UF in Ethiopia day 6: Ten hours of beautiful struggle

I wake up at 3 am on the bathroom floor. There are two plausible candidates why I have had to get my beauty sleep within arm’s reach of these facilities. One is tasty Sambosas on a street corner in the company of a group of friendly old men, the other a bag of caramelized peanuts. Nevertheless, the results are tier one food poisoning.

Today is the day of a ten-hour bus journey from Addis Abeba to Bahir Dar, and it is now time to hastily get ready for going to the buss central. My roommates help me gather the last of my things and I stumble down the stairs.

Once at the bus stop, we are meet with the pleasant surprise that toilet on the otherwise distinguishable modern China-made Golden Dragon buss is not working. This is not good I think to myself, as I swallow another stomach stabilizing pill. Addis Adeba´s many street children, many of who usually ask for coins or food in the city center, ignore me with a look of pity.

Ones we get going, the high-rise building become less frequent and city lights give way to the darkness of the road that soon circumfuses the bus. I fall asleep with a plastic bag ready in my hands.

Beams of morning sunlight make me open my bleary eyes. I look out the dusty window and is met with the gleaming end of sunrise over the Amharic countryside. It is an almost divine experience in my feverish mind looking out over the beautifully lush landscape, and I feel somewhat less zombie-like. Small houses made of straw-like material sits sporadically along the road, some have roofs made of steel plates, others of the same material that comprise the walls but knitted together to form a roof pointing to the sky. People are already busy with morning routines. Farmers lead their cattle to new grazing ground. A young man seems to be going for a morning run.

Ethiopia´s uniqueness on the African continent in never being colonialized has resulted in farmers owning their own land to a larger extent than for example neighboring Kenya where large corporations own a relatively larger part. We have been told there is a pride in the autonomy this provides the farmers and can be said to be an example of heritage of Ethiopia´s old and resilient history.

It is visible that most agricultural projects that pass outside the bus window are small-scale. A single man drives two oxen to plow a field no larger than a tennis court. Others are building a small wall out of stone blocks. It looks like hard work.

We stop for lunch in a small town about six hours north of the capital. Some people order what they hear from a waiter as “toast”, but what really is “tibs”, this time served with raw meat. I walk outside the restaurant, pass a Libya Oil gas station, and find a little store that sells biscuits. People look surprised to see me, some great me friendly, some look with a perplexed facial expression. The thought enters my head that I, as an already pale Scandinavian who now has not eaten in 20 hours, quite possibly may be the whitest person some has ever seen here.

The rest of the journey they show a soap opera on the bus tv-screens. It seems quite amusing judging from the occasional burst of laughter from my fellow travelers. Not understanding a single word, I can seemingly make out a familiar plot along the scandalous lines of jealous partners, misunderstandings, and dramatic breakups.

We enter the suburbs of Bahir Dar and the city by the size of Swedish Malmö unfolds in front of us. The skyscrapers of Addis Abeba are long gone, and a more relaxed ambiance is present on streets filled with a mix of trucks, donkey-pulled carriages, young soldiers, Tuk-Tuks and Toyotas. Bahir Dar is on lower altitude than the capital and it is noticeable hotter when we exit the bus.

The hotel feels close to undeservedly nice, and when I enter my room and see a towel folded in the shape of a swan on the bed, I crash right on to it and sleep for 14 hours.

The happy author with new friends the day before, unknowing of the upcoming challenges.

Gustav Eurenius