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A Kenyan in Addis Ababa (Part 2) - The "University Girls"

Addis Ababa's Light Rail system runs through the middle of a street.
The electrified light rail is still under construction, though mostly done
This post continues from Part 1. 

The residents of Addis are friendly too. On my first day, I did meet a guard at a hotel, who later offered to show me around. Among the places he suggested, was this place where some “University girls” were holding some "dancing ceremony". He added, that Ethiopians being Orthodox Christians, were about to go on a sex, alcohol and meat fast, hence the importance of this “ceremony.”

I had some suspicion that I was being sold to sex, but my guide insisted that this was not a sex sale. Just dancing University girls. We did end up in some nondescript compound, and into a house. There was sort of a sitting area, with a radio system, low benches and tables, and grass sprinkled around the floor. Grass sprinkled around the floor is an Ethiopian tradition that indicates you are welcome to a place.

It was about 5 PM,  and the hosts seemed not to be expecting any visitors at this time. My guide disappeared down some corridor into the back to call them. In marched a troop of light ladies, a good number wearing vest tops. I could have sworn they were all chosen on the basis of the massiveness of their breasts. The typical woman in the streets did not have as large a pair, which raised the question of the odds of about 6 of them being in one place.

It also hit me that I was a client, which was confirmed when about 2 men walked in - probably the pimps. The ladies insisted I seat and have coffee, and they would dance. I was apprehensive, after an experience I once had in Istanbul. I insisted I needed to get back to my hotel to work, which had some truth in it. This is despite the fact that they had switched on some music and started dancing.

I may be wrong, but I think I hold the record for the fastest exit out of this place. I practically led my host out. Gladly,  there was no Istanbul incident here,  probably more of puzzled ladies.

My guide later attempted to calm my frayed nerves by insisting that these were just your typical university girls. I should take their number, and if we like each other,  they can even visit me in my hotel room. I don’t even need to pay them,  but you know, being African, someone gives people a little money for fare, about 100 Birr. I didn’t ask why they needed taxi fare to commute a stone’s throw distance from my hotel.

Now, as much as my job does involve Public Relations and Communications, Daudt, (Sorry Ethiopians, this is how it spelt?) my guide, could damn well do a better job than I could ever dream off. I mean, who else convinces you this well to pay for something without the thought that you are buying it crossing your mind?

It is noteworthy that among the first places that you are shown to as a male visitor to Addis, is a "ladies’ house".

Yeah to friendship!!!
Noteworthy too is that prostitution is not illegal in Ethiopia. It seems, the police and the state have better things to do other than harass women for selling sex. Again, never did I spot a police vehicle parked at some street, probably extorting from bar owners and those milling around. Landing back in Nairobi the next day, a police vehicle parked near some bars was among the first sights I encountered from the airport. Nairobi.

The police in Ethiopia, I am told, are not in the habit of accepting bribes. In fact, I am told the corrupt in this country are made example of, such that others do not develop an appetite for ill gotten gains. What a contrast from Kenya.

You will also like to know that Daudt, after showing me around to some shops, and a “university girls party”, did not ask for any money for the effort! This contrasts with Nairobi, where people will even ask you for “something small” because they moved out of your way in the street. Well, not exactly, but you get it. Again, read Yvonne Adhiambo’s Weight of Whispers.

More of the light rail in a different part of Addis
An electrified light rail is under construction by the Chinese (as is almost everything else). The light rail links sections of Addis Ababa,  but still remains non-operational.

The impact of the Chinese in this city is such that the airport has signage in both English and Chinese. 

If you doubted Ethiopian-Chinese friendship, Addis Ababa does have an Ethio-China Friendship Road, and an Ethio-China Friendship Square, and to top it all an African-China Friendship Square.

Going back to the cost of imported cars, many are not able to afford cars. Those who can have to settle for what would be cheaper cars. As such, people who can comfortably afford Subarus in Kenya would have to do with an older Vitz in Ethiopia, as the prices would be about the same.

The mechanics in Addis must be quite good, for much as they have well aged cars, I rarely came across a smoking car, something that is pretty common in Nairobi.

While the Ethiopian government’s motive seems to be to encourage local manufacturing through disincentivising imports, I feel it would be more effective to instead switch to an incentive model, where the government helps potential investors set up globally competitive and sustainable businesses. That, however, is a topic for another day.

A variety of shoes, all made in Ethiopia
Compared to Kenya,  Ethiopia seems to produce much more. There was a variety of leather products,  wool products,  handmade and machine textiles,  and food products. These same industries also seem to hold a lot of potential, for those willing to set up export-geared manufacturing focused on quality and foreign tastes. As an example, their leather products could do with finer stitching and a variety of designs for the export market.
If you plan to go shopping,  you can check out Churchill Avenue,  or "Post Office",  though the same items are available at Merkato for half the price, or less. Be warned that if you are dropped off at Churchill, it will be mostly outside a more expensive shop that shares commission with your cabbie. Do shop around.


Yeah maan!
Me and Solo
I did meet “Solo” somewhere along Churchill Avenue. He could tell I was a Kenyan, probably because I had some shopping. Most Ethiopians otherwise thought I was a Habesha, with one old man even stopping me in the street and saying lots of things in Amharic. When they did learn I was Kenyan, the Ethiopians were curious to know if I was “Kikuyu”. They do have more tribes than we do.

Solo had been to Kenya before, in an attempt to travel to somewhere in Europe. This had failed. His sister however lives in Hurlingham,  and is “married to a Kikuyu.” It is interesting how Africans approach the thorny issue of tribe in other countries. If only the matter wasn’t as controversial.

Solo also tried to get me to visit a place near where I was staying, where I would find some University girls about to go on holiday. I could take their number,  and they could come to my hotel room, have some fun, and I could,  in African culture, give them “some fare”. He may not be as refined as Daudt, but what a coincidence?

He did make sure I took photos of a British Cannon monument on Churchhill Avenue,  and remarked I was sharp for shopping around beyond where my cabbie had dropped me. He also did share some titbits about Ethiopia that I have shared elsewhere here. Again, it did feel odd that at the end of my interaction with Solo,  he did not hassle me for any money. Addis is a strange city for a Nairobian.

Street coffee. Do try some, trade stories 
At a coffee stall by a street under construction, I did meet some other Ethiopian who had some knowledge of Kiswahili, having lived in South B for a while. He too had probably come to Nairobi in an attempt to find his way to Europe. Nairobi, if you may not be aware, is a regional human and drug trafficking hub to Europe.

Apologies for splitting my experiences into a series of blog posts. No, it is not for the page views, I'm just not sure many people would read 4,700 words and more in a single sitting. If you would like more details on something or another, do request in the comments and I'll add that to my final post. Thanks for reading, do share.

Part 3 goes up on Thursday. You can check back, subscribe by email, or subscribe to this page's Facebook feed to get notified too. There's me on Twitter, too.

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