Hoo boy. I have traveled to Africa so many times now, and I forget about that “third day” of acclimation. How could I forget?
The two days of flights don’t bother me. Gives me time to think. And once I circle the Bole airport from above, I get a surge of energy no matter how little I have slept on the planes. It’s ETHIOPIA!
Plane touches down, and I don’t mind that my friend Daniy is not there to fetch me. How could he possibly know that I finagled a seat near the front so I could flee downstairs to the Visa room and not have to wait in the hours long line? Hey. I am getting this stuff DOWN!
I negotiate a taxi, pay way too much because my Amharic is a dead giveaway that I am trying too hard and I am still as firenji as a firenji comes. I search for familiar words I learned last year, wanting to say yikirta (excuse me) but I say kiriftu instead, which is the name of a hotel in BahirDar. So I watch with fascination, and in silence, the scurrying of life as it is in Addis Abba.
It’s one of my favorite visual carnivals.
Busy-ness at its most fevered pitched, everyone has a place to go. Fast and furious. Chances are they are only going a few streets away but the way chaos meets mayhem here, one has to fight their way through roadways, avoiding buses, motorcycles, goats and an occasional posse of boys having fun. Crossing the road is like swimming in the deep blue sea, through multiple schools of fish going the opposite direction. I literally put my hands together and try to imagine what it is like for a fish to get from A to B in the sea at rush hour. And where is that fish going anyway?
So upon touchdown, my senses are peaked and I sniff the familiar smells in the air while drinking in as much as I can within the shortest amount of time. Look at THAT! Did you see what he was carrying? Wow…they are playing a game over there…looks fun. WAIT! That’s a cow ahead!
Bump, bump…roads are conducive to new dance moves. Music is everywhere. I try to feel the beats of the deeply pitted roads match the Ethiopian sultry sounds coming from the scratchy CD player.
One word: fun.
So, I don’t sleep. I want to hear the priests chanting and the birds calling out in the wee hours of the morning. Hell, I am not tired at all! Let the adrenaline work its magic on me. Holy moly, I am invincible!
And then…WHAM. Around the third day it all catches up on me. I lose things. I forget where I wrote down important information. I mistakenly eat a mouse turd in my eggs. I can’t figure out how to turn on the video of my camera even though I have done it a million times. And, I see vast suffering and it starts to really sink in how difficult life can be here.
Communication is at bay, slow at its very best if at all, and I start to fall down. Tears and worse: I just sit and stare, nothing coming to mind. Nothing. I am not invincible, I am close to being crazy.
I realize I am in the culture impact zone, and I try to just let it pass. I pop onto the sedated internet and alas, a friend is available to chat. Geesch how she gets the brunt of it all. Where is the $%^# button I need to push? HELP ME! Look at what I saw today. I need help with capturing sound, and where the *$#%^# did I put that manual? I can’t fathom it all.
And then, sleep comes with a heavy thump and I wake up as though it is the best day of my life.
My first thought: I want to go ride the merry-go-round.