July 19, 2013

One Random Day in Ethiopia

I've been looking forward to this big trip for ages- The World Congress on Youth and Community Service that was to be held in Pretoria, South Africa. I had even signed up for one week of community service that would precede the congress. I thoroughly researched the few things I could do in the weekend between the two, so that I could fit in as much sight seeing as I could in my short trip.

The hullabaloo I had with my visa forced me to take away all that excitement until the day I left Sri Lanka when I picked up my visa. One short stop over in Bangalore, frantic packing and I was off on a long long journey- 3 flights and 20 hours in total (so I thought) and I would finally reach Johannesburg. 

A 5 hours wait in the crummy Mumbai airport became 2 hours longer with a delay that effected the rest of my trip. Thankfully I found comfy chairs in The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf the last bit of my wait and I made that hot chocolate and muffin last till boarding time.

I hoped the pilot would make up for lost time, but sadly he didn't and after a couple of hours of waiting in Addis Ababa airport with many angry, impatient passengers and frantic, disorganised ground staff struggling to accommodate all of them, I landed up in the Yordanos Grande Hotel in the middle of the city. Grateful for clothes in my hand luggage and even more for the jacket (the wet season temperatures lingered around 12 degrees, but that morning seemed a lot colder), I quickly made plans for a quick walk around. 

The city is unlike any other city I've been too. I mean, it seemed more like a lonely suburb than the middle of a capital city. Large plots of barren land separated the built up area and there was none of the city noises that I was used to. The unnecessarily wide roads had barely a few cars driving on them. I was probably the only tourist out that day, and the many odd stares I got only made me feel even more like one.

The closest thing to see was Meskel Square about 15 minutes walking distance away. It was a large open area embanked by terraced seating where the annual Meskel festival, May Day parades and concerts, etc take place. A few restaurants and a war memorial surrounded the square. The exhibition grounds were hosting something, which brought a lot of people there. I was dying to take pictures, but in a place known for pickpockets and when all eyes seemed to be on me, it didn't seem like a good idea to flaunt an expensive camera. The place seemed a bit hostile to tourists, but maybe it was just the emptiness of the place that gave me that impression.

The overcast rainy sky meant that it would start to get dark around 5 in the evening and most of the shops had closed already. I walked across the road to St. Stephens church. The main building was unfortunately closed, but I managed to peep through the windows without seeming too nosey. It started to drizzle, so my walk had to be cut short. I didn't want to be stuck in the rain in the dark.

I thought I would get to try some interesting Ethiopian food. The buffet spread didn't have anything particularly different for vegetarians. So much carbohydrates on my plate though- bread, potatoes, pasta and rice! 

Dinner and the last of the reassuring Viber calls with my Mum before a hot shower and a good nights sleep ended my random little Ethiopian adventure (I even got the stamp in my passport!)

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