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Monday, February 23, 2015

Good Morning, Addis Ababa




When we drive through Addis Ababa I don’t have enough eyes to take everything in. It is early morning as we drive through this city of 4 million people. I can spot only one skyscraper but many buildings of 5 or 6 stories - many of them in various stages of construction, showing bamboo scaffolding and unfinished concrete floors. Some buildings have shiny glass and chrome, other seem sad leftovers from a Soviet era.

The road is meant to be 2 lane, but cars at least 4 wide try to navigate in the same direction, dodging pedestrians, dogs and piles of gravel. The sidewalks are broken and dusty. Women in clean white shawls scurry along, some with baskets on their heads. Children in impeccable clean clothes, carrying backpacks, are on their way to school. Schooling is free here, all the way through highschool. Yet only those who can afford a school uniform can go.
Among the more modern buildings, tiny shacks of plywood and corrugated sheet metal lean drunkenly shoulder to shoulder. They look like they were built from a deck of cards and if you move one card, they all might come tumbling down. 

A cluster of some twenty goats await their sale. If you buy one, you take it home by either slinging the live goat across your shoulders, trying to lead him on a rope or simply tying him on top of your car roof…
Men pile tomatoes on wooden wheelbarrows. Shopkeepers squat outside their stores. Their products dangles outside the store from roof to floor: plastic baskets, flip flops, shirts, bananas and much, much more.

A group of men in crisp, colourful soccer shirts plays a game of soccer. A straight, long queue of people quietly waits for a bus - no pushing or shoving here. A Muslim in long white robes rubs elbows with an Orthodox Ethiopian. 
Cars of world wide NGO’s push their way along the road, together with beat-up blue taxis, brand new Landcruisers and mopeds. 

Young men cut boxes, fold open the cardboard and use it to set up their shoe polishing stand. Many people have their shoes polished, here on the dusty streets.
One of the most frustrating jobs, I imagine, is that of street sweeper. The women, wearing tall wicker hats, seem to merely be rearranging the dirt with their handmade brooms. But it’s a job.
The security guards at stores, banks, hotels and any other building - spend 12 hour shifts sitting on a plastic chair, chatting with passerby’s or reading a newspaper.
A salesman carries a large bundle of mops over his shoulder, the wispy white strands of fabric waving as he walks along. 
I spot 6 large dogs peacefully sleeping on a pile of rubble. I wonder what they did all night.

Slowly the sun climbs in the sky and starts to warm the sidewalks. Addis Ababa is awake, although I don’t think it ever slept.

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