Moving on to Awash was something. First, I had contracted with a tuk-tuk to (again!) pick me up at 5:30 AM to take me to the bus station, but he wasn’t there. Luckily, another random tuk-tuk happened by (in the dark) and I climbed aboard. At the bus station I got a minibus to Awash, which left at 6:30. I was surprised when it left with only six passengers, but not to worry—this was the Awash milk run and we stopped umpteen times to pick up and let off passengers. Sometimes we waited for 15 minutes at the stops—maybe to let some other minibuses go ahead so after while there would again be passengers to pick up.
The restauranteer had the carcasses of goat and beef right there on display to show that the meat was fresh, as he cut off pieces for the cooking. Since I ate this with injera with my hands, both hands and face were smeared with chili. I fished a tissue out of my back pocket and tried to wipe off the mess.
After lunch I walked around a bit in this active small town, had a macchiato, and bought some peanuts in a little plastic bag. I returned to the restaurant and sat with two other women that were on my minibus. The peanuts were shelled but not hulled. When I opened them and put a couple into my mouth, both women and a waiter who was also watching, said, “NO!” Apparently they never eat the hulls. The waiter took the plastic bag of peanuts out of my hand, emptied them into his hand, and rubbed them vigorously while he poured them from hand to hand and blew away the hulls, then poured them into my hand. Let’s hope he doesn’t have TB! Anyway, the peanuts were good although unsalted.
When we finally left in the minivan, a nicely dressed woman sitting ahead of me handed me a few twigs with leaves on and said, “Food.” I asked her if it were chat, and she nodded. So I took a few leaves and chewed them and they tasted like—well, like tender green leaves. After a bit I had swallowed all the masticated greenery, and waited for a reaction—alas, I didn’t detect any.
At some point we stopped, as usual, to pick up passengers and there was a big hullaballoo! A number of women wanted to get on the minibus with a dozen jerry cans, sacks, and miscellaneous parcels. Such shoving and shouting! Finally two were allowed on or I should say crammed on, along with the stuff. The small jerry cans contained milk. They were leaking a little and I was concerned that the milk would get on my backpack and sour, but all was well when they finally got off. And shortly after that at 1:30 PM, I arrived in Awash, a small town half way between Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa.
Minibuses are supposed to be faster and more comfortable—well, that’s not my experience. From then on, I took the big old clunky government buses. I chose my hotel in Awash because it was said to be “a stone’s throw from the bus station.” So I went there to get information—yes, there was a big bus going to Addis at 6:00 AM. No more need for tuk-tuks that don’t show up!
I’ve been dealing with an infection on my elbow—don’t know how I got it, but have been using Neosporin, which isn’t helping much. I bought some tetracycline at a drugstore, which, I see, was packaged in 2005. I wonder how long it lasts, given it is kept at high temps here in the desert. I think the Neosporin that I brought is probably old, too.
I passed by a couple collecting water in jerry cans from a pump in a fenced enclosure.
I got ‘let down’ at the stadium and walked a couple of blocks to get a minibus to the Piazza. At the Piazza the usual beggars and touts were on full display. Here was a mother and her baby, lying sleeping on the sidewalk. (How would you like to raise a child in these circumstances?)
I’m again at the Taitu Hotel but this time they gave me a ‘special’ room—still no attached bathroom, but a very nice room with a sink, TV (one channel) and balcony.
Since I’m staying in the Hotel Taitu, which was built by Empress Taitu, I felt that I should go to the Beta Maryam Mausoleum and see where she, and her husband, Emperor Menelik, are buried. The Mausoleum is as big as a cathedral and there were scores of people praying. It seems odd that they would be praying at this mausoleum, which really isn’t a church, but they were. A guide offered to show me the tombs in the basement. He rolled back a rug, opened a metal door in the floor and we descended to the crypt area. All the while up above us, men were chanting prayers.
On ‘going home’ day, I took three minibuses to the airport (total cost 36 cents) and made the three flights home. It’s great to be home—-always fun to go and fun to go home!