Never a boring journey(Back)

Addis Ababa would be a great place to play I spy while driving. The sites and sounds are endless. Some are pleasant, or amusing, some not so. Some of the more amusing ones I've seen over the last two days include:

-a steam roller driving along the main road, holdinq up all the traffic behind it,
-a guy carrying a stack of foam mattresses on his head about 10 feet tall,
-a Volkswagen van loaded so full of bananas there was only space for the driver, with its left rear wheel about 30 degrees from vertical.

I can't have imagined it got much further along the roads here. Sunday morning we went to a church called the IEC or International Evangelical Church. I had hoped to go to a different church called Beza with Brian, however, he was too tired, having gotten no sleep the previous night because their house is a bit too close to an Orthodox church that played loud music literally all night. Another disadvantage to moving in with them if I finally decide to. So I went with the qirls to the IEC. It was a great service, very similar to home, though I'm told Beza is different.

Steph Moffett, from Banbridge, drove there, who has also really gotten into the African way of driving, while driving on the ring road, a kid ran across the road in front of us, leapt up to the central reservation, (about 3 foot high) but didn't quite have the momentum to stay balanced on it, and had to jump back down into our lane as we sped toward him. If he'd stumbled back much more it wouldn't have been pretty. I gasped, but realised I was the only one in the car to do so. Just something else to get used to I expect. Driving here carries an extra risk in that if you are involved in an accident in which someone is killed, the law states that you must serve 15 years in prison whether it was your fault or not.

Today I went to the British Embassy to register, and then begin the process of applying for a driving licence. This involves getting a photocopy of the licence, and giving it to the embassy to stamp, which costs 600 birr. (£1 = 20 birr, work it out yourself!) Then to the department of foreign affairs for some more stamping. The line was massive here, and I joined it not knowing if it was the right line. I've been told a lot about people waiting in line for ages only to be told at the end that they were in the wrong line and to join another, so I feared the worst when I finally got to the end but thankfully the lady took my photocopy, wrote some stuff on it, gave me a number and told me to take a seat. After another 45 mins or so I had paid another 300 birr, and got some more stamps on my photocopy. Then it was off the the Transport department to actually obtain the licence. My driver, Aklilu, got out when we got there and came with me this time, and handled the whole process. I was extremely grateful for this and simply followed him around the various desks, handing him any money that was required, and producing my licence and passport when he said to. A couple of hours later, I now have a driving licence. we headed back to Bingham through the busy city. Aklilu pointed out some Isuzu pickup trucks, similar to the one that Brian and Aaron used to move house. Apparently the locals call them Al Qaeda due to the fact that the stereotypical drivers of them drive even madder than most. Addis Ababa is absolutely huge. It will take a long time to get to know where I'm going; there are virtually no street signs, and most of the teachers do navigating by using large buildings as landmarks. Right of way means nothing here, and taxis are quite likely to swerve into your path in a junction from a side road, regardless of how fast you are going. I think all the Bingham cars have good breaks fortunately. There are a lot of fumes in the city, and though it is very hot at times, it is best to leave your windows up as if you aren't quick enough, a passing truck or bus can quickly fill the car with choking diesel fumes.

Tomorrow I hope to go to SIM headquarters to sit their driving test, required before I can drive any of their vehicles. I may be able to get a mobile phone sim card then, but I'm not sure, nobody really knows where to get one.

I was thrilled to find out that there is a set of electric drums here! They seem great, the same make as mine, but they are missing the power adaptor. One of the other teachers has offered to take me out into the merkato (or market) tomorrow which is one of the poorer parts of town. Apparently, you can buy anything from a camera to a Kalashnikov. Hopefully they'll sell an adaptor suitable for the drums.

Hoping to start learning some Amharic soon. Though I don't expect too much progress quickly, it is a very tough language. "No" means "It is" and "aye" means f,No". Great!!!
Some photos of the IT lab where I'll be teaching are here. The lab is great, about 25 brand new Dell computers that are pretty top spec, its all very impressive, until you try to log on to the internet. Apparently, broadband is available, just not in our part of town yet. Even at that its very expensive, at about £100 a month.


Posted at 8 October, 2007, 12:00pm

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