leaving Lalibela
My room in Hotel Taitu
Rachel leaving the Hotel Taitu
Skyscraped construction in Addis: old meets new
a really old cannnon
upstairs lobby, Hotel Taitu
upstairs lobby, Hotel Taitu
upstairs lobby, Hotel Taitu
stairwell, Hotel Taitu
stairwell, Hotel Taitu
me with a new shirt: I have matching pants

February 2nd, 2009

It’s about 6am and I have time to trype an update. Today, I’m off to Yemenia to book a flight to Socotra. And also a flight to India. Post Office to send off my souvenirs to Lee. I haven’t decided how long to be in Socotra, but probably not more than a week. Anyway to bring you up to date, I’d have to start on:

January 31st, 2009

Woke Up around 6:30 and packed. I’m feeling better, but still a bit queasy. I have a touch of bronchitis I think. Anyway, I didn’t sleep really well. That waking up every hour syndrome I have when I have an appointment the next day. I finsished around 7:30, took my bags to the fron desk and paid my bill. The actual exchange rate for US dollars is 11 Birr, so the $15 a night is actually 165 Birr. I had tried to pay ahead a couple of times but he wouldn’t let me. Neither here nor there. Asked for a taxi. I was having breakfast with Sean, Arlene and Sandy, and Happy showed up with a taxi. So I had two cabs. I asked Happy to tell the desk clerk to cancel the second one. I needn’t have bothered as it was really the same taxi called twice. Loaded about quarter to nine and stopped along the way to pick up more passengers from another quite nice newer hotel.

Usual airport security stuff. The only difference in Ethiopia is that ther’s an army guy at the gate by the airport to check passportd and tickets. Because I have to take off my shoes for all the churches and for security, I’ve changed the way I do up my laces, so I can slip them on and off without untying and retying the laces. I hung around the airport, and bought a Bounty bar. I haven’t had any chocolate since I left, and I got an urge for chocolate, but the actual chocolate bars were expensive, like about 50 Birr, so I settled on a Bounty bar for about 27 Birr or $2.97 for a regular sized Bounty, A bit steep, but seeing the chocolate had triggered the craving and it had to be satisfied.

Rachel showed up at the airport, and I hung out with her while she checked her bags. Checkout was over, and she had a hard time finding someone to check her bags even though there was still an hour and a half to flight time. It was different here cause they kept our tickets after giving us the boarding pass for sime reason. She was a little concerned because she had been bumped from her flight at Gonder. As we were both going to stay at the Hotel Taitu, we decided we would share a taxi. We went to the restaurant and ordered coffee, but then a guy came around telling us we had to board right away. THE PLANE WAS EARLY! We gulped down our coffee and caught the flight. We sat in different seats. I got the impression Rachel didn’t want to form any bond, and it was kinda good cause we both got window seats that way. I chatted with an English couple behind me for a bit and off we went. The Japanese lady beside me didn’t speek much English, and she wasn’t quite sure if she was on the right flight, but I managed to assure her she was and that Gonder was the first stop. The plane was a Fokker turboprop, the same as the flight from Axum to Lalibela.

The plane stopped at Gonder and some people got off and some got on. A Canadian or American guy part of a group of three got on and sat beside me. His carry on was too big for the overhead compartments, and he pulled out a copy of “White Man’s Burden” and read as we flew to Bahir Dar and then Addis. We circled in a holding pattern before Addis for about ten minutes which didn’t really improve my queasiness, then landed. Rachel spent some time at the airport searching for a bank to change money but couldn’t find one and then we headed out to the taxi stand. The last time I went from the airport to Hotel Taitu it had cost me 40 Birr, Rachel 50, so the first few dispatcher type guys said 80, so we went through till we founf one for 60. Rachel asked me if I could pay the fare and she’s pay me back. No problem. We got to the hotel, booked our rooms, and paid 91Birr. She asked for a nice one, and disappeared. I got Room 218 and the porter walked past it, and he shook his head and put me in 226, which had a balcony! “Nicer!” he said. I had tipped him when I was here before, so I tipped him again cause the room was nicer. It’s funny how French windows can make a shabby room special. I didn’t have time to sit around though because I had to change my flight from February 2nd to April 2nd to accommodate my trip to Socotra and India. To extend the flight was gonna cost $130. They said they accepted Mastercard, but once again they couldn’t establish a link with the CU server. So I went to the Dashen bank on Itegue Taitu and miracle of miracles, my Mastercard worked in the ATM. Flushed with victory, I tried my Credit Union card. It worked too! I can’t even begin describe the elation I felt at being able to withdraw cash from the ATM. Today, I’ll try the Scotiabank card, and if that works, I’ll probably be as close to orgasm as I’ve been for quite a while.

I sat on the balcony for quite a while. It faced the big house in the pictures I took and I could watch people come and go. Went for supper and had Roast Lamb with chips and talked to an interesting Englishman called Guy Chamberlain, who was travelling by bus from Capetown to Cairo. He was from Malta and quite interesting to talk with.

I went to the Internet place around the corner and checked my email and had a chat on Facebook with Lisa.

February 1st, 2009

I went for a shower, but the water was cold so I went to a different block and although the shower was hot, a great poolof grey soapy sludge covered most of the floor. I took my laundry to the front desk to be done, and went for breakfast. Arlene was in the restaurant in the morning so I joined her, Sean showed up shortly after and I got there blog addressses. I’ll check them first before I put them in here, but the addresses are:

http://www.shawngmora.com/blog/ for Shawn (I’ve been spelling it Sean) but for some reason the address I have for Arlene ain’t workin’.

So, they were booking a spa thing and going shopping. Guy came over and he was going to the ethnological museum, and I decided to do nothing. I sat on the balcony and got my journal up to date. Went to have a cream cake at the bakery on Taitu, and had a great café au lait, a pizza fogera type thing, and a delicious cake all for 11 Birr! I tried the green Internet café but couldn’t get connected, but when I came out, the guy from the orange internet café was there and he was opening up for the afternoon, So I chatted with him, bought an English Language paper called Fortune for 3 Birr, and then went in to use the Internet. They charge 9 Birr an hour (91 cents) and the connection is pretty good. As I was the only customer there, the connection was great. He said I could bring in my laptop and log on if I want, so I’m gonna try to upload the journal sometime today. He also said he’d ask around for a box for me to mail my souvenirs back to Lee.

I bought two bottles of coke to send back home for Al Kevino’s diner. I hope they don’t pop open in transit. I’ll try to wire the caps down. I worked on the blog, had a nap, got up and had supper with Guy from 7 to 9. I ordered a clubhouse and chips, and it was a reasonable and very tasty facsimile of the real thing (they don’t have pigs, so no bacon). So, it’s past 7, and I’m off to get stuff done.

So I booked the flights to Yemen, Socotra and Mumbai, and it’s gonna cost $1675 which is more than I expected and almost as much as it costs to fly to India from Canada. Anyway ‘cause the flights to Socotra only go three times a week, I’m gonna have to spend some time in Sanaa (three days).

I founf out the limit on the ATM is 2,000 Birr, so I tried twice to get 2,00 Birr and got out $4,000 Birr which surprised this Ethiopian guy cause the limit is supposed to be 3,000 Birr a day. So my card stopped working at the Dashen Bank and I decided I’d better send myself some money Western Union, so I went to the internet and wired myself $999 (the limit, and I’ll pick it up tomorrow. I was gonna upload my journal, but I got into a really interesting discussion with Donny from Ireland who’s going to do his graduate studies at MIT in Boston, and Yohann and Louis from Holland.

February 3rd, 2009

Just to make things more complicated, I’m moving a day ahead in my Journal because I’m in Joe Business Center, logged on with my laptop and uploading pictures and stuff for y’all.

The machine at Dashen gave me another two $2,000 Birr withdrawals, and one of the people in line said that the machine had been out of money the day before. I went to the Ethiopian central Bank but the Western Union system was down, so I can’t get my money! I tried two other banks: same situation! Still, I went to Yemenia to pay for the first part of the flights: to Socotra and back because the flight is on the 5th early in the morning.

Farina, the princess who had helped me before when I was having trouble with my Mastercard, thankfully was the first agent available, and somehow, she saved me $600 on my flights and the total was only 11,000 odd Birr instead of 16 some grand. I sent a parcel of souvenirs off to Lee including two coke bottles for Al Kevino’s Diner in Wolesley, Saskatchewan (just east of Regina on the Trans Canada. I highly recommend the French fries. And the clubhouse. And the breakfast). It cost 870 Birr! About three times what I paid for everything that’s in it!

Anyway, I paid for the first leg, and hope Western Union is up tomorrow.

If it’s not, I can’t collect because the money is sent to the country specified and I won’t be in it. I have found though, that here, the more things don’t work out, the more they work out. The ATM at the Ras Hotel gave me $4.000 Birr at one crack, maybe because it’s a more upscale hotel.

Anyway, I went to visit Carsten and Kristina at their hotel. It was really nice and there was a monkey in the courtyard. Mr. Martin’s Cosy Place and it was! It’s right near the Atlas Junction of Ghana Street, but it took the taxi driver a while to find it as it was tucked away down a small driveway. Very Nice. And the single rooms are only 150 Birr! We had lunch, and I played cards with Carmen. Their new baby, Esmeralda is really cute. We went to the Ghion Hotel. Security was tight there because of the African Conference, but it was quite pleasant there. There is a beautiful park, and a great playground beside the swimming pool. We chatted with a gut from the Ministry of Tourism, and I had to leave to get to the bank to check Western Union, but it was closed. I took a taxi back to the hotel, had a nap, and now I’m at the Internet place typing to you. Anyway, I’m having trouble uploading files from my laptop, but I’m persevering. I’m having to upload one folder at a time. A real pain! I sure miss Broadband! The crowd is thinning here, so things might improve.

If I can’t get the money from Western Union, I’ll use the ATM at Ras Hotel. I still have about $2,000 on me, so another 4 grand will cover the Mumbai leg of my journal. Once again, I’m gonna have a whole whack of cash. I hope I can change some into Yemeni Rials or get it in dollars.

My flights are:

623 YemeniaAddisSanaa,Yemendep 5 Feb 05:25arrive 07:10
9150 YemeniaSanaaSocotradep 8 Feb 10:30arrive 13:00
9151 YemeniaSocotraSanaadep 15 Feb 13:30arrive 16:00
854 YemeniaSanaaMumbai, Indiadep 17 Feb 21:20arrive 04:00
855 YemeniaMumbaiSanaadep 1 Apr 05:15arrive 08:45
622 YemeniaSanaaAddisdep 2 Apr 05:25arrive 04:25

The times really suck, and a guy said I could have taken a ferry from Djibouti, but oh well!