The next day, Ingrid left on the train to go home to the Netherlands, and I stayed at the hotel and sat in the breakfast bar for hours catching up on work, emails, and blog posts. Then I caught a cab to the airport. On the way, the cabbie and I both had a laugh at this doggie on a bike:
At the airport, I splurged and spent $1 a minute to call my mom. Phone service was by far the most complicated, difficult aspect of going abroad. I must have research 10 different options, and none of them were good. In the end I paid $40 for a month of unlimited texting, $1 minute calling, and 1 GB of data with ATT. Unfortunately, the texting didn’t work. I would send a text and not hear back from the recipient for four days, when they would say, “Just got your text!” There was no data in Ethiopia, let alone texting or calling. So I let the plan drop at the end of the month.
My mother and I spoke for 10 minutes. She’s never been much of a phone talker, and at 82, I think she still believes that international calls cost hundreds of dollars. As I said goodbye, she started to cry. I felt terrible, but what could I do? I told her that the UK was a lot more dangerous than Ethiopia and hoped she would forget that by the time I got to the UK 10 days later.
Flying to Ethiopia from the global north is arduous. There is no option but overnight flights arriving in Addis at 6:00am. I’ve already written about all the flights and jeep rides it took to get from Europe to the refugee camps in northern Ethiopia. There were so many “Huh?” moments along the way.
On the flight from Frankfurt to Ethiopia, I shared my row with an Eritrean guy who now lives in Canada who was going back to visit his sister, who he hadn’t seen in 12 years. I felt rude, but I smiled as I donned my sleep mask and told him I wanted to get some shut eye. He smiled back and said, “I don’t think I will sleep all night; I am so excited.”
When the plane landed, everyone applauded.
“I didn’t get a visa before coming,” blurted out my seat mate. “I’m sure they’ll give me one on arrival.”
I smiled but had serious doubts. When I told Maki, our country director, this story, she groaned and put her face in her hands. “They won’t have let him in,” she said. “They’ll send him back. Oh, why do people do that? I think they believe their chances are better in person, but they’re definitely not.”
On our flight to Axum, the flight attendant offered a tray of plastic cups with clear, brown, and yellowish beverages. I reached for the clear one and she said anxiously, “That’s water!”
“Yes, I know,” I replied. Could she just not imagine that someone would choose water over a free coke or beer? She came back a minute later with a tray of muffins wrapped in plastic. When I said no thanks, she exclaimed, “Why not!?” I said I didn’t like sweet snacks, and she looked at me like I was nuts.
Maki was seated in a different row. I looked around and noticed the other passengers were eating their muffins with their fingers. I have eaten with my fingers in Ethiopian restaurants many times but hadn’t realized they eat everything with their fingers.
I flipped through the inflight magazine. The flight attendants were all as beautiful as the one in this ad.
Because of Ethiopia … what? I had no idea what this was advertising or why these blokes were drinking out of laboratory beakers.
I assume this guy must be a famous marathon runner.
I often get passionate about packaging, especially when it involves gusseted stitched sacks.
I wasn’t going to learn Amharic on this flight, but I could pretend to try.
Here’s Ethiopian Air’s route map.
I found this sign in the bathroom puzzling.
Isn’t poop solid waste?
I was so entertained, the flight went fast and we soon landed in Axum.