Sunday, October 17, 2010

53 - And Yet Another Curfew Tolls The Knell

St. Mary's church

Security at Dire Dawa airport is intense. They use huge dentist-style mirrors to look under the tuk-tuk for possible bombs. There are three different frisks, shoes-off, and luggage checks (in fact there are body frisks at the hotel, too). After the electronic inspection, muggins has to open his checked luggage for a hand search; deodorant and other sprays have been detected on the screen. OK, I don't know what I'm thinking but perhaps I shouldn't be making a detonation noise as I try out the deodorant spray at the inspector's request; but this not being America I'm not shot, nor clapped in irons and thrown into jail - the guy just laughs. After all that, we have to again identify our luggage out on the tarmac.

It's almost dark: The curfew tolls the knell of parting day/The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea/The ploughman homeward plods his weary way... OK, the day has long since parted, there's not a murmur of a plane engine to replace the lowing herd o'er the tarmac, and muggins may not be a ploughman but he sure is weary.


Outside St. Mary's church
And That Vision?

The plane finally comes in two hours late and it's almost 5 o'clock Ethiopian time, or 2300, when we land in Addis. Now the chase is on for an agent to arrange my luxury hotel etc. He pushes me through security again to check in for tomorrow's flight, then takes my passport to 'arrange it all,' and disappears. Let's just report that it's closer to 1 a.m. (7 o'clock Ethiopian time) when we leave the airport. 'It's so good they communicated to us from Dire Dawa about you, it makes it so easy,' quoths the agent. Gawd, it must take a month when they don't communicate.

As for the vision? Well, the hostelry is clean, extremely cozy and pleasant, with comfortable little bay lounges on each floor. BUT it's way out in the boondocks on a construction site for a new neighbourhood miles from the centre, the rooms are tiny, and the little dining room recalls an English boarding house for a Terence Rattigan play. Muggins' mirage (yes after Djibouti's fiasco I at last have a mirage) of a 24-hour coffee shop with luscious pastries and fruit salads seductively beckoning is just that - a mirage. There's no easy walk out to the big city, bright lights, no nearby nothing - and a full day of daylight hours to kill. Luxury? What luxury?

Lead-in to St. Mary's
The paid meals are single courses - steak, fried fish or vegetables and rice; looking at the regular menu is verbotenissimo, unless you pay, which muggins does for a fruit salad; Ethiopian Airlines won't even pay the less than $2 for that! Not even a free tea at 40 US cents a pot! As for killing the hours - well, the multi-brass-domed octagonal Ethiopian Orthodox church of St Mary's is within walking distance, and you can always visit the limp and the lame, the beggars and the lepers, who continue to call me 'Papa' as they assail me for alms. Papa Hemingway you mean?


Back in the US of A. At West Falls Church metro station, brought there by the Washington Flyer shuttle from Dulles airport, trying to understand the instructions on how to buy a single fare ticket from the huge machine to Dupont Circle for the bus to New York; staring at the machine for a full five minutes, trying to discern which buttons to push. It might just as well be in Chinese. It's like a lot of those US road signs - you can only understand them if you already know what to do, but if you already know what to do you don't need them.

A couple of other people who were on the bus amble up. 'Did you leave your case on the bus,' asks one, 'the driver's down there trying to find out whose it is.' OMG! Gawd bless the Washington metro company for writing all their instructions in Chinese, or else I'd already be speeding Dupont Circle-wards sans baggage. I rush back out of the station. D-E-M-E-N-T-I-A!

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