Richard's Travel Journal, January 20th, 2009

I thought I’d spend the day sleeping in, which I did. I heard the trekkers and all leave at the crack of dawn, and slept as long as I could then got up and, miracle of miracles! Not only was there water, but it was hot! I went to have breakfast at the Fogera Hotel next door. The waiter, I forget his name, said he would arrange to have a taxi for me to catch my flight on the 22nd. I had a good bowl of porridge and a cup of coffee. I am getting used to getting along without milk in either. As well as not in my tea either (neither). Neither not in my tea? Not in my tea neither. Either. The Amharic for milk is “watet” and I’m not sure, but I think there’s an Egyptian hieroglyph “watet”, but it might be the little chicken. Baby chick.

There were three other people in the Fogera garden for breakfast. Sean and his girlfriend from Toronto and Kim from Regina, had a brief chat with them, but they were on their way out and about.

So, anyway, I thought about writing a shopping list, but didn’t and headed into town to buy a razor, postcards and stamps. A young guide stopped and spoke with me. Most conversations in Ethiopia start this way:

Ethiopian guy: “Hello”

Me: “Hello”

EG: “How are you doing?”

Me: Good. How are you?”

EG: “I am fine. Where are you from?”

Me: “Canada”

EG: “Canada is a very beautiful country.”

Me: “Yes.”

EG:”How do you find Ethiopian culture?”

By this time you’ve already walked a block together. Walking and talking like this is really common. Kids talk to me everywhere. And tons of the little ones want to shake hands. Almost all of them know how to say “Hello” and they call it out as you pass. I keep walking because if I stop to talk, the group of kids starts to rise above three. Anyway, by the time I finished with the guide, Bewketu Kassa, I had pretty well decided I’d take up his offer to join two other tourists from my hotel on a trip into the Simien Mountains to go see some baboons. It was only 400 Birr, a mere nothing for a rich Ferenji like me. So the rest of the way I walked with a guy who was trying to set up the Genetics Guest House. It’s already set up though. Menasha I think was his name. He was on his way to pay the electric bill for the Guest House. I stopped in the Internet place, and logged on for about an hour or so, trying to send emails to people whose emails came back undeliverable, and to check my bank accounts. Freaked when I saw a Scotiabank phishing scam, and sent an email to Lee to check with the bank, then sent another saying I thought everything was OK.

OK, so when I logged on, the time on the computer was 6:59 which kinda freaked me out. I was sure I had slept in. So I asked the girl in charge of the computers what time it was and she said 7 o’clock. I was freaked out cause I was sure it was around 10 or 11. I didn’t have my watch, so I had to take here word for it. All the rest of the day, I couldn’t jive the time with the day. If it was 7, then I musta got up at 5, but I had got up for 5 the day before and it was really dark until 7. Everyone I asked kinda agreeed with each other as to the time, but it didn’t seem right to me so I was really disoriented by the time thing. It was getting late and the sun was high in the sky. I couldn’y figure out if it was 7 AM or PM. Either way the sun didbn’t match!

I checked out a music shop to see if they had a CD by this Ethiopian guy, Yehura Belay. I heard it on the Ethiopian MTV and it was the same song that had been blasting in the minibus from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar, and it was real catchy. When I say shop, it’s really a stall. The music was blaring from a big speaker and lotsa people were dancing to the music outside, and they wanted me to join in, but I didn’t and the guy inside didn’t have a CD from Yehura. So I went and had a mango juice and coffee at this café that’s beside the Ethiopian Airlines office. I ordered what I thought was a macaroon, but it was shortbread, not one of my favourites. I was talking to one of the waiters there, and asked if he knew where I could get a CD from Yehura Belay (I had the name written in English and Amharic on a slip of paper, and he sent one of his buddies to go get one. He came back with a burnt CD and asked for 20 Birr, so I gave him 30. Found out later from someone else I shoulda pai only 15, but I told him I paid Ferenji price. They played it on the boom box in the café, and it sounded like the right song, but I’m not sure it was. I’m llistening to it right now on my Ipod. While I was there, I decided to get my film from the day before. They guy said it would be ready in 30 minutes. Unfortunately, you can only get digital pics burned to CD, so I settled for prints. While I was waiting a kid came and started talking to me, and the Timkat stuff started up again. Groups of guys run through the streets carrying their Durgas (walking sticks) chanting. One guy leads and the rest kinda answer whatever he’s singing. From now on I’ll just call them “men with sticks.” So after my film was ready I walked around asking if anyone had a convertor plug for my hard drive, but no one did. No one had a splitter either. I tried to find some flea powder cause the Lonely Planet book says there’s fleas in the Lalibella churches. I got offered ant and roach spray for house and garden (from France) but passed on it, but in retrospect, maybe I shoulda got some. Seems like it might be had to get on an airplane though. I walked up to the Fasilidie’s Palace to see if the store that had mango juice for 16 Birr, and walked to the small park in front of the Castle Ticket office. Talked to some more kids along the way. There’s a huge tree in the middle of the park that actually is as big as the park. Took a picture. A German expedition consisting of an extreme military style truck with solar panels followed by a couple Land Rover convoy style pulled up beside the castle, and parked there. Took a picture. The Germans all got out dressed in military style garb and walked about until the police woman that works that corner told them to move on. The large 4x4 had a website name on it 4WD for fun 4wd equipment dot com or something like that. I went and had coffee at the little café I had stopped at the first time I visited the Fasilides Palace (Castle, same thing) and sat with four Ethiopian army/police guys. Closest I’ve ever been to a loaded Kalashnikov. One guy held it up for me to look at. After they left I decided to head to the Post Office and get some stamps and see if I could track down the kid who had been bugging me to buy his post cards.

I stopped to take some video of a couple of horses outside the St. Giorgis Church, and a buncha chanting men with sticks came down the street and charged into the church and spooked the horses. Seems animals aren’t tethered in Ethiopia, and the horses started to run down the street, so I grabbed the reins of one, and pulled the horse (more of a pony) to the side of the road and out of the way, and one of the riders grabbed the other and. Stupid me. The camera was running and while I grabbed the horse, all I have is video of the sky and the ground, and a brief flash of the horse legs. Not too dramatic video. Missed my chance to get a great Real Videos shot. The other rider came out and when he heard I caught his horse, he hugged my and said “I love you!” “I love you too!” I said and we hugged again. Here they hug like bump opposite shoulders together and kiss the air on the opposite cheek. Pretty exciting, though!

Stopped by the Post Office to get stamps, but no sign of the Postcard Kid. There was a line up for the pay phone, and I had no idea what kinda change to put in, so I put off phoning Yemenia. Went back to the Internet place to check my Mastercard cause it didn’t work the first time, and found out ALL the money Yemenia had taken out of the accoount and had a full card again. Bummer. That means I probably don’t have a flight to Yemen. But as I made my way back to the hotel, I realized it might work out and maybe I could spend more time at Axum if I didn’t have a plane to catch. I’ll try Yemenia again after I get back from taking pictures of baboons, and if there’s no flight booked, I’ll extend my stay in Axum and book my flight to Yemen through Ethiopia Airlines. That way if I have change my flight because I’m going to India, I only have to do it in one place. So, once again things not working out is working out better. And maybe I can find the Postcard Kid.

As I came out of the last place I tried to get a convertor, is when it dawned on me I could plug the DVD drive in and just run the laptop on batteries. That way I could get my Yehuna CD into iTunes. Totally cool. I’m stll listening to it, but I don’t think it has the song I was hoping for, but the tunes are similar. I found out at supper he lives in the States. The kid who was talking to me outside the Film Developing place told me there’s a singer he likes better who’s in jail here. Teddy Afro. I’ll keep my eyes (and ears) open. Gathered my laundry from the clothes line in the garden of the hotel, but my socks (6 pairs) were not there. I think the guy said they weren’t dry.

Copied my Yehuna CD to iTunes, and changed the settings so it wouldn’t sync up the iPod. The power went out for a bit right in the middle of the copying, but came back and I got the CD into my Library, but the tracks were numbered 1 to 10. Just what I need, more nameless tracks on my iPod. When I plugged the iPod in, for some reason it started copying 147 songs to my iPod, mostly Creedence Clearwater stuff I thought I already had.

Went to the Fogera Hotel next door, and joined Kim from Regina in the bar, and I asked her what time she had spoken to me, and she said ten. I mentioned they said it was 7 in the Internet and how disoriented I was all day. She explained that locally, they start the clock at sunrise (6) at 12, so by noon its 6 to everyone here in Gonder. The power went out a couple of times and they lit candles in the bar and I ordered spaghetti and meat sauce three times, Around 7:45 the power came back and a German guy switched the TV to BBC News and we all watched the Obama inauguration live on TV. The spaghetti was awesome. 21 Birr!

Well, the CD finished and its not the one I want. Similar but not the same… fell asleep listening to Yes’ Fragile album. Very nice.