Awassa to Shashemene: A Pilgrim’s Progress and a Nude Mother Nature

Awassa is very beguiling and her seductions are truly seductive to a lone cyclist. To linger is seemingly the only choice. But this lone cyclist was aware of another interesting town according to whose fame, mysticism, lenient laws about ‘the herb’, and user-friendly daughters of Ethiopian peasants were to be found. These were mostly the reasons thought after the decision to leave for Shashemene. The initial real reason was certainly that she had been represented (by Rastafarians) as the ultimate point of pilgrimage for the negroid descendant- like Timbuktu; where the sons of slaves were the masters of their thought and spirituality, made to feel like the gods they are and treated as such by the emperor Haile Selassie, in whose veins flowed the blood of the Africa’s daughter from Sheba, who King Solomon thought wiser than himself. I believe it was she that taught her children- and her Solomon- the primordial and ageless truth of “One Love”. The sons of her sons even in captivity have not doubted her. For love is wiser than wisdom.

I set out to leave Awassa, whose beauty, now in the sunshine was like the flirtatious language of a mistress towards a famished vagabond just escaped from prison. The exotic sounds soothed and the smells of strangely sweet frying spices made me slow down as I rode out of town. I had a thousand sound reasons to stay a day longer and a thousand more to stay and settle, until my earthly possessions were spent. But the pilgrim’s path, I said to myself, is ever daubed with distractions that are pleasing to the ear and entertaining to the senses of an unwary cyclist including the sinfully delicious (second!) breakfast that I decided I needed at this point. But in a while, like a repentant son of unguarded appetites, I took on the impossible headwinds.

On your way out of Awassa is the town’s institution of liberal morals and bohemian lifestyles, the Awassa University. As the devil, or fate, had willed, I passed by the university as the students were breaking from a class. It must have been an arts class, for there were in my estimated ratio about a couple of long-haired daughters of Awassa for every shaggy bloke, all of them of improbable beauty. I almost envied the position of the young men who in their wisdom and unfortunate judgment chose the arts. I insist that it must have been an arts class. I assure you that there exists but a single kind of science students, and it is the kind whose faces are ever glum and who harbor an ill attitude towards laughter.

It was about the mid-morning when I finally reached the outskirts of Awassa from where one is to observe Lake Awassa, and hear the song of the marshes that surround it. The appearance of the picturesque lake in such a handsome morning and the enjoyment of birds and water plants in the breeze about and within it gave me such contentment of being a resident of this planet that I doubt I had felt any other time before. (Except that time when the girl that I keep hinting at, and whose name will be revealed by and by, asked me for the first time to stay for the night!).

 

Every photo that I took of the scene seemed more glorious than the previous one. I reckon that a mischievous young man upon observing young nude women bathing in the open would behave no differently with his camera. These were the elusive shots sought by many photographers of Mother Nature herself in the nude! The fate that was to befall these photos later on is one I wish not to discuss. I will only assure you, my friend, that I have kept the hope of yet finding then again.
In time, I was on my way. I was in no great hurry, however, to get to Shashemene, less than forty kilometers away. Had I even been in such a hurry, the unabated rush of headwinds would not allow me to pedal for any significant stretch of the road. On occasions, I feared the wing would make me bald from the insistence of having my way. I pushed, pedaled leisurely.
At length I rode into Shashemene early in the afternoon.

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Three gratitudes to Life, Song and Damp Clothes

If you ever ran away from certain death or grave injury like I did on my way to Awassa, you might have failed to realize the things that other mortals usually realize when they run, or ride, for fun. You might have failed to realize, like I did, the admiration drawn from spectators standing at the doors of their huts. Indeed, I must have drawn severe loathing from some two cyclists, also laboring upon their ancient bicycles as I zipped past them with impolite haste. I only recalled later, how they grinded their bottoms from right to left on tortured leather saddles to reach the pedals. Those saddles, I now realize, must have inadvertently planned their families if they had been sat on daily for any reasonable length of time. It is impossible to explain this notion without appearing to laugh at neutering, and I shall not do that.

I got to Awassa as darkness fell. It is a big beautiful town, well-planned and almost a city, with wide streets numerous street lights that work. It looks almost exactly as Nakuru. Coincidentally, there is a lake nearby and like Lake Nakuru, Lake Awassa has flamingos and has been polluted severely in the past. (Nonetheless, it was still breathtaking from where I stood the following day).

I still felt like someone running from own shadow as I rode the streets of Awassa. I recall the rapturous relief I felt upon seeing a bank across the street with a partition outside that looked like an ATM machine. In my excitement, I disregarded the building traffic and made a dash across the road amid hooting and shouting by drivers and sane people. Had they been in my soggy shoes, they would have made the same dash. I now imagine that maybe one of them understood my trials and was saying in Amharic, “Go forth, my child!” And I did.

On a wet evening and in a place like this, one is to be excused from bearing burdensome wisdom. Let wisdom be had by people going to their homes, in dry clothes and full wallets. It is true the structure had in it a cash machine, but a broken one. I could see figures moving inside the tinted bank windows and I knew that I wasn’t beaten yet. I went to the door and rapped it with the authority of an African husband upon coming home. I was greeted by the stern face of fair-skinned guard who spoke few words of reprehension and inquiry into what I sought, all in bad English and body language, and in exactly one second. He gestured that I should move away from the door as he went to fetch the manager.

The manager was slow to appear. When he did, he did not seem like a man too eager to help. I was now shivering and every shiver drained the false bravado I had earlier put. My clothes and I were the same color of a rock kicked through mud, as was my bike behind me. My eloquence never failed me at a worse time. When I tried to talk I did little more than clattering my teeth unintelligibly but I made sure the “please”, the “money” and the “hotel room” came out as clear as thin mucus that dripped from me shamelessly at this time. There are humans out there still, for I was allowed into the bank to cash my card.

When I walked outside, the cold crisp air of Awassa smelled freshly earthy, the way it does when it rains on fresh earth. I felt like eating a lump of soil. The street lights shone with new liveliness. I even observed that the drivers left room on the road for a cyclist.

“Carpe noctem!” my wallet said. Seize the night! And I did.

I rode to a hotel with a parking lot and parked my bicycle right diagonally on one of the spaces. I stepped back, impressed by my preposterousness, congratulated myself at excelling at folly and walked to my room. I planned to paint Awassa red or whichever other color that I willed.

There was but a single objection that remained. All of my clothes were wet. I chose those that were agreeable in dampness and exited into the night to indulge in culinary adventures, musings on the aesthetics of daughters of this land and later, or at the same time, music and dance appreciation escapades of rhythmic Ethiopia. I must disappoint you that I did not go much farther after midnight at which time I had stared dreamily at figures doing a queer shoulder dance on the dance floor waiting to hear an agreeable song.

And then they played Zumbara by Diamond! I shall forever remember that song and the dancing and the happy faces it created. That is how I wanted to remember Awassa. I stumbled half-awake to my hotel thankful that life was a little kinder to me on this night.

I had to see Shashemene the following day.

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Dilla to Hawassa

What I did not tell you is that I did not sleep outside at Dilla after all and the reason is quite simple. For I having gone through every pocket in my stinking clothes on and off me managed to come up with fifty five birr, the unbelievably cheap hotel rooms and even cheaper food (mutton with gravy, chillie sauce and bread) and I was left belching on a soft bed with five birr in change.

On account of going to bed very tired, very full, and also deciding to visit the bank the following morning, I woke up after the sun was up. That is to say improperly, after eight o’clock. It would have been later had not the girl that I left at home, and that I keep alluding to, called that morning. But to be quite honest, I believe it wasn’t her that woke me up; it was the butterflies in my stomach that dive, turn, twist and do all manner of gymnastics upon hearing her or the ringtone assigned to her number.

That aside, I visited the bank. And when I say visited, I mean just that for I came out with no more that I had gotten in with. If there’s anything that Ethiopians are good at, and that I would give an A+ for is still holding on to Archaic banking techniques and technologies. These technologies, and I give you facts, were passed down to them by one of Queen Sheba’s chambermaids who chanced to have a one-night affair of her own with a book-keeper and banker at King Solomon’s mines while her mistress played around with the king himself.

No modern bank opens a branch without an ATM machine. In same contemporary bank, no one has the need of the manual typewriter anymore. But in these banks there is someone employed to type documents on a noisy typewriter, and she sits shamelessly in full view of customers. (I fancy to hear the joke that would be immediately conjured up when she introduces herself and her profession outside Ethiopia!)

I should have started walking away from the bank when I saw that typewriter but I still decided to try and get some money from the bank with a Visa ATM card. Those clowns fumbled with the card, consulted, argued, examined it under a light, typed on that ancient machine some document I was to sign, swiped the card incorrectly on a PDQ machine that was excavated from under a forgotten table in the corner, and after more than an hour, they gave up and told me to try at the next town, Awasa, 85km away.

So I jumped on my bike and started for the town. This time convinced that was going to sleep outside for sure. I don’t really dislike the idea of checking into Starlight Traveler’s Inn but when offered hotel rooms with hot water and big spring beds for prices that would appeal to misers worldwide, I hated to see chances like that go underutilized.

So the ride started with a most thrilling downhill ride for a few minutes in which I almost forgot that downhills in Ethiopia are sins that come with punishments larger than those sins. In this case, I did not have to sin for long before being halted and handed my severe punishment, a mighty hill and several more before came a relatively flat land in the afternoon that I appreciated by riding – like mad!

And then it rained hard.

I told myself of symptoms of vague ailments looking for an excuse to take shelter, which I did under some roof outside a wood workshop. This shelter had also been taken by some boys. It was a good thing I stopped because I also took the chance to dispel a misconception.

You see, there is this lie believed by everyone worldwide that tourists are harmless dolls to be taunted, poked, robbed, kidnapped and begged by anyone that wills it. This being the universal view of tourists, the boys in question started with questions that I have always felt uncomfortable answering except to armed policemen outside an illegal brothel, at the dead of night.

Their version of this question was, “you you you who are you”, “you you you where are you going”, “you you you where are you from” and such. I forgave them for trying to practice their little English on me and would have even have done their homework had they asked.

Then I heard the sound of my backpack being unzipped. I turned like I had been stung in the neck and faced the culprit. The little twat even tried to deny it by feigning the most humorless smile, upon which a mighty slap shut his face. Something might have exaggerated the sound for it sounded like a real thunderclap and the boy let out a cry like having been hit by such a thunder and drew the attention of the entire shopping centre to our little interaction.

There was no waiting for the town jury (usually called The Mob in my hometown) and in a frightful rush of adrenaline, stepped my bike and rode like hell in the rain towards Awasa to save my skin and to save this story for you.

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But You See Not a Log of Beauty in Thine Own Eye

What makes a man want to ignore beauty in beautiful things, in beautiful simplicities, in picturesque windings of a smooth country road?

What beauty is there in baby monkeys playing by the roadside as if assured that cyclists are harmless things that never could hurt them? Or a in butterfly flying in haphazard, playful zigzags by your side as if it was a way of offering you encouragement? Or of the effortlessly sashaying Ethiopian woman crossing the road while balancing an earthen vase on her head? (I would have said “a beautiful Ethiopian woman”, but why repeat myself?) Or of a couple sitting in a shade by the road and waving at you as you pass like you are a mutual friend?

Is there beauty to be found in a rainbow during the refreshing light rain that reduces your suffering on the baking tarmac later in the afternoon on a day like this?

There is no beauty in the scene with a barking puppy chasing a flimsy horse and drawing an equally shabby cart. Or of the light-skinned beauty on that cart smiling embarrassed at your having seeing her aboard such shameful means of transport?

And this is why you’d see no beauty in all this, my friend, if you knew you were going to sleep outside, hungry, miserable for lack of cash.

You see, when I arrived in Garbaa on the previous day, it was the beginning of a national three-day semi-religious festival. It meant that the banks were going to be closed for that duration and with the aforementioned absence of ATMs until I got to Addis, the only way to get cash, legally, was to withdraw it over the counter.

As I rode that morning, it was easier to entertain forebodings than it was to think of better days that the future would bring. It is days like this that makes one see the pointlessness of touring on a bicycle.

My broke ass was going to sleep in Dilla. Perhaps.

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Camaraderie and a Long-journeyed Guardian Angel

‘Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,’
The shade replied,
‘If you seek for Eldorado!’
- Edgar Allan Poe

I see you remember well, dear friends. I had promised to tell you about this cold, little town called Fincawwa and I now intend to do it to keep one of the few remaining promises that I have not yet reneged upon.

Not that people should be proud of not keeping their word, but I am persuaded that I hold an impressive record of broken promises. So while I wait on banks, con artists and ambitious liars to catch up, I have decided to honor my promises from today. And no, I regret, dear friends, that this proclamation is not to be back-dated.

Fincawwa is a little town with a narrow tarmac road climbing through it. The road looks earthen, not tarmac, but with a consistent red colour that fades out as you leave the town.

It seemed to me that this impressive, giant ochre masterpiece rendered on tarmac is painted during the rains by the busy feet of the townspeople criss-crossing it (the road) on various errands. On some of these little outings, it is to be inferred, their business leads them to the numerous public table-tennis tables lining one side of the road.

It is impressive how easy it is to capture the interest of (young) people from idleness or mindless journeys on bicycles. I embarrassed my self thoroughly engaging the young men and a young woman in the sport that I knew not too much about. The games being thus played give the little town a cheerful air even with its cold and wet weather.

Still other feet, or the same, like mine, that had carried their owners to cheer or play in the sport, dabble the same road while carrying their owners to sip hot coffee in tiny cups on the other side of the road. Coffee served with a great helping of jokes and gossip from the jovial ladies behind smoky open fires and blackened urns. I envied this town. I wished this was my town with its peace and camaraderie. Not a single person was to be heard shouting at me “You! You! You!” or “Ferenji! Ferenji!” in the style incorrigibly popular with other Ethiopians.

Other than the usual niceties offered by friendly hosts, I had several offers of thick stems of khat. Whether I accepted this particular gesture, I shall not disclose, for I am also mindful of gossips and wish to give them material to spin fantastic tales in which I shall be the despicable protagonist. These same unauthorized biographers of your truly shall not believe their luck when they learn that I also choose not to disclose where I spent my night- in the wake of my praises to the friendliness and hospitality of the town. But that be that. I should always remember Fincawwa, the friendliest town.

How I do not daily recall the cruel climbs from Fincawwa to Hagre Marriam I shall only attribute to my weak mind and infirm memory. I have put much thought to explain it as honorably as is possible what I experienced since the break of that day; and propriety begs not to be used to downplay what was a serious foreplay to what awaited me later. I took three hours to do the thirty kilometres to Hagre Marriam.

I’d hoped for an ATM machine in Hagre Marriam, but I had already alluded to my disappointment towards this end much earlier.

In addition to which disappointment I was to be halted by some ailment I had developed along the way and that felt like a serious urinary tract infection. Or maybe dehydration, as I hoped and kept wishing. I stopped in the shade at the edge of a young eucalyptus plantation.

As I diluted some oral dehydration salts, there came and sat beside me a man, or a very realistic apparition -for I am not sure I wasn’t hallucinating- and he started talking away. He disregarded my polite protests that I didn’t understand a word he was saying.

Still he droned on in monotonous Amharic. He wasn’t impolite or rash, and I guessed he was telling a very interesting but tall tale. He played with a twig between his thick fingers and his widely-roamed toes. There is a way that wandering writes mileage on one’s feet and toes. On his were written miles upon square miles of covered African real estate and hill-climbing experience. “We are in this together”, they seemed to reassure me. There was something hypnotic about how he carried himself. It’s true that he understood basic English phrases for he repeated to me his name. I fell asleep involutarily to the sound of his husk but musical musings on the sparse grass.

An hour later, I awoke but could not find my companion. I was sure I had been drugged and robbed, or, Zeus forbid, worse. I made a quick check and estimation on my scant belongings and reassuring myself that I had lost nothing more than time, picked my bike and rode on to Garbaa.

Then it came back when I woke up thirsty in the middle of the night, clear as the sparkling water I was sipping in my bed from a plastic bottle. And I scribbled it. The name of the man, or apparition that I sat with earlier, was Neguese Bonayya.

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The Solace of Doves, Coffee and Coke

I woke up as sore as if I had laid on a bed of rocks with the devil making a plaything of me all night. Every muscled part of my body painful to exertion. I doubted I would ever make even 50 kilometres on this day.

My sluggish preparations ensured that I started very late, at almost seven o’clock. I was greeted with ghastly headwinds and a merciless climb that I had noticed the evening before. I’ll be superman if I do the 50, I regretted to myself.

But the morning was beautiful and on its beauty and against the cold wind I bent on the bike. The red earth from harvested and bare tilled fields was blowing into lazy early morning dust bowls. Blue jays singing and skipping on small thorn trees beside the road. Small determined weaver-birds torturing their voice boxes trying to compete against bright canaries and succeeding only when the larger birds paused their song. And then a hundred doves swooshed dipping in front of me sounding like a whispered whistle. There is alot that is graceful about doves and pigeons. Their adorable, gentle wildness and truly benign dispositions traps one’s imagination and begs admiration as it did mine that morning ; as it did scores of other men and women that have been led in the past to compose verses and songs for them in every language.

Be that as it may, three hours later I’d done 38 kilometres when I came to a steep and continuous climb of about a 3 kilometres to the top. The top of which neither my spirit nor my body were willing to reach. On the other hand, my stomach and the Devil were swift to remind me of a tin of sliced pineapple I had carried out of Yabelo and to point out a shade nearby. I am yet to make an acquaintance with anyone that refused suggestions of the quartet namely the body, the spirit, the stomach and the devil, and lived to tell it. So, wanting for that reason to spare my life, I sat.

There stopped, after a short while, two young women one after another about quarter of an hour apart on their way to get water from a muddy man-made water pan nearby. Both had, as usual in these parts of our planet, that rare odd beauty usually used by artists to depict persons like the queen of Sheba, Delilah, the woman who stripped for King David, Mary Magdalene upon seeing Jesus wink or those other interesting characters narrated in an equally interesting book. I was fascinated to see flirtations disregard language barriers. My wandering eye, and their generous smiles required no words to render the language we shared eloquent. And I shall talk no more of that.

After resting close to an hour, I had accumulated enough guilt to tackle the climb after which I was pleasantly rewarded by an equally long downhill run. You see, my friend, in this mountainous country, gradually gaining altitude on (long) climbs don’t necessarily come with the luxury of a downhill run. Or are never as long or as slanting.

The path to a sound mind while on and after a cycling tour is to depart from being annoyed by things like punctures and injuries that don’t involve broken bones. That said, I suffered three punctures not long afterwards, on both wheels at the same time- two on the front one. I had three spare tubes but discovered that both were leaking from the nozzle. On a turn of events like this, it is pardonable to be irked. Thus, I sat on a bare ground beneath a shade a small distance from the road and mended the punctured ones. A small group of boys unwisely chose this time to try and sell me coloured marble. Another hour lost.

The decision to carry an old time map in place of a GPS gadget begun bearing bitter fruits. I had calculated the distance from Yabelo to my next stop, Hagre Marriam to be about 80km or slightly more, but when I hit 80 there was not even a sign of a mud hut. My mind started wandering and replayed to itself the loss of my small inflatable mattress that I left in the truck from Marsabit to Moyale. Where was it right now? Who was using it? I hoped it was the small girl with his smaller brother who had been travelling alone. But it would have been so good to have it with me today because was going to check into the celebrated Starlight Inn. Camping on a hard ground.

The fantasies of the unsung amenities of the Starlight Inn for example acres upon acres of bedroom and urinal, were immediately wiped on the sight of two carcasses on the road. One of a vulture and the another of a large jackal. I was intimidated to think of jackals as large as this. I instantly advanced several theories to explain the close proximity of the two departed. And they are as follows.

That this jackal was hungry and determined to get a meal from any moving object that it wished to take a bite out of a moving car. Or perhaps, he was deliriously hungry as to want to jump quite high to catch the vulture and consequently fell in front of a moving car. Or this. The vulture, having been starved and desiring to make a meal out of a famished jackal pecked him and raised a quarrel as to who had the right or the might to feed on the other. In the ensuing squabble the two friends drifted to the road and were both ran over.

If my theories were right and the character of hungry wild animals in this country were to be infered from our two friends, what child-play barrier would of a solo tent with a tasty human be to jackals this hungry. I should never camp anywhere in this country without an army on guard. Onward and upward I rode, motivated to find a stone-walled shelter to spare myself from the wrong part of the foodchain.

Several kilometres from that deathly scene, I begun the downhill that I like to refer to as The Descent to Hades. On this instance, I rode and felt like a Kamikaze bomber pilot, for I did over 80km/hr for the first time in my life on that descent. It was also where I hit 500km since I started. It gives me still that odd feeling dead people must get when they remember how they died.

Then came a smooth corner, still dropping and I halted into the new town that had come into view. It was a hot late afternoon and I was thirsty and very hungry. I shall remember this town fondly for I never tasted a more satisfying or sweeter soda than the cold coke I had in Fincawwa (feen-chah-wah). I learnt that Hagre Marriam was some 30km from Fincawwa.

I shall tell later of this town but tonight, Hagre Marriam was going to miss the honour of a napping traveller. I got into bed at eight o’clock with my eyes disregarding the sinful amounts of coffee I partook earlier.

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Finding Delight In Torturous Exertion

Just outside Mega is the hypnotizing sight of ochre-coloured ruins of an ancient Italian fort, strategically placed at the highest place. The early morning yellow sunlight that warmed the derelict walls and the thin misty blanket of rising vapour that clothed the glowing ruins could as well been a scene pulled out of a dream.

I left my bike beside the road to explore the fallen guard house. When it had been constructed, the fort must have impressed in its baroqueness. It would have been attractive in its inattentiveness to aesthetics.

Even now, having been shelled by one of the Meneliks and trampled by looters, you can not help but admire the skill of the builders that laid slates of stone with little mortar and raised a formidable base. It stands still offering a glimpse to the intricate architecture. I guessed it might have some subterranean secrets which piqued my curiosity. However, I could not linger for long as I was wary of attracting harmful attention as a grave looter.

A few kilometres from Mega is the longest, smoothest, most thrilling downhill ride I had ever experienced. I was doing over 50km/h for almost three kilometres. The speed might not sound like neck-break, but for loaded bike and a sore cyclist looking to gain mileage with little exertion, it was more than just exhilarating.

Round a long gentle corner, I came to a small shopping centre of Dubluk where I stopped for soda. There, a man speaking very bad swahili told me he had been to Kenya once, a long time ago, in Langata barracks, Nairobi. His brother is a soldier in the Kenyan army.

Interesting what borders do. Here a man, virtually unemployable in Kenya on account of his language skills and insular social ties impeded by a political border while his travelling brother made soldier of another land by learning, perhaps, a few prejudices in pronunciation and a few well placed men in addition. It has not served us well, this drawing of imaginary borders and selfish hierarchies. Borders drawn on blood ink, swords and guns like quill. What good does it do our species when benign competition in our rational selves overflows to a blood lust and mindless desire for glory, for the want to brag about “me” and “mine”? What does it profit man when archaic bent on someone wanting to be the leader of the pack and wielding sole influence? What good comes from going beyond the dozen of his family to the greedy want of leading the family of a rival and then all families in the village and ultimately the whole tribe?

But far from my longing for peaceful open-ended competition, and being as prone to blunders as I know myself to be, how could I not make one today, of sitting for an hour and later asking how far it was to Yabelo (ia-ve-loh) when I knew it was about 20 kilometres away?

In reality, I was informed, it was 45 kilometres. I grudgingly got back on the bike with little else on my mind than a hot meal and a long bath at Yabelo cheap 4-star hotels. I protest I do not recall much on this stretch, but I encountered a flock of defiant ravens feeding on a small carcass of roadkill. I disappoint you again, my friend, for it would been an entertaining episode had I been a little superstitious.

I was gliding downhill at sunset to a few glimmering beautiful hotel buildings with neon signs at a T-junction that I wrongly thought was it. But Yabelo is, in fact, five kilometres off this Moyale-Addis road. My strength had failed me at this point and having done more than a hundred kilometres for the second time in as many days, I accepted to be ripped off 20birr(KES 100) by a tuktuk driver to drive me to Yabelo proper.

I left my bike at a small beautiful hotel with a manicured lawn outside my wonderful room with a patio for only 50birr (50birr!). I have wished to know why things are so cheap in Ethiopia.

All the same, I was stuck at Yabelo town where I had decided to take my supper until 11 o’clock. It had been long since I was as cold as I got trying unsuccessfully to get a taxi back to my room. It is easy to be depressed when in a town whose language you don’t spreak and whose people don’t speak yours; when you are dirty, sweaty, tired, sleepy; when Liverpool had just been beaten by Everton in a derby whose result was announced in Amharic on a tiny tv.

It was a long wait before I got a taxi back to my room. And even with the hot showers and dry towels, it would still have been a longer night, dear friends, but the long suffering girl that bears my stupidity with superhuman patience rang me and made it tolerable.

I fell asleep soon afterwards, smiling in recollection of that conversation.

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