May 1, 2008

This Week Last Year - Day 4-

Shopping.....Time with the boys......The Crown Hotel

(we were tired but happy)

****Note - from here forth, pictures do not necessarily match the dialogue *******

This day seemed more of a touristy day.....not that we didn't spend a good amount of time with the boys, but we were out and about in Addis for much of the day. After another wonderful breakfast the minibus came to take us shopping. It was nice to get another glimpse of life in Addis, but if I didn't mention it before, car trips are like riding the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. There isn't much order to traffic and you swish here and there on unpaved uneven rocky roads with no seat belts. This is not a complaint. I enjoy wild rides and Indiana Jones is one of my favorite so it is just an observation really. Another thing....Upon leaving the guesthouse, you could never miss the goats. There were always goats for sale. Those goats were so obedient, following their master when told in a perfect group and resting on the ground waiting, in essence, for their death the rest of the time. When purchased, sometimes they were thrown in a bag and over the purchasers shoulder and carted away. I also spied a grotesque pile of heads and felt bad for these well behaved little guys.

We made our way to the first stop of the day, a line of stores selling every kind of treasure you could imagine. They say that the farther down the line you go, the cheaper the same merchandise gets. We haggled price, probably not too effectively as we knew what we wanted and I guess the American in us, just paid the price. Now on items we weren't sure of, that was a different story. Shop owners did not want to let you leave without buying something. Not in a sinister manner as I guess that sounds, but they will haggle until the price is so low, you either feel bad not paying it or you just want to politely leave and that is the easiest way to do it. We got some very nice things for our family and friends at home. We also picked up some future gifts for the boys. We definitely didn't buy enough. If ever we go back, we will definitely buy more more more. It was nice to shop and that means a lot coming from me who hates shopping even here at home, but it didn't come without its price. We could somewhat deny the street vendors selling their maps and watches etc. But, it was hard to see the disabled people and starving mothers with their starving babies needing help and not being able to give it. We retreated into the car to try to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of not being able to help. From the window, Mike couldn't resist buying a shoe shine from a little boy and it really turned into a poor idea. He should have just let the boy shine his tennis shoes. Instead, my husband, being the butt that he is, told the boy to shine one of our travel mates more appropriate shoes. The travel mate didn't realize this and was trying to turn the boy away who couldn't not shine the shoes because he took the money. In the confusion, the guard came over with his stick to hit the boy. Mike, quite embarrassed had to explain the boy's way out of trouble. This stick was not a new concept. If the vendors got too pushy or if the beggars would not leave....the stick came out and the people cowered in a way that you knew that they had experience with the stick. It was one of those things that made my stomach turn. We needed the protection, but to see other human beings in that condition and having to come up against a stick....that was just something that bothered me and still bothers me. If I was in a similar situation....would I risk a beating so that my baby could eat that day....just horrible. Not really a choice at all. But, we saw why we could not give handouts first hand. When you give handouts to mothers and children, when they turn the corner they get mugged for their gift and can be hurt. In our case, mothers with their babies (who were obviously starving) crowded our windows looking for something, anything to take away. People had granola bars and began passing them out through the window of the car as we were about to leave. Unfortunately, word gets out at super sonic speed and we had a crowd around us forming. You could feel the crowd pressing around the minibus and we had to leave in a hurry.

We left for our next destination which was more of a one stop shop with everything you could need and it was inside more of a compound. The people still followed, but there was a gate and some distance so catastrophe could be averted and guilt wasn't as in your face. Here there was no haggling, but the prices were still very good. We ended up buying some really nice jewelry and boy, the people in our group emerged with bags and bags of stuff. If only we had the room in our luggage, we would have left with just as many.

We then drove through the merkato which is the authentic market place in Addis. We were not allowed to really go there because it was deemed too dangerous. It was nice to drive through though and get a taste of what things are like. The streets were jammed with people and there were many old Toyota pickups piled high with stuff and people....and I mean piled. We drove through town and saw some schools and universities. We saw a beautiful mosque and Mike was even amazed to see a shop full of shiny chrome car rims. Our outing ended as we made our way to the supermarket to pick up some groceries. We bought some formula, cookies and rice cereal for the boys. They had everything there....all the comforts of home....from Twinkies to Rice Crispies. Go figure!!! I couldn't imagine coming all the way to Ethiopia to enjoy a Twinkie, but that is just me.

We came back to the guest house for a nice lunch and a little rest. We unpacked our stuff and got ready for what was going to be a nice evening at the Crown Hotel for dinner. We went to the care center to spend time with the boys. Some guests were ready to visit with their children in the guesthouse, but we decided to play it safe and spent time with the boys on their own turf. Of course, that decision was cemented when Seb screamed upon seeing us. But, we made the most of our time together. We played in the playroom and the courtyard. We took turns with the boys one on one and then together as a family. Seb really started to calm down...but every time he saw a familiar face, it was two steps back. He loved the staff and knowing him now it all makes sense. Seb loves us and it takes time for him to feel comfortable with new people. He likes to be with us constantly and doesn't prefer to play independently. Ben on the other hand is an independent dude. He loves us and loves to spend time with us, but he can look at a book alone or is content exploring the backyard without holding our hand. So, it is no surprise, that Seb needed time to trust us. It was hard to leave them this day to go out to dinner. But, it was good not to rush things. It was good to transition slowly. This would be the last night they would spend in their familiar care center toddler bed together with their roommates and nannies and everyone they knew. Tomorrow would be the last day they were at the care center at all.

So, we left for the Crown Hotel. We had a wonderful night. We were seated and ordered our drinks. Their was a great buffet with so many yummy foods that I don't even know the name for. Our hands were washed in the traditional manner. We enjoyed watching the dancers. After the meal, as it always is in Ethiopia, there is coffee service. The coffee is to die for and can last for three rounds. Even on our followed every meal. It was great. This was really a great trip. We were bonding with our boys and enjoying Ethiopia to the fullest. We couldn't wait for the days to come. Although, we were a little scared about taking the boys tomorrow. We hoped Seb would be ready. So, we enjoyed our last night of sleep, uninterrupted sleep for awhile.

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