Saturday, 1 November 2008

Bole Road Pt 1

Greetings from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and a town so brilliantly African it could be 1950s Surrey.Staying alas at the Hilton, a monstrosity of job creation and paperwork with metal detectors and body searches on the main door (accessible only through a car checkpoint) while the back door opens directly onto the street... The bed has a wooden mattress, the internet connection is the slowest available, and at the bargain rate of $27 a day. A diet coke in the restaurant is $6. I'm complaining and i've just come from Norway.
Bole Road is the main stretch from the centre down to the airport. Its about 5 or 6 km which takes at least 30 minutes to drive down, mainly because of the constant stream of people who just cross the road as and when they feel like it. The road is a human river, flowing in all directions, ready to burst its banks, and you cant help wondering "Where are they all going?".There are little blue minibuses which stop on every corner and fit in about 12 lucky punters all paying around 10p to cross the town. They are driven by men who range from blind and alcoholic to Schumacher. The rules of the road seem simple - if the car in front stops, change lane. If the car in front stops because he has hit someone crossing, change lanes while beeping madly. If the car in front has not yet stopped, but you suspect it might because there is a donkey on fire ahead, then change lanes, and beep at the donkey. Oh, and there are donkeys. Seems like someone loads them up and throws them out, they just wander down the road looking for somewhere to deliver.There are stray goats, there are even herds of goat who seem to survive on grass verges. There are a few mangy dogs. There are a lot of bathroom shops. I gave up counting at 30 on the way home this evening (i had to share the car with a Frenchman called Gill who was getting a little too animated about interface integration...)
Personally watching the drivers here is much more exciting than Formula1 could ever be - and no one ever seems to crash.
But the big mystery is where the people are all going.Like anywhere in Africa, the people always seem to be either moving or laying down dead. I dont think there is much in the way of welfare here, so how do they all live? Do they really get paid for walking around? And its not like there is a job shortage...You arrive at the airport and head for the little booth that says 'Visa on Arrival'. The first man greets you, confirms you have a passport, and hands it to his colleague. She carefully copies all the details onto a receipt pad, and passes this all to another colleague. She meticulously transcribes this (do you like the way i avoided repetition there?) onto a sticker which she then sticks in your passport. I now have a brown sticker in my passport which contains the following information: My name and my passport number. Invaluable. Finally all of this gets passed to the guy at the end who takes my $20.I arrived at the hotel having been awake for 30 hours and feeling giddy, and was greeted at reception by a registration form asking me for 3 pages of information. Fortunately the man at the desk said if i gave him a business card he would take the essential from there. In fact, he asked for 2, and stapled them both to the same form...

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