Archive for May, 2010

Ethiopia Adventure – Part 2

Thursday April 29, 2010

We arrived at the airport in Ethiopia after midnight so it was technically Thursday by then. Gotta love leaving Chicago on Tuesday and not getting to Addis Ababa until Thursday. At least with the time of our flight we were able to get to our hotel and go to sleep to get us on a pretty good start to acclimating to the time change.

The drive to the hotel was an interesting experience itself. Once we made it through immigration, the taxi lady asked if we wanted a driver. We said yes and followed her outside. I expected we’d meet the taxi in front of the terminal like you would at every other airport I’ve been to. But instead, we walked down the path to the parking lot where the taxis were.

The first thing I noticed as we walked out of the terminal was how quiet it was. There wasn’t the city hum that I expected for a city of over 3.3 million people. We could even hear crickets! It probably had something to do with the fact that it was after one in the morning, but it was still a surprise.

The taxis are all small white and blue cars, but ours was a station wagon that night. But it was still tiny and all our luggage got tied to the roof rack. We told the drivers our hotel’s name, but they didn’t seem to know where it was, which is what people said would happen. There is a very different sense of street names and directions there. Our hotel was near the Fistula Hospital which is apparently well known. So that information was enough for the driver to get us there, since street names weren’t an option. No Garmins in these taxis.

For most of the drive we were the only car on the road. But there were many dogs out. Dogs aren’t generally pets in Ethiopia and there are lots of street dogs. We saw a fair number scavenging around the streets. They were a variety of sizes (probably from 15 to 55 pounds), all different colors, but all of them had curled tails and definitely had the look of street dogs.

The whole trip I only saw two cats. I’m guessing that the feral dogs make it difficult for the cat population. One of the cats was a very, very scraggly white and orange. The other was a tabby. Not quite as pathetic looking, but not a thing like my overfed house cats.

One thing I noticed on the drive was the size of some of the intersections we went through. I wondered what they’d be like with the bustle of the day. One of these intersections had a traffic light. It was the only one I saw on the whole drive to the hotel. It was red for us and the driver slowed a bit but pretty much just went through the intersection anyway. Of course there weren’t any other cars on the road at the time.

Our hotel turned out to be very nice and the staff was great. We pretty much just headed to our room and went to bed. I did try to take a shower and failed. I was warned that you had to plug in the hot water heater in the bathroom before showering. So that part went fine. But I couldn’t figure out how to turn the water on.

Our bathroom. Notice the hot water heater in the upper right. There is also a sign above the toilet that says "Tissue couldn't pass through this bowl." Apparently you aren't supposed to flush toilet paper and every bathroom has a basket next to the toilet instead. The water bottle next to the sink was for brushing our teeth. We weren't taking any chances with the water since we were warned in many ways not to drink any non-bottled water.

The shower was very fancy and had lots of buttons that probably did lots of interesting things, but I never got any of them to work.

Kerry informed me in the morning that you had to pull the knob instead of turn it. I felt better when she said she had to ask to find out.

We had a suite which was huge and very comfortable.

One corner of our huge room. Kerry had a king size bed in here. Later we found out that it was probably the most comfortable bed in the whole hotel.

My room. You can see the start of my water bottle collection.

In the morning we could appreciate our surroundings a bit more. Each of our rooms had a balcony and enormous sliding glass doors. Here was my view which was off the back of the hotel.

One morning Kerry saw the lady at this house let her chickens out of a box on the porch. Another morning a guy was outside bathing.

Our hotel's driveway and guard.

Across the street from our hotel. The scaffolding on the building across the street was pretty scary but it was what they used everywhere. We saw many, many buildings under construction and they all had this scaffolding.

Across the street.

When we were downstairs having breakfast, I had to get a picture of the lights. They were pretty special.

The entrance to the hotel was one big room where the reception desk was as well as the dining room, kitchen and bar.

Hotel lobby. The guy at the bar was my favorite. He was so nice and helpful and attempted not to laugh when Kerry tried to tell him "thank you" in Amharic.

The breakfast menu seemed pretty standard if not extensive. I wasn’t adventurous and had eggs and toast.

Little did I know that I saved up my adventure for later that morning when we set off to see the sights. The itinerary with Holt, the adoption agency, didn’t start until Friday, so we had a whole day to explore.

To be continued…

Ethiopia Adventure – Part 1

In an attempt to get used to this time zone again, I struggled to stay up past 8:00pm last night. I succeeded, but woke up about 5:30 this morning ready to go. So I thought I’d use this opportunity to write about some of my trip.

Monday April 26, 2010

I left Portland airport around 11:00am to head to Chicago to meet up with Kerry so we could leave from there together. On the way to my gate, there was an exhibit of clothing made out of recycled things. I’m not sure about wearing any of them, but a few were pretty neat.

This dress was made out of gelato spoons and bowls.

This one was made out of cat litter bags.

In preparation for a long flight to Istanbul, once I arrived in Chicago, I spent my layover touring O’Hare airport. I took the tram to each and every terminal and walked each one. When taking the tram to the international terminal, you need to go pretty far, but it gives a view of the Chicago skyline. I have flown through O’Hare a few times, but had never actually been to Chicago, so it was nice to see the view.

Turns out, I ended up getting to actually see Chicago since there was an unforeseen travel delay so we had to wait until the next day to fly out. Kerry’s sister picked us up from the airport and we spent the night at her house.

This meant I got to hang out with Piper again.

Piper at her aunt's house.

Tuesday April 27, 2010

Kerry, Piper and I took the train downtown and toured Chicago. We walked through Millennium Park, which was in bloom and very pretty.

View from Millennium Park

We also visited The Bean, which I hadn’t heard of before but was very fun to see.

The Bean

You can walk into it and the underside is just as reflective as the outside. It was very disorienting to look up since you can’t really tell how tall it is.

Piper inside The Bean

It was a very sunny but semi-chilly day. Everything was in bloom though and there were tulips everywhere.

We visited the public library which had owl sculptures on the corners of the building.

Chicago Public Library

We took a taxi ride around to see more sights like the Magnificent Mile and all the museums. Piper’s favorite part was putting the window up and down. Around mid afternoon we took the train back.

Piper having a snack on the train

We spent the early evening at Kerry’s sister’s house and regrouped for our second attempt to leave the country.

We got to the airport over three hours before our flight, got checked in just fine and enjoyed some typical airport food before making our way through the very long lines at security.

As we walked to our gate, we passed this kitty bench, which I wasn’t sure the significance of but had to have a picture.

It was nice to see the words "on time"

As we settled in at our gate waiting for our flight, Kerry got ready with her sexy granny socks, the kind that are good for circulation and can help on long flights. Our flight certainly qualified since the first leg to Istanbul was almost 11 hours long.

Our flight took off on time and we had a great view of the full moon reflecting on Lake Michigan.

To celebrate being on our way, Kerry had a beer on the plane. Unfortunately she said it was about the worst she had ever had, so beware if you see this kind and steer clear.

Wednesday April 28, 2010

We made it to Istanbul and had a nice view of the city as we landed. It would have been fun to have a long layover and had at least a mini tour of the city. We found out that Turkish Airlines offers a free sightseeing tour, but only from 9am until 2pm. We didn’t land in Istanbul until 5pm and our layover was less than two hours. Pretty much just enough time to figure out which combination of lines we had to go through and figure out where our gate was.

We really were in Istanbul, even though it was brief.

Before long we were on our way to Ethiopia. That leg of the flight was about 5 1/2 hours and we arrived just after midnight. After the next series of lines – visa and immigration – we were on our way.

Addis Ababa Airport. I took the picture while the taxi driver was tying our luggage to the car.

We got our taxi and started our drive to our hotel so we could finally sleep.

To be continued…