Just landed in Nairobi.
That week in Addis Ababa was pretty intense but quite fulfilling. Some quick impressions to report and a few misconceptions to crush:
1) If you thought Ethiopia was a dry desertic place (hence the infamous droughts and famines ) you are very wrong at least in the Addis Ababa region. It was raining cats and dogs every other day and it is not the rainy season yet. Since they are repaving roads for the Millenium celebration, the streets can be a struggle to navigate through. The waether was reminiscent of summertime in London: lots of rain but quite warm once the sun is through.
2) Speaking of London, the craze for English football is off chart. 1/2 of the cab here have a little banner showing their loyalty to either Chelsea, Arsenal or Man U. Given that English is not an official language and that they were never under Britich control, it is quite remarkable. No such craze in RSA or Kenya so far. A Arsenal-Bolton game was televised on a immense screen on Merkel Square ( Site of the Bob Marley tribute), it was of course raining and there were 60 people watching, soaking wet, cheering for either the Gunners or the Wanderers. Quite fascinating and inexplicable to me. Can you imagine one taxicab in Bangladesh with a Paris Saint Germain flag on it ? Now picture that for 1/2 of them...
3) Another culture shock: No hang-ups about holding hands here to show friendship. Girl and girl, boy and girl and boy and boy. Nope, not what you think,..not that there is anything wrong with that but the friendly atmosphere is very common all around.
4) Although poverty is what you think it is ( and it is still quite gut-wrenching even when you are prepared for it as I went to some HIV testing facilities), you never feel a hint of aggressiveness or mean spirit. Ethiopians do not think that being poor gives you the right to be obnoxious or mean. It is refreshing and some people in richer areas could learned from it. To tell you the level of safety I felt, I was out on the street marching with Ethiopians to protest domestic violence on saturday. I hope to have the film uploaded by tomorrow.
5) Mosi may think I went to the March to eyeball the ladies and he is partially right. The ladies are deserving of the hype and more and that's all I am going to say about that.
6) The minister of health is quite the cool cat. At the introduction, he said:" you look familiar, weren't you wearing a funny hat on some brochure ?" I was wondering who this guy was when someone nudged my elbow and whispered" By the way, that's the minister". I felt like I was with an old friend from school rather than a Gvt official. The fact that he is quite young and I was little tipsy probably reinforced that feeling. I just hope I did not throw up on his shoes.
7) I did achieve a bit of work after all. Things went smoothly because Ethiopians were themselves trying to come up with a solution similar to what we proposed. Kind of nice to start off on a positive ground.
Enough talk, more pics so here are some from the march to protest "violence against women" on Meskel Square:
Kids also protest but with a smile.
There is a dude there who looks a bit out of place although the similarity between Ethiopians and Malagasies are uncanny on many levels.... The lady on my right is Fatima from Marocco and coined the phrase:" violence against women is unacceptable, against men, it really depends...." she was kidding, she always is...I hope :).
video of protest after the jump