Monday, August 22, 2005

First thoughts

There is a 10-hour time difference between Ethiopia and home (the East Bay). As my faithful laptop tells me, it is 1:59 p.m. on Sunday at home. This is odd because as I sit here about to go to bed, but typing and listening to a playlist I made for a friend, that same friend may be taking a run with her dad, or hanging out with friends, or shopping on Telegraph. The list goes on. Now, at a certain point in my life I realized that the world extended beyond me and my family and my dogs, past my friends’ houses and my school. Since then at random times I’ve thought to myself Wow, there are probably a ton of people biking and playing hockey and giving birth and eating hot dogs and… Again the list goes on. But then it was superficial, just a little game I played with myself. Now, while I feel very superficial saying this, the idea that life is going on is much more real to me. Because there is a life (or way of life) I am temporarily (or eternally) leaving behind, thinking about what’s happening on that other side of the world means a lot more to me. It’s thinking about people and places I know and love. I’ve been out of the country numerous times, Ethiopia alone two other times. But a school year feels much more permanent than a vacation, and now thinking about what’s going on throughout other parts of the world is much more personal. First steps towards real global thinking perhaps?

Well, we arrived in Addis Ababa Friday night after a very long, but surprisingly easy, flight. Ah, I should state here that my family came to Ethiopia with me and will stay for a month as I settle in. After a 5 hour flight to Washington D.C., the hardest leg for me, and a direct flight from there to Addis with a layover in Rome to refuel we finally arrived. The flight to Ethiopia was relatively easy because I mostly slept, ate, and watched movies. In total we were in transit for about 30 hours from the point we left Oakland to the moment we arrived at my Aunt’s house (she lives in Boston and is currently there, but owns a house here).

We came into the New Bole Airport. Last time I was here it was in the final stages of construction, and now that it’s been completed it somewhat symbolizes the shift that I see in Ethiopia: the growth and building and modernization. By 2008 Ethiopian Airline also plans to bring in a new fleet of Boeing airplanes. But all across Addis new buildings are being built and rocky dirt roads are being paved. Many new cars have been imported, so now Mercedes-Benzes, Lexuses, and Toyota and Suzuki jeeps hurtle down these freshly paved roads with the old rickety blue and white taxi cars and vans. There are basic driving laws and you can’t get a license without being able to properly manage a car. But driving here is still crazy: at times you share the road with other cars, people on foot, and goats and cows; taxi drivers will get impatient if the road is jammed in and will jump into the lane going in the opposite direction, plunge forward into the oncoming traffic and create an even bigger jam. However, as my uncle said to me, out of the chaos some sort of order manages to form. Ah, and all of the cars run on diesel, so thick, black-gray clouds sputter out from big vans and trucks, lingering above the ground for awhile. Needless to say, the fumes are awful. Then, out of the din of honking cars and the general chatter of people on the street, I will suddenly hear songs I know (50 Cent’s “Just a Little Bit” and Snoop’s “Drop it Like It’s Hot”). This music spills out of tiny shops arbitrarily placed along a street. These shops sell bootleg movies and are plastered with posters of musicians like Eminem and Eamon and movies like “Cold Mountain” and “Are We There Yet?” As much as Ethiopia is beginning to renovate itself to keep up with modern times, it is still very much a third-world country. From this I see great contrast in the country. New luxury cars mingle with 20-year-old ones and grand new houses are being built that only a minute percentage of the population can afford.

School starts on Wednesday. Oh my.

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