Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Arriving in Addis Ababa

The first leg of the journey was an overnight flight from Chicago to London. Quite uneventful except for the funny coincidence that we were on the same flight as a few of our friends from church who were on their way to India. Our layover left us with about 7 hours to hang around in London. It was the middle of the day so we decided to store our bags at the airport and hop onto the tube. Thankfully, we have been to London before so we weren't feeling rushed to go see all the city has to offer in 7 hours. Truthfully, I don't even remember what stop we got off at. We just wanted to walk around and stretch our legs and get some coffee. It was a nice afternoon, but by the time we got back to the airport we were feeling pretty tired!
Just happened to walk by and notice this landmark....
I thought this guy was too cute. Wish our dog was that well behaved!

The next flight was direct from London to Addis Ababa. I really hadn't slept at all and was not feeling great by this point. Again, nothing too eventful except that the guy sitting next to us on the plane resembled Jon's older brother in an almost scary way!

At about 7:30am their time, we finally landed in Addis. As soon as the plane turned off- we could tell it was HOT! The airport was about what I expected- decent size, pretty modern, a little dirty. Customs didn't take terribly long went smoothly. After getting our bags and going through security- we headed out to begin the adventure.

Jon's Dad was gracious enough to give us Hilton points, so for the first and last two nights of our trip we were able to stay at a really nice and comfortable place for free! This turned out to be a huge blessing! As soon as the crowds of people parted a bit- we instantly saw the Hilton's outpost at the airport. The Hilton's airport staff greeted us promptly and walked us out to the taxi lot to take the Hilton Shuttle bus. Such an easy connection was beyond wonderful since we were both feeling quite disheveled and exhausted.

We hopped on board and made our way out of the airport and onto the streets of Addis. It didn't take long for me to become overwhelmed with feelings of fascination and fear. The fear due in part to the absolutely INSANE driving on VERY busy roads with people just jumping into the middle of the road to cross as they please. It was so crowded and so busy- I was a little taken off guard by that. Fascination set in as I tried to take in the surroundings which felt like a fantasy world. For any of you who have traveled internationally to place that isn't extremely "westernized" you may be able to relate to my feelings. I have done quite a bit of traveling, but this was maybe the first time I was bewildered by the differences mixed with some odd feelings of familiarity. Sort of that, "Whoa. Where the heck am I, how did I get here, and am I crazy??" feeling.

It is virtuously impossible to describe Addis Ababa. Some words that come to mind are -Dusty, dry, hot, crowded, smelly, smogy, colorful, vibrant, active, secretive, historic, grieving, trying, fighting, hilly, surprising, and urban. Quite a complex place.

Taking photos in Addis proved to be very difficult. Whenever a government guard is in sight it is best not to snap photos- or so I was told. I decided not to risk trying. Their were guards all over the place. Also- any sort of government building, space, institution, or monument- no photos. Many of the locals were not keen on getting photos taken either and several of the orphanages also have no photo rules. Anyway- I will post my best efforts to capture some typical sights on the streets of Addis.


Sabai said...

wow, did i miss out on what you guys are doing there??

Melissa said...

I got carsick just reading about the driving! :) Thanks for sharing some of your journey with us on the blog - it's great to see your photos and hear about the experience in great detail.

andrea said...

Thanks for sharing Stace! I am enjoying reading all about your wonderful trip!