Ethiopian Street Mate

May 25, 2010

My colleague has offered to kidnap an Ethiopian husband for me. I have to choose between whether I want a rich one or one with nice manners, qualities which are apparently mutually exclusive here.

I don’t think it is traditional practice, but draws inspiration from the continued and accepted custom of kidnapping girls either for child brides or domestic servants or both.

One girl was sold into marriage by her family when she was five, her husband gallantly waited until she was nine to take her virginity.

Early marriages and kidnappings are just two of the many reasons why girls do not reach the same academic level as boys in Ethiopia.


Until the 30th of May June Foreign nationals are not allowed to travel around Ethiopia with out the approval of and a stamp from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Cynically I’m guessing it’s so they know where not to throw the grenades.

One was lobbed into a meeting of an opposition party in the South East.

Addis has been pretty quiet so far, apart from a minor disturbance at the university which left 24 students injured.

Polling day is the 23rd May.

The daily commute

May 13, 2010

Customer service

May 6, 2010

A traffic policeman approached me when I was waiting to cross the road. I thought that he wanted to tell me off for not using the zebra crossing a few metres away (which incidentally no vehicles stop at) because pedestrians cannot “just stroll across the road anywhere” and can be fined 250 Birr if they do.

Thankfully, as I haven’t quite mastered the how to get out of being fined spiel, he was asking whether I wanted to get to the other side and stepped out and stopped the traffic for me so that I could cross without the usual fear of a massive bus mowing me down.

A taxi driver carried my housemate from the cab into her bed after she’d had one too many local gins (80% proof – so it’s not surprising that drinking it straight will knock you out). In London there is absolutely no way that she would have even been allowed in a taxi.

Sadly the Ethiopian Electrical Power company, who I once held in high regard because they have a 24 hour call out service, and they did fix the coat hanger that connected our house to the mains supply late one night, has now publicly admitted that it has no control over the power cuts which we had all thought they were carefully coordinating.

toilets and cctv

April 30, 2010

Breaking news is that the city council have realised that a quarter of Addis’ population do not have access to a toilet.

Which may be why there was a cholera, sorry, acute watery diarrhoea outbreak in the city at the end of last summer.

And as if to prove a point, the highlight of my week was seeing a woman weeing in the street.

Meanwhile CCTV cameras have gone up in all the main squares of the city.

Hmm more toilets or CCTV?

Current shortages in no particular order

  • foreign currency
  • concrete
  • sugar (this is a good thing, as my sugar habit is reaching habesha proportions)
  • oh and electricity

There’s no water to make the electricity (all of Ethiopia’s power supply comes from hydroelectricity) therefore there is no concrete, because you need electricity to make concrete.

Ethiopia does not produce enough sugar to meet domestic demand.

The country does not export enough flowers, coffee and leather to bring in the foreign currency needed to buy the products that they are in short supply of.

Hence the continuing lack of concrete and the rationing of sugar, which can now only be bought from government fruit shops.

Suspicious deaths

April 28, 2010

The opposition have accused the government of politically motivated murder.

There is a dispute as to the causes of the deaths, current causes of choice a) murder b) death by bar brawl or c) a natural demise.

The Communications Minister’s response “He was sick and he died, the opposition is smearing the campaign, using any person who is dead for their own purposes”.

Do debates matter?

April 23, 2010

They provide relief from the constant shoulder shaking dancing on ETV, but not that much.

The ruling party spoke for what seemed like an uninterrupted hour while the opposition party representatives only got five minutes each to say hello.

Legislation was passed by the current government which means that in any televised debate the ruling party has at least half the airtime of the broadcast devoted to them.

I can’t help but think that there must also be a clause in this legislation that compels the opposition parties to take part, otherwise why would they agree to it?

It doesn’t make it difficult to decide who you’re meant to vote for.