11 August 2012

Arrival in Ethiopia

Landed safely and without much incident in Ethiopia. The place is pretty amazing - so much going on and a really great energy. Coincidentally, a friend of mine was arriving in the Addis Ababa airport the same morning as I, only one hour later, and staying one night before heading to Sudan. He is here on work and was generous enough to share his room at the Sheraton Hotel Addis; reputed to be the nicest hotel in all of Africa. It is pretty darn nice, to be sure! Being in my own smooshy comfy bed and quiet room after the overnight flight was a great way to set down calmly in the new, very different, surroundings. We took two naps yesterday, which broke the day up into what felt more like four days...and my perception is one of someone with disrupted internal rhythms and a bit of culture shock.

I was ready to leave Germany. I found myself getting tired of the predictable, privileged, and beautiful surrounds of Europe, the malaise that manifests in the minds and hearts of Western mentality - the dissatisfaction that causes depression and longing. Really we have so much and should be happy and appreciative every day for the amazing world in which we live, not to be distracted about what we do not have, but more concentrated on the opportunities and amazing things to which we have access. I felt the urge to put myself in the space of people who have less, much less, but still smile. And so far, this has only been experienced peripherally as we were whisked from the airport to the hotel, and subsequently driven, bouncing around the city's potholed streets in a diplomatic vehicle to different restaurants and neighborhoods. The Sheraton is a bubble for visiting diplomats, sheiks, princes, charity workers, expectant parents of adopted children, airline crews, business persons, academics, and various high-class celebrities and individuals. I feel a bit silly in these surroundings, but also appreciative of the opportunity to see how this half lives and acts in Ethiopia. Cell phones, laptops, overpriced drinks, Cuban cigars, stylish clothes, business meetings, and the Olympics on the big screen. We all cheered for the Ethiopian Olympians last night in the bar. Perhaps it is just good to know this facility is here in the case that I get ill and need a place to rest up.

I watched in amusement (and slight horror) last night as a locally well-known American danced by himself on the dancefloor in this strange jolty, showman performance to the exceptional Atlanta-based entertainment. The conversations last night were typical of the ex-patriot community, as we were told stories about things that ranged from hilarity to absolutely devastating. I have experienced with these types of tales in other places, so nothing shocking, but I did find myself tearing up a few times at the tragedy, the horror. I excused myself and spoke with one of the singers in the band to know more about what they were doing here. He said they stay for 3 months, get put up in a suite, all expenses paid. This is his 8th time around and he loves it.

I was able to make contact with a local Catholic Parish, with the help of my home church in Washington, DC (thank you Msgr Pope and Father Lazarus!). They've allowed me to rent a room in their guest house for two weeks. This will give me a safe spot to get oriented in the city and find a more long-term living situation. I intend to get acquainted with the offices of the International Watershed Management Institute (IWMI), my hosts, on Monday.