Watching the city of Addis Ababa unfold before our eyes has indeed been a revelation.
Having lived in Zimbabwe for my entire life, I am very used to the Third World vagaries but Addis has been an eye opener.
Bulawayo has any number of roadside stalls, most of which were burnt to the ground during Murambatsvina, but Addis is just one giant sprawling roadside store.
The grand buildings meld deftly into the horrifying slums, the shanty houses are picturesquely pitiful. Health and safety have no place in this city, our municipal health workers would be open-mouthed with horror.
But on the lighter side I can offer some charming cameos of Addis daily life. For example there must be more shoe cleaners in Addis that there are vegetable sellers in Bulawayo. Every road boasts a plethora of pavement shoe shine businesses, at least one little stall every few meters!! The premises consist of a hole in a wall from whence hangs a plastic roof, or an umbrella if one is affluent. The customer sits on a wooden box, sometimes even on a cushion!! The proprietor sits on a paint tin and has a shoe box full of brushes and dubious shoe polish, also a few plastic bottles of water from a nearby stream!! Shiny shoes are a must in Addis, its a very dusty life here - and every business can be assured of a steady stream of customers....
One can even summon a shoe cleaner to ones own abode, where for a few cents (Ethiopian Birr) he will clean and maintain one's entire shoe collection. A pair of sneakers can take on a new lease of life after his TLC and (as long as you supply your own water and don't reply on his dodgy water stock), your shoe laces can turn out as white as driven snow!!
That surely puts a new meaning to that old saying 'Spit and polish' !!