Addis Ababa Airport
Finally, the date came for me to get on the plane and move onto Lilongwe, Malawi. I was really looking forward to meeting up with this group because I was tired of traveling alone. So my trip in Malawi was with Rock my Adventure, a tour group that specializes in small group adventures solo travelers, backpackers, and small group adventures. So I packed my bags and scheduled a taxi for 8 a.m. to be sure to arrive two hours before my flight. I was so jet-lagged when I finally did sleep I just could not abide by the 7 o’clock alarm and repeatedly hit the snooze.
I did manage to find a taxi to take me to the airport and I was still an hour and a half before my flight. But then there was security. Next lesson: Security at Addis Ababa airport is over-the-top paranoid. Before you can even enter the airport you have to pass the security. I watched a well dressed elderly gentleman in a wheelchair being forced to remove his prosthetic leg for inspection. Thirty minutes later we were in the next security line and again they insisted he removes his prosthetic. My journey through security wasn’t nearly as miserable, but by the time I reached check-in, I was within one hour of departure and I was denied a boarding pass.
I missed my flight.
Luckily I had planned to arrive the day before the tour began. BUT, the next flight with a seat available was three days later and I would miss my tour. I would simply have to show up and beg my way onto that flight. I gathered my bags, hiked to closest hotel and had a bit of a nap to clear my head.
As it turned out the following morning I was able to “beg” my way onto that flight with a crisp US Franklin.
Ethiopia seems so long ago. Being white in Addis Ababa was hard. People were very very friendly and about 50% of them probably were just very friendly. But the other 50% wanted something—wanted something from you. And when you are white in Ethiopia you stand out like a sore thumb (or a target) Usually when I am traveling alone, I’m outgoing and talk to friendly locals but this became tiresome as, more often than not, I was being conned into or out of something. By the last day, I had just stopped making eye contact. And I know that many people were still just trying to be friendly.
The next obstacle in Addis Ababa was getting US dollars. I went from bank to bank and ATM to ATM hoping to withdraw US dollars from my American account. I soon learned that it is actually against the law to distribute US dollars. So the next lesson learned: US dollars reign supreme, bring plenty.
Gringa walking the streets of Addis is NOT invisible. When (and I do mean “when” not “if” a local approaches you with this, “Hello, remember me from the hotel? Yes, yes you know me, at the hotel. Today is my day off, please let me show you the city.” Your reply should be, “Oh? What hotel would that be?”
I only heard this 3x in the same afternoon!
I had a five-hour red-eye flight from Seattle to Washington DC and then a five-hour layover in Dulles airport. I arrived at 5:00 AM and spent two hours walking the entire airport: all four concourses, up and down, eager to find the very first coffee shop to open.
Somehow I talked my way into upgrading to business class for the flight to Ethiopia. Amen. Having not slept a wink, I could not imagine sitting upright wedged between two strangers for 14 hours. I’d have rather run another marathon. (And the first one was not pretty.)
Ethiopian Airlines business class is called “Cloud Nine,” and for good reason: A continuous flow of champagne and a smorgasbord of traditional Ethiopian tasties interrupted only by blissful supine sleep.
6 Months, 2 Continents, 9 Countries
Deciding what to carry on my back for 6 months, 2 continents, 9 countries and many cultures has been an adventure in itself.
Thankfully I have Diane and Courtney who have done medical missions in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Indonesia, Uganda, and Bangladesh. Talk about inspiring women!
I certainly sweated the camera question. Especially when three days before getting on the airplane it seized up and wouldn't do anything. That was the day I melted the ice maker, chipped the crown on my back molar and found a dead mouse in my car.
Then there is the teenage daughter who is going to be my travel mate for most of the trip. The shredded skin tight blue jeans and strappy crop top...