He Has Provided
Feb. 2nd 2003
We had quite a late start today, although it was still horribly early considering how much sleep everyone managed to get.

Our early morning session was an ice breakers and a 'what you can and can't do' description. Apparently you can't take photos of government buildings - it's against the law. With the African conference in town we are all leaving our cameras back at the Red Cross Centre.

I had my first taste of enjera and doro wat today. Enjera are round, flat breads that might look a little like pancakes but taste quite different. It has been said that they taste like carpet. My vote was on underlay but they didn't quite match up to what I had been expecting and hoping. They have grey look and have a spongy texture with quite a strong, almost vinegar flavour. They will grow on me, they have to grow on me. As 'novice' enjera eaters, we are allowed to use our left hand. Normally, only the right hand is used for eating. Wat is the sauce picked up using the enjera. I had been warned that doro was hot, and it was but not in an Indian or Chinese sense. It seemed to be a heat from lots of salt. Liquid is definitely required.

After our small but filling lunch, some of us were taken by car to buy supplies; the supplies that British Airways had misplaced. This was our first trip into Addis, and really our first trip around African people. The land rover bounced along the rough roads just outside the centre and onto the smoother roads that led into town.

Just outside the centre, we came across our first group of 'real' Ethiopians. They were dressed very well, apparently coming back from worship. As the land rover bumped along the rough road a short distance from the centre we met some of the stereotypes. Here were people who made beds by the side of the road. At the end of the road, the car stopped so that we could buy some shirts. Not only do British Airways get us here, they also actively encourage us to go shopping by misplacing our stuff. It was here that we experienced the intense interest that some Ethiopians have for Ferenji (foreigners - this has come from the word French). Each of us were approached, some of the people wanted to say hello, others wanted money. One woman was particularly taking interest in getting money out of me. One of the experienced VSOs said 'God Provides' to her in Amharic. This is a useful phrase when approached by beggars because although you are not giving them any money, you are not 'looking down' on them. Often you are greeted with a smile. However, this woman just said back, 'He has', and pointed to me. Fortunately the VSO was able to tell her a bit more forcefully.

The ride into Addis Ababa itself was much smoother in terms of the road, but the traffic is chaotic. I'm not sure that it is as dangerous as, for example, Paris but there doesn't seem to be much in the way of rules. There are few traffic lights in Addis, and probably the same number of drivers that pay any attention to them when the police are not present. Pedestrians walk in the road, close to its edge. Large trucks crawl along spewing out clouds of soot. The line taxis and contract taxis weave in out of the traffic looking for fares. And, on top of this, goats and donkeys seem to know where they're going without any need of human or map. In fact, the animals stick to the same area. The goats in particular know where home is and do not stray too far. They do not look like the skeletal animals you would see on the news at ten. They don't look fat but they certainly appear to be well fed.

On the drive in, the Ethiopian interest was once again evident with the full line taxis staring intently into the Land Rover. It's not rude to stare in this culture so I made sure that I gave a good stare back. My staring muscles were aching at night though, 1000 to 1 is hardly a fair staring competition.

In town we stopped to buy some supplies, and in one shop we were quite surprised to find Tesco brand goods. People were once again coming up to the Land Rover. It wasn't a sea of people, more a trickle of one or two every minute or so. We were learning the 'no' phrases pretty quickly. It's not true or fair to say it of all the Ethiopians but some on the street do look at Ferenji as walking wallets. The number of people on the street has increased in Addis because of the recent droughts. The rain has been unreliable for the last three years. This doesn't mean that they haven't had any at all. Raining at the wrong time can be just as bad as no rain. More people are coming to Addis from the regions because they are the worst hit. At the same time as there being more people in Addis, the government has relocated some of these people outside of the capital while the conference is on. So, we have yet to see the full effect, as it were.