As I sit writing this at the table in a conservatory overlooking the lights of Addis, Frank tells us of more attacks on the US, British and German Embassies by the muslims across the African Union. It's always strange to think of attacks happening in a place that seems (while frenetic, hectic and exciting) very friendly and calm underneath it all. But today we had to avoid the streets with mosques during the call to prayer.
Today I saw a row of mud huts with corrugated tin roofs, each with it's own private satellite dish. I saw more of everything I saw yesterday. I drove down a road that Amanda calls The Dusty Road. That's not to say that every road isn't dusty, it's just that this one, past the Mexico roundabout is dustier than most. The Project is down one of the side streets off the dusty road. I say street, but it's really just a series of large holes and rocks with little bits of street in between. We go through a massive corrugates iron gate and there we are at the project. We are greeted with smiles and kisses on cheeks, the kind where you never really know when they are going to stop, but in a good way. In the office, a small room, with several chairs, bags of new school uniforms and pictures of smiling children covering the walls there is one computer, one printer and four cheerful and optimistic workers. They are the founders of the charity, Hand in Hand. Tesfahun, Getachw and Sha welcome us warmly. They are obviously very proud of the work they do and rightly so. Providing education and food for children who have AIDS or whose parents have the disease. They are also huge Arsenal fans. As we are sitting there a small girl called Samira arrives who Amanda greets with a huge smile and unceremoniously hoists her onto her knee and starts poking her playfully. Amanda's eyes are fully of light and playfulness as she sits there childishly torturing this little girl. It turns out Samira is the sponsored child of one of Amanda's friends Heidi and has brought some gifts for her specially. In the next moment Samira is decked out in gloves, woollen hat, baseball cap and clutching a small teddy bear. Even in the hot weather. She looks like she's about to go on a skiing trip and it's just beautiful.
We spend an hour or so in the office, talking and learning more about the project, 218 kids in total. More like a family than anything else really. They call each other brother and sister. An old man wanders into the office and he smiles hugely when he sees Amanda. He is the father of her sponsored child Rahel. We will come back on Sunday to visit the Sunday school and meet some of the kids.
We drive to a restaurant for lunch and have a delicious meal for about £2 each. The heavens open and hailstones rattle on the roof. When we leave a parking ticket girl comes and asks us for 3 birr for two hours parking. Roughly the equivalent of 5 pence.
Prior to visiting the Project we have been to the Hilton to exchange our money. A place where once Frank's mother was having her haircut, exited the salon and was confronted by a lion. It's the home of the expats really and if you were to stay there ($200 per night) then you wouldn't really begin to get a sense of what this city is about. I find it more interesting and exciting than any art gallery or museum. Everything is so different. Men hold hands with each other. You rarely see couples in the street. Shoe shine boys line the streets and I wonder what they do when it rains. I don't have to wait long. They disappear down rabbit holes and reappear the moment the sun returns. There are blow-up mannikins.
Manda and I wander down a street and discover how to cross a road in a world without traffic lights. Apparently what you do is you just start walking and hope that people will stop if they see you in time. It's no wonder that in such a place as this where a million minor miracles (like not getting run down by a car every time you step out into the street) happen every day that people believe in God. The Orthodox Ethiopian Church is the big one, with Muslim in 2nd place. I suspect agnosticism wouldn't go down too well so I'm keeping quiet.
After visiting the project we come home for a nap. Herds of sheep line the mud road at the bottom of our street. The Toyota Hilux climbs the steep, heavily cobbled street that leads to our house and I am reminded of a roller coaster climbing clunkily to the top of the first big dip. Our gate is opened by the Sabanya (guard) who is on site 24 hours a day, in a small hut to the left of the gate. He also does some gardening and other odd jobs.
When we wake up, we are introduced to Rob and Ann, married volunteers at a school just outside Addis. They are a bit older and met here in the early to late 70's. They've returned to volunteer for a year. Apparently they hated each other when they first met. We all go out for dinner, into the Ethiopian night. It's home time for most, and the streets are filled with people wandering backwards and forwards, herding sheep, cattle, carrying enormous packages on their heads. I've not seen anyone run yet. Strange given the great tradition for long distance running Ethiopia has. But no, everyone walks at a leisurely pace. Even in the rain.
We have another delicious meal for another ridiculous price, with beer (St George) and learn a little more about what Addis was like in the 70's from our new friends.
The Prime Minister of Ethiopia has just died and there are pictures of him everywhere.
Rob says that "everything slowed down a bit when I hit Bob Marley", it takes me a a moment to realise that he is talking about the Bob Marley roundabout in central Addis and that he did not in fact secretly punch a jamaican reggae singer in the face during the 1970's.
Amanda has now coined a new phrase: "I just hit Bob Marley at rush hour", meaning "I've seriously got the shits".