Four cheerful Americans were sitting in the bar of the hostel where I was staying. It was not hard to join in on the conversation, nor to understand the reason for their cheerfulness. The group had already been doing volunteer work in Ethiopia for six months and had come to the capital to celebrate their national holiday. One of the boys explained to me that according to the Ethiopians the date was not the 4th of July 2013, but the 28th of June 2005. Their calendar had 13 months and in Ethiopia they also called 6AM midnight as the day starts at sunrise, which is the same time every morning in countries on the equator. It was a confusing thing when I asked at the guesthouse reception about the check out time. The receptionist then told me that checkout time was at four o’clock when it in our time system would be at ten o’clock. We went to another bar, meeting more Americans where they also were discussing the topic of Ethiopia being quite a unique country, and among other things I learned that:
– Ethiopia is the only African country that was not colonized by the Europeans (not counting Liberia)
– Ethiopia has more than 80 local languages and more than 200 dialects. It is also the only African country to have their own written language (Amharic)
– Ethiopia is the birthplace of both coffee (from the city Kaffa) and humankind (“Lucy” and other skeletons have been found in Ethiopia dating more than 4 million years back)
– The rastafari movement started in Ethiopia with their king who’s former name was “Jah Rastafari”. The rastafari movement still carries the colors of the Ethiopian flag (red, yellow and green)
I enjoyed sitting and talking to the Americans quite a lot. They were all there for different reasons. Some did volunteer work, others tourist and the rest worked in the coffee and flower industry. The beer at the bar we were staying at was dirt cheap (around 40 USD cents) and they also served coffee the traditional ethiopian way by smoking incense and refilling the pot only with water every time they cooked up for a new round.
The next morning I got up early to meet my couchsurfing host who had agreed to show me around in the city. Getting from my hostel to the place we were going to meet was an interesting experience. In Addis, like most other African capitals there are minibuses known as bush taxis that run up and down the streets shouting the names of the places they are going. Every time I asked for “stadium”, which is the city center, the driver would let me into the car, and drop me off in one stop or two. I went with five of them in order to reach my final destination. The five rides had cost me a total of two dollars, so it did not upset me much to be cheated by such small sums of money.
My guide took me walking for a few hours where we among other things got to see the National Museum with the worlds oldest homo erectus (walking on two legs) Lucy was on display. We also got to see lots of monuments; one for driving away the Italians when they tried to colonize Ethiopia, another with the Cuban soldiers who helped out in the Ethio-Somali War and another one in memory of the genocides happening during the communist dictatorship in Ethiopia.
Another interresting sight was the “Oslo Café” in the Piazza district. Here they had trolls, pictures of Norway and mannequins dressed up in the Norwegian national folk costume (bunad). Things are always more fascinating when they are least expected.