47 – What’s up Addis?

Tue 12th Jan, Itegue Taitu Hotel, Addis Ababa
Woke up early morning looking for a bank for me to change money. I had 30 birr on me (3 SGD) and wouldn’t last too long in Addis without cash. The Ethiopian Commercial Bank changes US dollars. I later realised Dashen Bank was the bank to use, as they were the only bank that accepted VISA and Mastercard, and i even withdrew cash (for the first time since Egypt) through their ATM.
Next made my way to Bole Road, a long stretch of main road with various embassies found on the many side streets. Took one of the minivans bound there (2.6 birr) and made my way to the Somaliland representation. The visa application was over in a jiffy. It was a lot easier than expected. I filled up a form, attached a photo, paid 40 USD and got it in less than 10 minutes. I was elated.
I walked over to the Djibouti embassy next. Similarly i filled up a form, added my photo, paid 40 USD but this time had to wait till tomorrow to collect the visa. I did notice the secretary already had a stack of visa applications and passports on her desk. I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon, no worries, i had time in Addis.
I decided to celebrate with lunch at a fancy restaurant. That set me back around 25 birr. However, i was an idiot and ordered traditional firfir, instead of some western dishes. So i had to munch through injeera coated with butter. I know better now and will avoid local food, at least while i am in Addis.
Addis is really cosmopolitan. Besides the range of food, the supermarkets along Bole Road (which i presume is a rather upmarket stretch) sell western favourites such as pasta, HP sauce, various cheeses and other imports. I decided to walk back north instead of taking the minibus to check out the city. I visited at least 4 supermarkets, checking out each one in the hopes of getting my own electric kettle. Found many 2 litre ones, which were too bulky (cheapest was 350 birr) to stuff into my bag. I’ll try in the market tomorrow, if i can’t find one i might just buy the 2 litre one. In the end, i just bought every single English language newspaper i could find (Fortune, 3 birr. Sub-Saharan news, 4 birr, Capital, 4 birr)
Continuing on the cosmopolitan bit…the general populace about town are well dressed, with fancy hair and accessories, going their way about town, sipping their cup of macchiatos. It is certainly different from the countryside in the north where i’ve been roaming the past two weeks. Fended off more would-be tricksters (Hi, im a student (a really old one!) from Addis Ababa University. Would you like to see a coffee ceremony?) and decided i don’t really want to see any sights or museums today. Instead i will go and watch a movie at the nearby Cinema Ethiopia. The selection of shows are pretty old stuff i think and the only show was King’s Ransom (no i havent heard of it either). The price was 4 birr (thats 40 cents in SGD, hah, beat that!) I was strip searched at the entrance, and my camera was put under lock The interior of the cinema was much like how old cinemas look like, the seats pretty spartan. And you had these cinema ushers going around with buns
on trays. The peculiar thing was that halfway through the show, there was a break, the lights went on and the cinema ushers did their thing with their trays. I’m not sure whether the break was intentional or there was something wrong with the reel.
Had some internet time next, yes it feels great to not be doing anything, instead of rushing to see some sight or taking a 12 hour bus ride. The connections were much faster here than elsewhere and cheaper at 12 birr/hr.
For dinner i had a fish burger and 7 up (grand total of 26 birr) at a restaurant. I figured in Ethiopia there are no street food (besides snacks such as the abovementioned samosas, barley, sugar cane, kolo etc.). Instead there are cafes (for pastries), bars (for drinks) and restaurants for food. Any combination of these would make the establishment.
Lastly, i am in africa in the midst of the Afican Nations Cup 2010. This meant that all the satelite Tvs are tuned in to the live matches where everyone is watching. Today was Egypt Nigeria, though i did not catch the game.

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