Machine Guns and Pizzas
Feb. 6th 2003
We were moved by Land Rover and line taxi to the Yonnas Hotel, our accommodation until we go to our placements. The journey was quite interesting, the line taxis are not built as off-road vehicles. However, they feel as if they are being used as such. Seat belts are not an option. By that, I don't mean that you must wear them, they just don't appear to be an option on that particular kind of vehicle.

Driving through Addis we were able to get a good look at what was happening that morning. We passed lots of building work. There are a surprising number of women working on building sites, quite different to the UK. In some ways this could be considered better equality. One particular hotel or high-rise was being built towards the centre of town. Its pale red walls were surrounded by wooden scaffolding. The scaffolding extended almost all the way to the top of a very tall building.

Along many of the routes, the pavements appeared to be crowded, full of men (mostly) who appeared to be chatting and, of course, staring intently at our line taxi when they realised that it contained ferenji. Apart from that, very few seemed to be going anywhere.

Once we had arrived at the hotel, we unloaded and then walked to the VSO centre. Whilst walking we passed two young girls. I could hear their voices as the head of the group passed them. As I approached at the back, I was able to pick out what they were saying 'sebat ... simint ... zeten.' They were practicing counting, and we were the exercise today.

Whilst walking I found that there was something wrong with my shoes. They seemed to have increased in size with an inch or so extra on the sole. This felt odd, and I knew that they couldn't really have got deeper. I even felt less steady on them and it took me quite some time to work out why they felt larger. The average Ethiopian man is shorter than the average UK man. I was taller here than I would be in the UK.

Because we are now in a hotel, we have to go to local cafes and bars to get our meals. I headed back to the hotel for lunch to pick up my sun glasses. While watching out of a small window on the stairs I was passed by two soldiers who had been seen earlier by a couple of volunteers. They had been on the roof of the hotel with what looked like a machine gun. They were now carrying this gun down the stairs, glanced at me only briefly and continued on their way. They are still clearing the security measures put in place for the conference.

On the subject of stairs, the altitude of Addis means that you really feel it when you climb them. I'm on the fourth floor and you can feel the blood pounding in your head as your heart struggles to deliver the oxygen. I hope to start running again once I am in my placement. That should give me a bit of an advantage when it comes to sport back in the UK.

For our dinner we cheated. We headed out to an Italian restaurant close to the hotel. Although expensive, the food was very good. You have to take care in Addis to avoid the many open man holes. None of them seem to have a cover on. On the way to the restaurant, we passed a mother with her son and older daughter about to cross the road. The daughter was holding her hand out just to let it touch us as we passed. This is supposed to be very common among the children. They want to touch a ferenji to see what happens it appears.

The pollution in Addis did not stop us from seeing the stars and the moon clearly. The moon here is different though. Yes, it is still a white disc that floats about, but the waxing and waning happen in a different place. In the UK, the chunk 'cut out' of the moon by the Earth's shadow is on the left or the right. Here, closer to the equator, the shadow appears on the top or the bottom.