Greetings from Addis Ababa, capital of the Ethiopian hinterland, and at 7546 ft (2300m), the 3rd highest capital city in the world. I’ve been here for 4 days now, which means it’s about time for an update.
As my 15+ hour flight approached landing, I pulled off my Ethiopian Airlines socks—yes, free socks folks—and filled out a customs form and Save the Nation from the New Flu questionnaire. The next day, my colleague and I surveyed a few supermarkets, and even though the electricity cut out four times, we managed to get a ton of work done.
For dinner, we went to Habesha Restaurant, a place known for its traditional dishes and nightly dance and music shows. I ordered sautéed chicken (chicken tibs), which was served atop injera, Ethiopia’s iconic, sourdough flatbread made out of fermented teff flour. Local entertainers wowed the audience as my fingers frazzled the spongy circle, and my colleague and I, situated at the front-most table, enjoyed our first round of St. George’s beer. My favorite performance was an Esketsa-style dance, which involved nearly impossible gesticulations of the neck, back and shoulders that would make a chiropractor cringe. The dancers were like psychedelic marionettes, being thrashed around by a maniacal puppeteer. It was rhythmic and captivating in an almost hypnotic way. Apparently the dancers noticed my interest, because at some point during the 30-minute charade, they motioned for me to stand up and join them. Luckily my colleague had her video camera out.
Ready for 15 seconds of my best Esketsa impression?
Note: if you can’t see the video, click here.
Well that was embarrassing.
I spent the next morning hunting down new automobile prices, and while idling in traffic, rediscovered some of citified Africa’s traits. The smell of diesel. Broken streets and puddled, unkempt alleys. Sidewalk herds of impish goats. Eucalyptus-branch scaffolding, ribbed metal sheets and even a Britney Spears ad for Stolichnaya vodka. Over the last few days, my senses have been utterly stimulated (especially taste—last night, I had lamb brains for dinner).
With our cost-of-living survey nearly complete, my colleague and I are looking to explore Addis Ababa over the weekend. On the agenda:
- A visit to the Ethiopian National Museum to see the plaster replica of Australopithecine Lucy.
- An afternoon in Merkato, the largest open-air market in Africa.
- Drinking tej (honey wine).
- Chewing leaves of qat, a plant native to Ethiopia known for its stimulative properties.