Monday, June 4, 2007

Welcome to our Country

"Welcome to our country" is a relatively common (and a bit over used to be honest w/you) opening line for the touts and streets vendors to utilize as they attempt to pull one into their world of trinkets and tourist shops. But when I heard a new and improved version of this intro from a random local walking the streets to Addis Ababa,

"Hey, Mr. America - welcome to our mother fucking country" I, oddly enough, actually felt more welcome then I had before :) At least he wasn't trying to con me into some scam, which is unfortunately quite common.

The less touristy Ethiopia has been a welcomed change from Egypt. Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of street vendors, hawkers, and beggars hassling you on most roads, but that is somewhat understandable considering the overall wealth (or lack there of) of this country. Like in most 3rd world countries, a tourist is a walking dollar sign to these people and they are just looking to feed themselves and their families. This is the line of reasoning I attempt to remind myself as the daily badgering continues. At the end of the day, it's a bit ridiculous to overlook the unbelievably fortunate position we, as westerners are in compared to the average life (and living conditions) the people in 3rd world countries are forced to live...OK then, off the soap box and onto the travel stories...

Outside of that interesting welcome I received, I have really enjoyed the hospitable and friendly people ...not to mention the scenery (in all senses of the word) as the ladies of Ethiopia are easy on the eyes. After meeting a great group of backpackers at my hotel in Addis Ababa, I was lucky enough to catch an Africa Cup (soccer) qualifying match between Ethiopia v. Congo. It was my favorite memory thus far on the trip. For the first time I felt like I was doing something with the locals as we cheered on the Ethiopian team (logically we chose to cheer for the team who's fans encompassed 99% of the crowd). And when I say cheer, I mean everything from chanting, & singing in coordinated fashion to lighting random shit on fire (anything from pieces of paper to blankets and shirts as well as opposing fans - j/k) . Obviously the level passion these people had for their team was, to say the least, rather intense and a lot of fun to be around.

Next up will be traveling to the northern Ethiopian cities of
Lalibela - home of a shit load of churches
Gonder - which is at the base of the Simien Mountains and
Bahir Dar which lies on Lake Tana - one of the sources of the Nile.
For those of you wondering about the picture, yes that is the most ridiculous visor you've ever seen. The all leather piece has Ethiopia's tourism slogan written across it "Ethiopia : 13 months of sunshine". When you buy cheesy touristy things you might as well go all out :)


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