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.