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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

ethiopia, 15/10/11


I love House [the TV show] and its not just because Gregory and I share the same name{well kind of, my name is actually gragory and its really hard for people to remember it and use it because it sounds like Gregory The result is most people just call me Greg~some call me grag nowadays~ but the ones who always say Greg are the first to point out that its not the gragorian calender and its not gragory house} those were damn long parenthesis I feel like this is the part of the show where you need to see previously on...... anyway I love house. Yesterday I was watching an old season 5 episode and house utters this gem when he's accused by someone of always assuming that he is right “the other way would just be confusing.” I loved it and then today I felt it. There should be a word for the thing am about to describe but there isn't, huh this sounds like a deja vu, this is a problem usually felt by people from left handed countries.{these are the countries conquered by a tiny island of people, commonly called the commonwealth}. We keep to the left while driving but when you go anywhere else, the former colonies of Germany and  France, Europe too. All these countries keep to the left. Even Ethiopia, former colony of …... well noone. drives on the right. How do I know this it's because am in Ethiopia as I write this. I find it hard to cross roads my face is always turned to  the wrong side, the right side is always the one I left. So I start to assume am wrong and just like house said it's as confusing as conking out and waking up in an airport{the events of that day will constitute a prequel of the current story.}

Anyway Addis Ababa. Am here for a day on a stopover on my way to Egypt. Flight landed 5 in the morning and connector takes off ten at night. This gives me a neat seventeen hours in Ethiopia I have always wanted to go to Ethiopia always. This is why. I found out today that there is a lot of gold in Ethiopia, lode  loads of gold. The imagery of that struck me immediately, wow there's gold under your soil, you uncover your mud and there you see gold. There is gold in Ethiopia Not just the solid kind either. I wanted to come here for the women, their beauty is famed and fabled stories  about it abound rumours concerning it swill and are spat out as if by pretentious wine tasters. And those rumours are all true, ridiculously true. There is a battering by beauty that can leave a man senseless. There is such raw beauty like gold when its first mined except its refined too. Everywhere beautiful women, everywhere and I do not exaggerate.

In the morning I went to a massage palour. Massage parlours are huge in Ethiopia, they're everywhere burgers are also everywhere in Ethiopia, the have neighbourhood burger joints that make awesome looking burgers, the very sacrifice Abel was killed for. But I didn't have any telling myself why would I have an American meal in Ethiopia? Bring me injera. Anyway back to the massage parlours, I was convinced to go there by the cab guy who wanted to scam the tourist {maybe but you can't con a klepto he'll learn before the day is over.} I go in there and it's awesome, beautiful as a dream masseuses walking around like this kind of thing is normal. They smile and you forget every single consideration you may have had. The parlours play this relaxing Ethiopian music, the lights are red just so and you can look into the face of an angel as you get worked on{both meanings.} you see here you can get a happy ending, all you have to do is ask for extra and fork over ten dollars, lie back and smile. That sentence alone has done amazing things for the guy tourist interest in this place. Get your happy ending at the beginning of your trip I told myself happily. Girls isn't it for Addis though. When I had paid the cab guy  I simply skipped out on him as he was getting his umm  commission, that guy would have been a cash and adventure drain. I left the massage palour knowing noone at all in Ethiopia, having no idea where to go but wanting to keep walking the whole day.

And walk the whole day I did. The City of Addis is crowned by a hill. Not in the vein of Rwanda which sits atop hundreds of hills, a situation that gives it one of the most beautiful views in the world but leaves people coming from pancake cities like Nairobi winded and cursing. Addis instead has the threat of a hill. Far off in the distance a looming mountainous structure broods, its dark and beautiful, dwarfing the efforts of mankind but like a mirage I could never reach it, all my efforts to get there were given up. I sat down a couple of times too exhausted to move. The flight the night before was murder, a 3 am flight and I didn't sleep till  I got on the plane since I was really drunk and I had the feeling that if I blacked out I would stray in Kenya, a lot of the people who dropped me off had the same concern even giving me fare home in case I was barred entry, which money is now comfortably ton the mantelpiece of a certain masseuse here. I slept till 6 and I was kicked out of the plane. I walked out of the plane and towards the place where people wait for you. The titanic~an awesome movie by any definition of that word~ has a scene where people are getting on the ship and  below everyone's family and friends are waving goodbye , creating a racket, happy and sad at the same time. If that ship made the crossing{if that ship was always in charge of making crosses the bible would have a very different end.} there would be the reverse of what happened people coming to be picked up and love and banners and smiles and hugs but as happens there would be some guys who weren't picked up. These aren't even businessmen who have acquired frequent sailor miles, those have a cab from the hotel waiting for them. These guys would get off and see no love, no expectation and no open arms. These guys would feel horrible and I was one of these guys. Everyone's being picked up but me. I see a kindred soul and see he has slept with his feet on the passenger couches. I feel so bad and tired that I do the same. This feeling stays with me the whole day causing me to jump whenever I hear a phone ring that sound even remotely like mine, having to remind myself over and over, noone is calling you here, you don't even have the right sim~card. I wake up with a start at ten I didn't come to Addis Ababa to sleep I have to leave. I walk out and meet the cab guy who featured heavily in the preceding paragraphs.

I started walking around Addis, they have no market for weaves, none at all everyone has the same amazing hair, I love Ethiopia. Their city is so spacious. Wide wide roads. Roads so wide they dwarf the crossing at university way, which right now is a wondrously huge road to cross back in Kenya I count a ten lane road once, ten! There's no traffic, or maybe its just Saturday. The roads are so wide and open my mind begins to feel free. I feel wide minded right now and I can see why Ethiopia is a haven of art, or it should be. I feel inspired like a block to my mind was thrown away and now I can think thoughts I wouldn't normally. There are sculptures around the street, beautiful once-stones that love made into beauty. Also the toilets flush strangely. The toilet bowl is filled with water near to the brim and as you add your refuse there it collects, mixing in with the water until you finally press the button to flash a trapdoor is opened under the water and it begins to spiral down, all of it, that which is not spiralling is chased down by an onslaught from on high until finally the toilet is bone dry and it begins to fill up with water again. This just made me think that there are probably so many ways to skin a cat the problem would soon be lack of cats.

On my travels I randomly fall in with this artist, a master sketcher, he uses a pen and shading and he can bring any image to life. He can draw his self portrait~such an uncanny rendering that I ask if he used a photo. ~ he can draw it with his feet and he can draw it from memory's wells. I found it strange that someone could have such self awareness. Am not completely sure how I look, am sure its as subjective as the way our voice sounds  better when we hear it while talking and worse when its recorded. But this guy doesn't, he objectively knows just how he looks. He becomes my guide for the day.

The friendliness here is amazing, everyone is so nice. They all have time for you, I asked for directions in a second floor office and the lady came down with me and pointed the way! Kenyans are not that friendly. As these A.R.K increase I feel more welcome, I am at home. The place I met the artist is near a certain  spot. This is how the spot looks, stairways to heaven. Right in Addis ababa they have the stairs a man climbs in any good Greek mythology rip~off on his way to godhood. The steps of Olympus are right in the city centre A wide set of stairs first then they narrow down abruptly but still wide by normal world standards{all their roads are at least three lane inside the city centre and by the end of the day I felt so cramped when  I was in them} at the top of these Herculean stairs you can sit down and catch an awesome glimpse of the city. The stairs were an entrance to the museum right behind it. Which segues into sculpture.

There are so many sculptures in Addis, towering symbols of stone carved lovingly.  I went to a church, the one near the UN complex there. It was beautiful, astonishingly. I had a smile on my face as I walked in with my unofficial guide. The church was having restoration work done on it and this is pretty ordinary, I love the way Ethiopians hold on to their culture. It was called st. Stephens catholic church and right on the door there was this painting of a man on his knees. He was a saint by the halo thing that's so in with saints these millennia. He was in pain by the look of anguished hope on his face. His tormentors looked gleeful but very angry, really angry that he was a Christian. This man was about to die a painful death but he was happy. I got it right then it was a depiction of the saint who stoners everywhere claim for a patron. Across the road the UN complex had a sculpture carved into its floor, a sculpture of Africa. A massive rubber stamp with a Africa as its trademark. I could see the engravings  from outside, incisively Africa. and I felt proud. This whole trip a particular song has been ringing in my head the lyrics are I made it I made it, I made it. That's how I feel, exactly how I feel.

By the end of the day I have three birr in my pocket, seventeen birr make up a dollar. My fare back to the airport on the matatus is two birr which I gladly pay. I'm sitting at the airport feeling free, unencumbered of useless currency, a note and some coins to remind myself that I balled in Ethiopia, having fallen in irretrievable love more times today than the rest of my life put together. I have a great feeling about this trip right now. Egypt here I come! It's going to be a life changing 6 weeks.