Friday, May 13, 2011

Our trip to Ethiopia Day 2-A whole new world!

If you haven't read Day 1 yet, you can see it here. These posts are long, but bear with me. I wanted to remember everything!

We got off the plane onto the tarmac and onto a bus that drove us over to the airport building. The staff was very friendly and tried to be helpful, but we had a hard time communicating with them! It really gave me an appreciation for people who come to the US and don’t speak English. One guy kept asking if we needed transit, and we didn’t know what he was talking about. Finally he said “you stay in Addis or need transit?” apparently he was going to direct us to our next flight if we had one. The next couple of people we ran into we were able to say “we are staying in Addis”. We had to stand in long line to get our visas. It was hot and stuffy and smelled like body odor and that combined with the high elevation was making me dizzy. I stood in line and pushed our bags forward while Eric chased Jenavieve around. Luckily, she came back to tell me something and a woman came over and said “is this your daughter?” and took us to the front of the line. 

Getting our visas was a pretty informal process-10 or so people in dress suits sitting at tables that were pushed together to make a long line. They worked in pairs, one person did part of the paperwork, then passed it to the next person. They asked us a few questions that took a few minutes to figure out and answer in a way that they understood. They did a lot of talking to each other while we were there and it was a different experience to be standing there not understanding a single word. But suddenly it was over and we were off to the next stop, another line to stand in. A guy quickly directed us to the front of the line again (it pays to take your baby with you!) and we gave our paperwork to a guy in a booth. I’m not sure what he did, but he spent most of the time looking at Vivi and making faces and saying things to her in Amharic (she got that a lot on the plane too, I think they may have thought she was an Ethiopian adoptee too). 

We were then directed to baggage claim. Vivi and I sat on the floor and ate some raisins  and watched the cart of suitcases while Eric stood in line to exchange our money. We noticed how long the line was to take the suitcases through security so I picked Vivi up and started trying to push the big cart over to the line. An employee swooped in, grabbed the cart, and pushed it to the back of the line, then leaned against it, indicating that he wasn’t going anywhere. I had heard about this, they were eager to help for tips, and it was nice to have him push the cart for us. Other guys were trying to help other guests too, and still others were standing around, looking for someone to help. Then, a kid up farther in the line threw up. All the guys saw, but nobody did anything about it. I enjoyed that our guy pushed the cart and let me walk way around the mess, but I was very puzzled that they all just walked around it. Eventually the family brought someone over with a mop. 

*The family turned out to be from our agency and when I spoke to her about it later, she said nobody said anything to them about it, and they ended up asking if they were supposed to clean it up themselves! Luckily they did not.*

The guy didn’t speak a lot of English, but he tried to make conversation anyway. He pointed at Vivi and said “she is your son?” I smiled and said “yes, she’s mine” (I didn’t know if it would be polite to correct him or not). He made a confused face and said “oh....but...she is black!” I again smiled and said “yes, she is”. Finally Eric got the money exchanged and came back. I whispered to him that we had to tip the guy, and he pulled out 10 birr and thanked the guy. He looked at it, then called to one of the other guys and said something in Amharic. The other guy made a face and shook his head, and our guy turned back to us and said “this is so small! 10 birr is so small!” Eric said “sorry, we are new, I don’t know how much to tip” and gave him another 10 birr. He showed them to us and said “this is so small!” I had also read that white tourists to Ethiopia are often seen as wealthy and to expect to get charged more for things, and about the act they put on about acting offended at such a small offer. We weren’t the suckers he pegged us for! So we smiled, thanked him, and went on our way.

We put our luggage on a conveyer belt and picked it up on the other side, and then we were through security! There was a huge crowd of people waiting outside security for their family and friends, we got to see a lot of sweet reunions. We traveled in pajamas so we went into the bathrooms to change and then met with a guy from our agency who was hired to drive us and another woman to our guest houses. 
He led pushed our luggage cart out and loaded it into a rickety, boxy van that didn’t have seatbelts. It took him a couple of tries to start it. Vivi climbed into the car, perched on the seat, and said “Bapa cd please!” (My dad made a cd of him reading stories to Vivi and she listens to it every time we’re in the car). We started driving, and got to see a lot of different people and things as we went. Some people were dressed in traditional clothing, while others wore jeans and t-shirts. There were people just standing on the sidewalk with a pack of live goats, and a pile of furs to sell. We also saw fruit stands placed randomly on street corners, a tent with a woman selling plastic buckets in different sizes and colors, and lots of young kids wandering around by themselves. Traffic laws seem a little lax in Addis-the driver used his horn more than his turn signal and people crossed the street literally right in front of us. 

We got to the other woman’s hotel first, and noticed that all of the hotels and guest houses as well as other buildings were surrounded by walls topped with barbed wire, and have a guard standing outside. Many also had a gate that had to be opened to let cars through. After dropping her off, he turned to us and said he didn’t know where we were staying. We told him the Addis Kidan Baptist Guest House and he said he’d never heard of it. We gave him the phone number and he tried calling but it wasn’t going through. He said cell phone service wasn’t working well that day. He also tried calling our agency liaison but that call didn’t go through either. We knew that it was walking distance from one of the orphanages, so he drove there and started asking people on the street. The first few people had no idea where or what it was and we started wondering how we picked an invisible guest house.

He finally found someone who knew and drove up to a big metal gate with stone walls surrounding the building. He honked the horn and a guard looked out, then opened the gate to let us in. The guest house was beautiful and the yard around it was even more beautiful! Flowering plants in all colors, palm trees, it looked so nice! We were met by the guy who runs the guest house and he helped us take our bags to our room, and then gave us a tour. Our room was in the back of the building and had one big bed and a bunk bed, a table, 2 chairs, and a night stand. The table and night stand had candles and matches sitting on plates in case the power went out. Then he took us to the bathroom, which was in a little building behind the guest house. A toilet, sink, and indented area in the floor with a little shower head above it. He showed us how to make the water hot but said that it doesn’t stay hot for long. 

Then he took us up into the house which had a living room, dining room, kitchen, and another bathroom. He showed us how to make the water hot in that bathroom, then said “right now, we don’t have any water, but, we hope it will come soon!” in a very cheerful voice. 

He told us that we can use the kitchen for whatever we want for $1 a day, or we could pay a few dollars a day to have them cook our meals. Internet and phone usage are 5 cents a minute on the honor system, you just write in a notepad how many minutes you spend on the phone or internet. 

We spent a little while exploring the yard and house, and tried calling our liaison again but didn’t get through. We had some lunch, then took a little nap. Eric and I woke up and did some unpacking and tried to call our liaison again, but Vivi slept for 8 hours! Poor baby hadn’t had a long chunk of sleep in 2 days and we could not wake her up. Of course she woke up right when we were talking about going to bed. 

The original plan was to meet Little Boy at his orphanage, but because we couldn’t get ahold of the liaison, we ended up staying at the guest house and just relaxing, which was nice too, especially letting Jenavieve get in some much needed sleep.

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