Ethiopia’s capital city is dark and frightening. Upon arrival, my friend (who was really just a recent acquaintance) drove me around with his companion. There were no streetlights and everything was completely dark. I felt as if we were in a scene from a zombie movie–soulless corpses to demolish us at any moment–while riding in a stage coach in 19th century Montana, the roads were so bad. As we were perilously bumping along the poorly constructed, run-down streets I wondered if I’d ever find my way to a hotel. In my jet-lagged state, I can say that I was honestly frightened.
Before arriving in Ethiopia, I explored a little of Istanbul during my nine-hour layover in Turkey. It was there that I happened to meet the man who helped me set up a ride and a hotel room in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, where I was set to arrive the next day. It’s a good thing he did. We arrived late on a Saturday night and vacant hotel rooms were scarce. (Saturdays in Ethiopia, apparently, are popular for “secret lovers.”) Needless to say, I would have had a difficult time finding a place to sleep. But I woke up the next morning in a pleasant enough room. The city was very different from what I had imagined, it was very cold and wet. Small children rolled around the muddy streets, growling at me. During those first few hours it was difficult to convince myself that somehow this country produces such fantastic coffee.
I stumbled into a coffee house, though, and a woman lit incense as I sat down. A little girl was playing at the entrance. She was very cute, but when I tried to take a photograph of her she ran screaming into the busy street. For the rest of the trip I more careful not to offend anyone else in this way. The woman began pan-roasting beans as I sat down, and filled the entire room with smoke. She then beat those beans into a powder that she brewed into fresh coffee. As she served me, coffee spilled onto the table. All of a sudden I felt comfortable and warm, and happy to be there. This scene repeated itself several times daily for the remainder of my stay.