I think this is the first day on this trip I did not set my alarm clock. It’s not actually very necessary when the mosque does call to prayers at 5 am. This time after it woke me up I was able to get back to sleep for a couple more hours, then wake up slowly and potter around.
I have the apartment to myself. Dr D got up about 5 am to get a flight to Mekele. That meant that when I woke up I could use his en-suite toilet, the one that flushes, instead of mine, which relies on a bucket of water from the shower. If I had been so inclined, I could even have shaved using his hot water tap!
Dr D’s doing a tour around Mekele, Axum and Gondar. I should be meeting him on Friday afternoon to tour the fistula hospital before we each catch different late Friday night flights back to Canada.
Dr A is at the hospital, helping the Norwegian do a workshop on fibreoptic intubation and the use of the glidescope. I don’t expect to see her before I leave for the airport for my flight to Djibouti in a few hours. She flies back to TO on Monday night.
After all the rush of work, lectures and social activity it is nice to have a while to sit and think, and not much to do for a few hours. It is going to be strange to go to a new country all by myself. Maybe the last time I did that was when I went to New Zealand in 1982!
I hope I enjoy Djibouti, and that I am not getting too old to enjoy travelling to new third-world places. I have not really taken to Addis, but it’s a large smoggy city with a lot of drab soviet-style architecture left over from the Derg regime. For a while I had a cold and was under the weather, and then I was pick-pocketed. The apartment is quite spacious, but it is in a rather boring middle class area with a lot of embassies. There are a few decent restaurants in the area but we are bored with all of them by now. Parts of the downtown area are interesting but the begging mothers with babies on their backs are getting to me, and I am too suspicious of everyone who wants to start a conversation with me.
I don’t see anything in the shops I want to buy. Everything Ethiopian seems to be rather odd, not something that would fit in back in Toronto. The art at last night’s restaurant was very interesting and vibrant, but a lot of it included religious symbolism that I did not understand. The most fascinating was a series of street scenes where the artist had stuck artificially contrasty bits of colour photographs onto the canvas and then painted around them and over parts of them.
I guess downtown Addis does not have much of the sort of things I am interested in. Dr D is interested in Ethiopian music and passionate about coffee. Dr A. is into girly shopping for ear-rings and other fashion items. Both of them have bonded with the residents over their shopping expeditions in a way I have not been able to. My interest is more in the landscape and mountains, so I enjoyed walking in Entoto, hiking in the Simiens, and the Mountainview Hotel in Lalbibela.
I should stress again how nice most of the people are here. I went into a pharmacy to buy some nail scissors, just about the only thing I forgot to pack. (All air travellers should carry nail scissors in their hand luggage; it gives security something to do, and it makes them feel like they are winning the war on terror when they confiscate them!) I thought they were asking 50 birr, but they refused my 100 birr note and my 50 birr note, then wanted two of my tens. I was a bit confused but started to walk out of the shop with my purchase when they called me back to give me 5 birr change. The price was 15, not 50, a confusion which is so common here many taxi drivers will say “five zero” to avoid confusion. I hate so say it, but if things were the other way around I am not sure I would be so honest!