Podcast #136 – The Worst Day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I’d had quite a fantastic half of the day so far in the beautiful city of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. I explored the streets of the town through a drive with Tom, a friendly local guide, and I visited just in time to witness the festivities of the Timkat Festival, a grand ceremony of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The lively songs, the dancing, and the procession were all such a sight to see, and I was ready to call it a great day. However, nothing quite prepared me for the next half of my trip to Addis Ababa, which turned out to be a complete nightmare. Here, I was scammed, and I also got some terrible news that made me think that I was going to die.

Read about my Best experience in Ethiopia  

My drive with Tom around the city was the real highlight of my short stay in Addis Ababa. The tour was very educational and insightful, especially on the hardships that the locals face regarding their economy as I have learned, neither the lower class nor some of the upper class in Addis Ababa experience such wealth beyond $1000 per month. While the goods here are cheaper compared to prices in Europe, it is not by a wide margin. It is tough to afford some of the necessities with a salary like that of Tom’s. This is much harder for the most impoverished families that have many mouths to feed and have children to send to school.

Tom also pointed out that if you were born poor, it’s almost impossible to get rich and get out of meager living. The imbalance between the poor and the rich is very prominent. Education is not great nor appropriately supported by the state, so the wealthy families bring their children to study abroad in the US or the UK. The poor kids get left behind, and they do not get the education they deserve. The kids don’t learn anything from school, and Tom said that this is one of the reasons why there are so many child beggars and thieves in the city.

A TEXT MESSAGE FROM HELL

Back at the hotel where I was staying, I received a text from my retired doctor back in Denmark. Two months ago, when I was in Morocco and learned that I might have pneumonia, I went to have a checkup in a hospital in Tiznit. The doctor checked my breathing and did an X-ray, and he was very confident that it was indeed pneumonia. Just to get a second opinion, I took a picture of the X-ray and sent it to my former doctor in Denmark who was now a good friend of mine. He was quite sure that it was pneumonia, and he instructed me to take my penicillin medication diligently and have my lungs checked again after two months.

The moment I was back in my hotel, I received th

is text message from my doctor, asking me if I had my lungs checked again. It was almost as if he had it marked in his calendar to contact me as soon as I was headed to Cape Town, where I was headed towards the next morning. I told him that I was going to have it done in Cape Town, but I thought what the big deal was about because I felt fine. He told me that it’s just to rule out the possibility of something unpleasant from happening. It wasn’t likely, he said, but I needed to get it done. This made me worried because I had no idea whether I will be given a death sentence in the next few days or not. I was all alone in my hotel, and my mind just went all over the place, thinking of my time, my family, all the things I haven’t and should have done.

I had my doubts, but I also couldn’t help but feel my luck and gratitude that I was able to go on this journey all over the world. I haven’t felt this accomplished and fulfilled for many years of my life.

I GOT SCAMMED AGAIN

As if I wasn’t feeling bad enough, I became a victim of a bizarre scam the night before I had to leave for Cape Town. I was having dinner in this small pizzeria near the place where the Timkat Festival parade was when I got to talk with this local who I recognized from the hotel. We had a little chat, but he soon invited me to this small festivity that was going to happen later in the night with music and dancing. I initially declined because of my early flight tomorrow morning, but this man was very persistent. In the end, I just gave in and said I was only going to stay for an hour.

I did not know what to expect, but I didn’t expect a small and dodgy living room with virtually no people. I thought it was very strange, but I just said what the hell – let’s just have a beer and chat with this very interesting man. As soon as we got the beers, around seven girls entered wearing traditional Ethiopian dresses, and they started dancing around the room. This was already very weird to me, but the man then told me to go and buy them a bottle of wine for around 200 Ethiopian Birr (~ 6 Euros). Of course, I refused because I was just there to drink my beer and then go home. But the man was very persuasive, and he just kept pushing and repeating that it was only 200 Birr. At one point, my “no” was probably unclear that he waved his hand and nodded to this older man in the “bar” to bring out this local wine. I never remembered saying yes, but I just let it happen because I guessed I could handle around 6 euros.

The night went on, and the strange man even goaded me to go dance with the girls, but that time I firmly said no. When it was time to go pick up the bill, it wasn’t 200 Birr – it was 2,000. When the man said that he said 2,000 instead of 200, that’s when I realized I fell for the “I’m sorry I couldn’t speak English well” scam like last time in Beijing. The bartender came, and it felt like he was anticipating my argument with the younger guy. He said that it was 2,000 and there must be some way to resolve this. I was just so tired and frustrated already that I reluctantly paid for 1,000 Birr, which was still above and beyond what I had to pay, which I never agreed on in the first place.

 

From such a great start of a tour around Addis Ababa, it slowly turned out to become such a wild and lousy experience altogether. But Ethiopia is a beautiful place, and I am coming back to forget about these awful experiences and make new ones in this beautiful city.

 

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The Radio Vagabond is produced by RadioGuru.
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