The last couple of days we have been unable to work with the charity, Manda got sick with something that meant she needed to be close to (if not sitting on) a functioning toilet for the majority of the day and then it's a public holiday 'Mescal' so the kids won't be at the project. We have managed to do some work for the charity remotely though such as revising their sponsorship form. Manda revised the sponsorship form and I annoyed her by making tiny, inconsequential amendments that satisfied nothing except my own desire to make things look nice.
I am sad to report that Amanda has been the victim of pickpockets down by Megananya Junction. While one has to admire the skill of them (Amanda was actually holding onto her bag at the time) I can't help but feel disappointed. I'm not disappointed that such things happen so to speak, but disappointed that one thing that I felt was absolutely sure to happen (based on my preconceptions about Africa)actually did happen. So many things have challenged and changed my perception for the better of this beautiful country and it's fascinating culture. It's just annoying that this should have happened.
Amanda is taking it all with the wonderful grace she shows in everything, saying that whoever took the money probably needed it far more than her. Unfortunately I am not blessed with a similar way. Whilst it's true, I do not know the circumstances of the thief, they could be stealing because they are starving, or have a family to feed (either of these could easily be true in this poverty ridden city), but equally the thief does not know the circumstances of those they are stealing from. True, we do not look as if we are starving, and we have silly white faces that mark us as coming from countries of relative wealth, but Amanda is not well off. In fact she has about $70 US to last another five weeks and the money that was taken was relatively important to her. She is also here volunteering her time and her own money to help Ethiopian children whom she really cares about. She is not just another Ferenge here to see the sights, she is doing work that is really important and selfless. I wonder if the thief would still have taken her money if they knew why she was here.
Today we walk down to Sholla market to buy some food from the local supermarket. Everywhere we go there are children and women selling flowers for Meskal, a huge festival here that celebrates the finding of the true cross in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Another feature is the killing of a sheep. We pass a number of sheep looking suspicious and trying to hide at the back of flocks. Sholla market is incredible, there are chickens everywhere being held by the feet or lining the pathway, a chicken is shoved unceremoniously in front of us and squawks its disapproval of our strange faces. Children greet us enthusiastically with cries of 'Money', 'Money, money' and 'Give me money' which I roughly translate as 'Hello' in Amharic. Locals shout 'Ferenge' (foreigner) at us. We shout 'Abasha' (Ethiopian) back.
One thing I cannot get over are the smells of the city. It's like a physical assault on the senses, like being invaded by the army of a small country intent on annexing your nose. It's powerful, intense and intoxicating. Combined with the heat it creates a giddy sort of feeling. I'm not saying the smell is bad (although in some places it is just about the worst thing your olfactory nerve will ever experience) it's just overwhelming. Garlic and onion permeate the air, the smell of fresh sheep, donkey and chicken poo mingle with it, the scent of the local cooking allies with the diesel of the passing cars, open urinals (the gutter) and the mescal flowers, burning frankincense and strong coffee, all merge together to create the distinctive smell that is the city. Addis Ababa. City of Scent.
One our way back up through the market we encounter a Higer (one of the larger buses) that has stopped and is letting passengers off. They open the back where the engine is to check something. Out of the engine they pull a number of chickens. It is the first time I have seen a Chicken Powered Bus. I believe Ethiopia maybe ahead of it's time.
Meskal begins to get underway whilst we are back at the house. Bonfires light up around the city and everywhere there is the scent of burning herbs, smoke rises up into the night from the lights below. The rhythmic Ethiopian singing is heard across the city. The power goes out (a regular occurrence - we get a piece of chocolate if bothe the water and power go off at the same time) before we begin cooking and we have a new challenge. Cooking by Candlelight. Frank, Amanda and I manage to put together some sort of a bolognaise in the dark. We celebrate our achievements with Rob and Anna who provide a gin and tonic. Fluffy sits outside whining.
Just another day in Addis.