Saturday, August 22, 2015

Around Addis

I woke up early--as I am oft to do, and went wandering the quiet streets of a waking-Addis.  I meandered down Churchill Avenue, a main thoroughfare in Addis and grabbed a bambolino (an Ethio-Italian donut) and macchiato as I passed construction sites and funeral homes.

I stopped in to see the monument built by the Derg--the Communist military rulers of Ethiopia from 1974-1991.  The monument was a giant communist red star with hammer and sickle over North Korean-designed socialist-realism series of statues of Ethiopians with weapons.  Some other Deg propaganda about overthrowing Emperor Haile Selassie and the people supporting the army as Mengistu guided them towards the socialist revolution or some other bollocks.  As befitting good Commie-era, the security guard wanted a bribe for taking pics, which I didn't pay and furtively snuck one anyway.

I wandered down to a hot spring bath, but was sans suit so I caught a cab back up to Piazza.  Btw, cabbies in Ethiopia are some of the biggest cabbie thiefs I have ever encountered on this planet--and that is saying something.  They generally ask for about twice to three-times the price of the fare.  I just laugh in their faces and offer a more modest fare, which eventually they agree to after feigned indignation.

I visited the St. George Cathedral and museum, which I mentioned the entry prior.  The museum was interesting, with different Ethiopian orthodox crosses, bibles and robes of coronation of the imperial Selassie line.  I visited the church, watching worshipers wrapped in white cloth prostrate and kiss the walls or make signs of the cross.

After St. George, I walked back down Churchill Avenue, stopping at a juice bar for a layered concoction of mango, pineapple, avocado and other juices, before reaching the Lion of Judah statue.  This particular statue has some interesting history--it was constructed for Selassie's coronation but stolen by the Italians after their conquest and placed in Vitorrio Emmanuel.  Around 1936 or so, an Eritrean in Italy saw it during a procession, and bowed and prayed in front of it as police heckled him.  When he finished his prayers, he grabbed a sword and started stabbing the police, screaming "The Lion of Judah is avenged!"

From here, I walked across Meskal Square and on to Red Terror Martyrs Museum, which honors the victims of the Derg regime.  The museum weaves a history through the unrest during Selassie's regime, including the 1960 coup on to his overthrow by the Derg.  It then chronicled the atrocities of the Derg regime, including the torture, resettlement and famine inflicted on the Ethiopian people.  It was a moving exhibition, and included a somber grave of the bones and skulls of those tortured by the regime.

From here, I headed back up to find some lunch--a wonderful plate of "fasting" food.  In Ethiopian Orthodox traditions, they "fast" on Wednesday and Fridays--including no meat but fish is okay.  I chatted with a doctor and a professor of medicine who worked at the Lion of Judah Hospital.

I returned to the hotel to chill out for a bit and drink tea on the verandah as the rains came and went.  Later that night, I went out for dinner at a restaurant called Wutma, and had some firfir.  Kinda like meat and tomato sauce cooked with injera.  It was delicious although I think I got food poisoning from it [I was felled all day yesterday with a nasty bout of food poisoning].

I wandered down to the Ghion Hotel for some EthioJazz--a wonderful combination of jazz and traditional Ethiopian music and melodies.  I sipped scotch and listened to the rich music fill the night.  I caught a cab back--the driver wanted 300 bir; I gave him 100 birr.  I ducked in and went to bed as the rains started to come back.

Yesterday, as I mentioned, I was sick all day with food poisoning.  I have dealt with this malady before, in India, Taiwan and Tibet, so I knew I would just have to wait out the chills and sweats.  I watched the Star Wars trilogy all day and slept.  Not gonna lie, I missed my mommy and wish I had someone to take care of me.  But the ladies at the hotel were nice and made me ginger tea.  Thankfully it all passed, and I am feeling better today.


John Brown said...

I understand that one of the legacies of the Italian occupation was that some Ethiopians took to not cutting the nail of their little finger -- I can't remember of which hand. Is that correct?

Paul Rockower said...

I haven't seen any long pinkies here--something I have noticed in Southeast Asia. Will keep an eye out and ask.