That I know shit all about the world. If this is the culture of one place, so impossibly different from everywhere else I've been, then what is the rest of the world like? I guess I considered myself well travelled before coming here, but I think that was a bit naive. All of the places I'd been, while different were variations on the same western culture.
Poverty and wealth live side by side here. One house will be a mansion with gates and guards, and next door will be a tin hovel, about the size of your average UK bathroom with no windows and a family of 3 living inside. Some people here are starving. Some are most definitely not.
In places like London and other well-off Western cities, you can't see how everything works. You don't see meat coming into stores, except hidden behind massive freezing trucks, you don't see people carrying bottles from one place to another, you don't see stores that sell large pieces of metal or large pieces of wood (for building houses) on the high streets. You don't see doors for sale, or gates for sale or sheep, cattle or donkeys for sale. Simply put in London, everything is often just there… and you don't see how it gets there. In Addis you see everything, how it all fits together, the cogs are clearly visible in the machine. I realise there are many people here in Addis who work in office jobs and the results of their work are more difficult to see, but everywhere here I see people making the city work. I'm left wondering how did London get to it's current state. At some point its workings were as obvious as those here and now they are hidden away behind huge office blocks and desks, lurking somewhere in the ether of the internet.
All I can think is that I appreciate the bottle of beer I'm drinking a lot more, having seen a young man push a massive cart of empty bottles up a huge hill to the off license. I appreciate running water more when I see the massive queue of people with yellow water bottles in Arat Kilo, waiting patiently for their turn to get their fill from the water stations and then carrying them on their backs to their homes. Simply put, I just appreciate more when I see the work that goes into it. And here you can't help but see it.
It makes me sad to think that so many people are living in what I would call such abominable conditions, but it also makes me wonder, these people are living and they don't seem to be that upset about it. There are lots of smiles on peoples faces. Happiness seems very much to be a relative thing. Never more obvious than now. If a child can be happy rolling a rubber tyre down a street and chasing it, then the new game coming out on the xbox (rolling a virtual tyre down a virtual street) seems a bit ridiculous. When did parts of western society become like this? How can the joy of simple things be remembered?
Please don't think I'm preaching about the giving, simple, selfless people of Ethiopia, I'm not. If they had the money for an xbox, that's probably what they'd spend it on too. As seems to be evidenced by the huge satellite dishes that cast a shadow over the tiny hovel that it supplies 300 tv channels to.
It just makes me wonder about a lot of things...