I just arrived in Adis Abiba, Ethiopia about 36 hours ago. I am staying at a very non-touristy place with a friend of mine who is involved in a training workwhop for NGOs. So I am having a very un-typical introduction to the country since I am in an enclave with internet access, constant electricity (though not constant water – it gets turned on 3x a day for 2 hours), a cafeteria, and a security force. Indeed, this may be my only blog post from Ethiopia – I have heard there is little internet service elsewhere, and where there is an internet cafe, it’s very expensive and the connections are very slow. And given my cash situation, I think I may just forego the cost. You see, I came to Ethiopia with my money in a miture of $USD in cash and traveler’s checks; mostly traveler’s checks. (Ethiopia doesn’t have any international ATMs, apparently, though it seems this may be changing. There is supposed to be one in the Sheraton Hotel here in Addis, and I saw some postings online about a few appearing here and there in random bank branches of this one bank.) So, I arrive in the airport, and expect to cash in some traveler’s checks. No. Cash only. This is not what I read, so I was confused, and changed $50 cash. Then yesterday my friend tried to change her checks too and the bank here told her no, that can’t change them. Furthermore, no banks in Ethiopia are accepting them right now! We can’t get a straight answer about why this is the case. So…I have less than half the cash available for exchange that I anticipated needing for my trip! We’re going to the Sheraton today to see if we can use their ATM, or if they will cash traveler’s checks. Fingers crossed.
Last night we went out to dinner at a traditional restaurant, with music, and singing and dancing. It was really good, except that afterwards we discovered that one of the dishes was raw beef! I had been warned about this dish, kifto special, and was told not to eat it. So we spent a good amount of time trying to figure out if we had eaten it. Basially, it doesn’t look raw in the way I’d expected it to – it doesn’t look like sushi, for example; it looks like ground beef. I took a few photos, but it was very dark and even my flash didn’t really capture the atmosphere. (The connection is so slow here anyway that it takes 5 minutes to upload one photo. So I posted a few to my flickr.) I tried to get photos of the dancers but they were moving so fast they are a bit of a blur, which actualy does get across some of the atmosphere. The object of the dances we saw seemed to be to make your shoulders and arms appear as if they are not connected to your body. The dancers would isolate their trunk while shuddering and flicking their shoulders, arms, and even legs. Pretty impressive.