A detour within a detour: Addis Ababa edition

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What’s life without a little drama? After a very long delay in Bangkok with a broken plane engine (take all the time you need with that one), I arrived in Addis Ababa 30 minutes after my other flight left for Cape Town. *sigh* This has never actually happened to me before. So I stood in an unmoving line for a lifetime, remembered how to use my elbows, witnessed some very undignified adult male tantrums, sat in a shuttle van in the parking lot for another lifetime, then arrived at my (comped) hotel only to wait for my room key to be fixed and for someone to know how to connect to the wifi.

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The view from my hotel room. I enjoy the bus.

But yay! I was sad when I booked my flights and saw that I would not have time to get out of the airport and explore, so surprise trip! The guys in my hotel are awesome and they connected me with a taxi driver/tour guide who would drive me around and show me the highlights. He’s a pretty cute young guy, if I may say so 🙂

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My new friend and his Lada taxicab. I have no idea how he keeps it running.

I tried to explain to these guys that what I would really like to do is to go to some central part of the town (my hotel is near the airport) to just be able to wander around for a bit, maybe have a bite and some coffee, and actually feel like I spent some time in the city, but I don’t think this translated very well. I decided to just roll with it – there’s something to be said for learning about what people think you want to see, after all.

My young friend kept taking me to these wonderful Orthodox Ethiopian churches – which I had had no idea was a thing – and while they were beautiful, enough is enough with the church thing. Outside of one he stopped next to a vendor and asked if I would like to have a Aksum cross. I awkwardly mumbled a ‘no thank you’ and we started to walk on, but after a few steps he turned back and bought me one! I was so blown away. That’s when I realized that his showing me the churches isn’t about the buildings (I think), but rather about trying to share with me how much they mean in his life. He must have thought I was a proper heathen because everyone else seemed to make quite elaborate gestures of respect and genuflection upon entering not only the church but also the church grounds, but I did behave myself.

We also visited the bones of Lucy in the drab little national museum and I was again struck by how much he wanted me to learn about his culture and history. To me the museum was dull – I would much rather sit in a bus station all day and watch the people go by – but I might be a weird tourist like this.

My favourite part of our interaction this afternoon, was how often my host asked to take photos. At first I thought he was asking me to take photos, when I wasn’t taking the requisite tourist shots, but then I realized that he himself wanted to be taking the pictures! He has a wonderful eye and we spent a bit of time talking about how the camera works.

He also caught this video, which I love. The little fella at the end was so curious about the camera and I was hoping to let him play with it for a bit, but my new friend thought I was looking for someone to take a photo, rather than looking to let that specific kid have a go.

Then, at the end of the afternoon, my host asked if he could take me out for dinner and a beer! Yay! We went to the cultural center, which reminded me very much of the restaurant where we had the conference gala dinner in Chiang Mai – lots of ‘traditional’ artifacts and ‘traditional’ dancing and LOTS of tourists, and it was a wonderfully fun evening. The dancing completely blew me away. This is me embracing the liminal ‘third space’ of tourism, lol. And shiro mmmm. I embraced lots and lots of shiro!!

13 thoughts on “A detour within a detour: Addis Ababa edition

  1. These are the kinds of experiences that are rare & special. Despite the unexpected diversion, you found yourself in a completely different experience than the once you planned! Loved the video😄

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  2. I’m with you – take all the time you need to fix the plane, please. I can wait.
    As inconvenient as the delay may have initially felt, how wonderful that you got this unexpected adventure out of it. So often Megs, I think of how much braver you are than I am. I’m not sure I would have the confidence to go out on my own to explore a strange city – even with a cute, young tour guide.

    I was curious about the expression you used “liminal ‘third space’ of tourism” so of course I had to look it up. This is a concept I wouldn’t have considered but it certainly makes me look at some of the elements of travel from a different perspective.

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  3. You are very brave, Meghan! I am glad you had a good time there and thanks for sharing. Do you worry about your safety or that’s something only for old lady to do? 😉
    I laughed at what you said about church and museum. I felt, more or less, the same way, but I hate to admit, not even to myself. Ha.
    Have a great day!

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    • Thanks Helen! I don’t think that I’m particularly brave, and I am VERY aware of safety. I would never wander around with anything I am not prepared to hand over, never take shortcuts (i.e always stick to the main road), and I move fast haha. I also chose to hire someone through the guys at the hotel, rather than flagging down a car on the street. Nowhere is ever going to be 100% safe, but I refuse to allow concerns about things beyond my control to keep me hiding in my hotel room, I just try to be as preventative as possible. Not an old lady thing to worry about at all 🙂

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  4. These experiences are there to be enjoyed and remembered later in life. I think when you are young (and) single you probably do take more risks. It’s only as we get older and have responsibilities that we consider our actions a little more cautiously. Well that’s the general consensus…
    and I must admit I don’t have the first clue as to what “liminal ‘third space’ of tourism” means!

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    • Thanks Jude – I do have to say though, that I’m not THAT young anymore (I’m 37!), and I do have my share of responsibilities. I also can’t think of any place I have ever been anywhere in the world where it would be considered reckless behaviour to hire a taxi in your hotel (not even a hostel!) lobby.

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      • I was thinking more of the going out to dinner with the taxi driver… now that could have been a bit reckless! And, Meghan, 37 is young. Believe me!

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      • Hahaha, I’ll take your word for it 🙂 And I do take your point about going out with him in the evening, but I had spent nearly four hours with him already, and everyone at the hotel knew where I was going and who with. Maybe a bit of a risk, but one that was considered 🙂

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  5. What a great adventure and talk about taking full advantage of the time available to you. Addis or rather Ethiopia has always intrigued me…my husband did a couple of contracts there wth the African Union offices and foolishly I never went with him. You shared your story of your unexpected gift of a day so wonderfully- thanks!

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