My introduction to Ethiopia was thus!! After a delicious breakfast at a top class hotel - The Marriott - we entered the elevator - somehow I ended up carrying my Grandson's glass of carrot juice (First mistake)
As I squeezed into the lift, the unrelenting lift door caught me with a smack, knocking me into the buttons and throwing my carrot juice all over an elegant Asian man wearing a thousand dollar suit and tie!!
Blood oozed from my elbow too to make matters worse !!
Dapper Asian man not interested in my horrified reparations, wanting to escape from me as fast as he possibly could - understandably. A charming American lady in the lift tried to comfort me, carrot juice dripping from her chin and trickling down her suitcase.........
Blushing furiously I fumbled a hasty exit from the lift at the fourth floor, leaving a great pool of carrot juice for the hotel guests on the next floor!!
The carrot juice was just that - 'carrot coloured' but fortunately I was wearing black, unlike the hapless Asian man and kind American lady!!
Back in the spacious apartment, the phone rang, my thoughts turned instantly to an irate man with an oriental accent, waving a summons in his impeccably tailored and manicured hand, but luckily it was solicitous Hotel Management inquiring as to my welfare!!
Note to self, do not wander around anywhere carrying anything carrot coloured ever again!!
My thoughts turn to my second impressions of Ethiopia - a desperate hotch potch of a city wearing in turn, stunning affluence and heartbreaking poverty, a rich cultural tapestry and incredibly bad town-planning....
The roads are not too bad in the CBD but disgusting elsewhere and the traffic is terrible, the cars are a tangle of shiny Diplomatic Pajeros and ancient dilapidated Russian Ladas!! The neat pavements are well kept festooned with brilliant gold and green well clipped duranta bushes, a sight for sore eyes, if one is able to ignore the many resident pathetic bundles of humanity huddled in hopeless despair, curled up in rags in every dry area.
I saw three and four year old children darting between cars begging, every road is lined with women and children begging and old people. Dogs roam everywhere scraping in the dumps.
The streets are clean in the CBD but filthy everywhere else. Goats and cattle graze in most available green areas. The city is green and damp, thanks to ample rains but I could feel my chest tighten with the pollution and the altitude.
Census say that the population of Addis is growing closer to 4 million. It is the largest city in the world located in a landlocked country.
Addis Ababa lying between 2200-2500 meters above sea level is the third highest capital in the world, and we experienced altitude sickness, which symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, light headedness and insomnia.
Our house is vast, high ceilings, spacious, elegantly furnished, an enormous kitchen and a bell to call the staff in every room, even the shower has a waterproof bell!! Security is paramount as crime is high, but its just petty crime not violent crime.
There are no street names anywhere outside the CBD and we had nightmares describing to the taxi driver how to collect us to take us to the airport!! ' Pass the bright blue wall with the cannas, turn left at the flock of goats, turn right at the giant mound of rocks and left again at the unfinished house with the red gate!!' As it happened he got lost and so our Day Guard ran three blocks to a nearby 'taxi rank' and we happily drove to the airport, the boot opened with a sharp kick and there were no visible window handles but we got to the airport on time and in one piece.......