Most of the roads do not have lane markings, and vehicles just go wherever. On a couple of occasions we did see stop signs or traffic lights, but those were given no regard either. I asked a national about it, and his response was, "We have a democracy. That means we can go where we want to". A few of the large roads did have lane markings. At rush hour, we were on a 4-lane road. At one point in time, we counted 12 lanes of traffic using it! Horns are the most used part of Ethiopian vehicles. You honk if you want to greet someone, you honk if you want to complain about someone else's driving, you honk if you want through to go somewhere, you honk if you're going to turn, you honk to tell pedestrians not to go yet, or if you want them to go.
There are little shops all along the roads, and I had lots of fun looking at them. Especially all of the fruit stands.Clothes shopping, anyone? Or maybe you'd care to have a burger and a wedding cake. If you didn't own a shop, a strip of sidewalk, or just a blanket over the rubble at the side of the road, would work for setting out the things you had for sale.
In the midst of all the chaos, could you sleep? This was a sight I never did get used to-the homeless, who would sleep wherever, whenever. If they had a coat, they would put it over them, but we saw plenty of others just lying on the grass beside the road with nothing to cover them at all. In the rain, you would see homeless women squatting by the roadside, holding a shawl over themselves and their children.
What I didn't photograph, were the beggars. When the bus would be sitting in traffic, we would almost always have people begging at the windows. And, they were at the shopping areas, too. Following you along, hands stretched out, calling you Mother or Sister-the old ladies who would mime that they were hungry, young children who would rub their bellies and hold out their hands, mothers who would pull back their shawl to show you their nursing baby, the cripple who could barely hobble to the bus, the young man who was leading a blind sibling around, the leper with no legs pushing himself along on a skateboard, and all of them wanting money. I had made the decision based on others' prior experience not to hand out cash, but took bags of granola bars,fruit leather, candy and trail mix. Sometimes this was gratefully received, but sometimes there was just annoyance at the lack of cash. Yes, some of the kids were very pushy, and they would take what you had offered, stuff it up their shirts and then demand more, pushing aside others who were waiting. But overall, there was a dignity that even the poorest carried themselves with, which made the thought of photographing their misery seem wrong, somehow.
As Tuesday wore on and we were out longer, I began to enjoy Addis more. Not that the poverty was any less shocking or overwhelming, but there are beautiful aspects to the culture, too. Ethiopians are very loving to children, much more so than here in the States. The sight of every adult coming to a stop to ask their name and to give kisses when little ones were around was so much fun. The culture is very relational. I loved the people watching, especially watching people greet each other on the streets. I am sure that not everyone in Ethiopia knows everyone else, but to the foreign eye it sure can look like it. Overall, people were very friendly, and most of them looked out for the ferenge(foreigner), although I did not appreciate the guard who used a stick to drive away some of the street kids I was talking to and buying gum and kleenex from! Most of the kids knew at least a little English, and they loved to try it out on you. Some of the older ones actually spoke better English than some American teenagers I know!
Here is the market in the "Post Office District" where we shopped for souvenirs. The shops held a little bit of everything: carvings, drums, traditional dresses, scarves, silver jewellery, traditional Ethiopian crosses, t-shirt, coffee sets, purses, and books. Out on the street there were men trying to sell maps, belts, baskets and street kids selling gum and kleenex. One of the younger boys I met whittled sticks to make "toothbrushes". I bought lots of gum and kleenex and toothbrushes that I didn't need, but I was impressed with those people who were out actively trying to support themselves.
We had lunch at an Italian restaurant. Italy occupied Ethiopia for a period of time, and their influence can still be seen in the food. Yet another different aspect of Ethiopian culture, is the relaxed attitude to time and schedules. It was a common theme, that it could take half an hour for your drink order to arrive and another half hour for your meal to arrive. While this could be frustrating when you were operating on a schedule, I also appreciated this more laid-back attitude. Meal times in American society are more and more pressured and shortened, and it is nice to see the social aspects of meals enjoyed without the rush to get out so someone else can be seated, or to rush off to your next appointment.
After lunch, it was Gotcha Day!-off to meet our kids and begin life as a forever family. When I got off of the bus, there was the most gorgeous little girl waiting for me! Her nanny had gotten her ready for the day, dressing her in the outfit we had sent to her in one of the outfits we had sent in her care package and including the little sunglasses that had been stuck in the care package at the last minute.
Once again, I was in awe of the Ethiopian's love of children. The hostess came to ask Rosie her name and to kiss her. Then the waiter came to love on her. He asked if it was okay to ask her what she wanted to eat. And, Rosie, who very much knows her mind, promptly ordered herself a "chicken cutlet". While we waited, she had a Sprite, then a glass of warm milk, some cheerios I had packed in her bag, a bag of fruit snacks, then 2 slices of bread and butter. When her chicken came she couldn't eat it all, but when my sandwich arrived and she spied the fresh slices of tomato, she ripped my sandwich apart to get to the tomatoes.