and Emily got inspired to make french fries in our little kitchenette and make some videos.
Want a little tour of the house where we are staying? Check out this videothat Emily did.
I am hoping to share more pictures tomorrow, if the internet in Soddo cooperates. But for now I am off to bed. We are driving to Soddo in the morning!