Ethiopia 2013-2014

October 23 - February 14

February 10: The Malaria experience

I started to feel tired last Sunday, I thought it was because of all the early mornings when Simon was here so I went for a run. On Sunday evening I was really tired in my whole body and I felt that something was wrong. When I woke up on Monday morning I still felt very tired. At the university I started to freeze and shiver so I decided to go to the hospital. We first went to Dr. Bikila to get translators for the last interviews. We told him that we were going to the hospital first just to be sure it wasn’t anything serious.

At the Korean Hospital, said to be the best hospital in Addis, the woman who works with non-Ethiopians recognized me from last time and asked if the medication didn’t work. After I described my symptoms this time, they only needed to take a blood sample from me. It was supposed to take one hour to get the results but it took much longer. I was more tired and had to lie down in the waiting area. After about two hours of waiting everything happened really fast. My breathing was fast, I felt that I had no energy at all. I started to feel something in my arms so I called for Hanna, she was waiting just outside the doctor’s room. She didn’t hear me and then the cramp hit me. My hands bent down in 90 degrees from the arm, with my fingers pointing in 90 degrees from the back of my hand. People around me saw what was happening and called for Hanna. Muscles in my face also started to cramp, my mouth was pulled to the right. Cramp spread to my stomach and to my legs. Then Hanna came running to me. I saw a nurse staring at me, doing nothing, I felt like a crowd started to build up around me. Hanna screamed for help, maybe in Swedish. They told me to walk to the ER. Walk with my whole body in cramp? Really? I told them I couldn’t walk. Hanna first didn’t realize that my body cramped, it was first when I told her I couldn’t move my hands. I panicked, I think Hanna panicked too. A nurse finally came with a wheelchair. The cramp in my stomach and legs faded away. On the way to the ER I told Hanna to call for Dr. Bikila, still with my lips pulled to the right from the cramp.

I was put in a bed in the ER while Hanna was doing the phone call. A man started to prepare me for treatment and I begged him over and over again to give me something to release my hands from cramp, it was so painful, I couldn’t move them at all. The man was really calm and told me I would get something for the pain, I begged him to please release my hands from cramp. I got an injection for the pain and then he told me that it might be lack of calcium in my body that caused the cramps but they couldn’t give me without knowing the calcium level in my body, it could be dangerous if I got too much of it. When Hanna came back after she had talked to Bikila, nurses told her that we have to pay to get treatment. We didn’t have much money but I told Hanna were to find money in my bag, trying to show her with my bent hands. The man told me that they would take a blood sample to see my calcium levels, it would take one hour to get the test results, I started to think that I had to get used to the cramp if it would be there for more than one hour. At least the cramp in my face was gone by now. They asked for more money than we had so Hanna called Bikila again and asked if he could bring some money. We gave them what we had so that they could start with all tests. I asked the nurse if he had seen the results from the first blood sample, but no results were reported on the computer.

I don’t know for how long I had the cramps in my hands before I slowly could start to move my fingers again, it might have been 15 minutes, the right hand was released from cramps first. Hanna and the nurse started to massage my left hand and it helped. I don’t know how much time passed or when things happened, I was just really really scared for what was going on with my body. Some tears fell from my eyes when the cramp had let go. They took a new blood sample to see the calcium levels. They took me to do an ultrasound of my stomach, where they didn’t see anything wrong. When it was done Bikila was waiting outside the room, I felt so much safer when I saw him. I was put back in the ER and got an injection in my bum against shivering. I drank almost 2 liters of water after I arrived to the ER, I needed to visit the toilet and stupid as I was I tried to walk to the toilet. I sat down half way and almost fainted, sweat was pouring down on me. I had to go back to the bed and then I felt that the cramp almost came back. Hanna started to massage my hands again. I had to do the toilet visit in a potty in my bed instead.

They later came and said that they didn’t find Malaria in the first blood sample but that they would start treat me for that since I had the symptoms of Malaria. They would run another test but start to give me Malaria-pills before it was done. They also told me that I had to stay at the hospital for two days. When I had taken the pills they came with the second test, negative. Anyway they wanted to change the medicine from the pills to IV. I got the first intravenous anti-malaria in the ER. They asked me if I wanted a 3rd, 2nd or 1st class room at the hospital, right now they only had 3rd class rooms available but I could change when they got something else free.

I got an injection to prevent vomiting and was later moved to my 3rd class room with five beds and two other patients. When Bikila left in the evening I felt much better, but then I didn’t know what was to come. I was vomiting the whole night, I felt so sick so I couldn’t go to the toilet and once again I had to do toilet business in a potty in my bed. A relative to another patient and Hanna helped me the whole night. Then I was happy to be in a 3rd class room.

I got the Malaria medicine intravenously and had it connected to my arms about 15 hours per day. I also got IV of antibiotics. The second day they told me that I had to stay for three days to get the medicine so when the third day came and I got my nineth mix into my veins I thought it was the last and felt relieved, until a nurse told me that it was not at all the last. I asked to see a doctor that could tell me what was going on. The doctor came and said that I had to stay seven days or the Malaria might come back. The empty beds in the room were occupied on my third day. The third day was also the day the power was lost and the hospital’s generators only powered one light in each room, the toilet was dark as the night so everybody had to leave the door open to get some light. I had to use the light on my phone to help the nurse to put in a new needle into my arm. The power was away for about 12 hours. Hanna had a friend coming over so they went on a trip on Thursday.

They asked me if I wanted to upgrade to a 2nd or 1st class room, but I felt safe to have the people around me in the room I first got to so I decided to stay. I got better but was weak and very tired in my whole body. The food was really bad, that didn’t help me to recover. On my fifth day a doctor came and said that I could go home when I had finished the IV I was taking at the moment. I was questioning why the doctors gave me different information but I didn’t get any good answer. Hanna and her friend picked me up at the hospital when they got back from their trip. Two of the other patients in my room died the day I left, two out of five died during my five days in that room. I can assure you that what I saw would never have happened in Sweden.

When we came home from the hospital it was time to eat so we went to a restaurant nearby our guesthouse. I had to sit down to rest on the way there. After I finished the food I felt like I had to vomit and that I could faint so I lay down to rest before we went home. I’m feeling much better now, not 100 % back to normal yet but I hope I’m getting there very soon. We’re flying back to Sweden on Tuesday next week. Until then I won’t feel safe. I’m scared it will come back since the doctors had different opinions. I don’t want to go back to the hospital where they let people die like they did. I’m very thankful that Hanna was with me on Monday and the whole first night when I had some of the scariest moments in my life.

February 2:Road trip with a driver on drugs and hospital round 4

Simon arrived on Saturday morning, Hanna and I went to the airport to pick him up with the driver we had hired for the road trip. We went to his office and we found out that the driver had an exam and couldn’t drive us. Instead we got a driver with very limited English skills. That was not what we expected, I contacted the first driver just because I knew he could speak English. Anyway, we left on Sunday morning and we met a beautiful landscape with mountains and valleys, 3500 meters to 1200 meters above sea level. The first day was just transportation to get closer to Lalibela, 7am to 6pm in the car. The drug chat is legal here in Ethiopia but not while you’re driving. Our driver started to chew chat already the first day. Simon started to feel sick the second day of the road trip, fever, vomiting and stomach problems. The dirt road the last 60 km to Lalibela didn’t make it easier. We reached Lalibela after more than two hours on that dusty road. Simon had to stay in bed the whole day while I went to see the rock churches Lalibela is known for. In the evening we went to the hospital with Simon, he got antibiotics and some other pills that made life much easier for him.

The third day was spent on the road to Gondar, we could see that our driver was really tired and had problems to stay awake. We went to see the castles in Gondar the next day before we started the three hour trip to Bahir Dar. Once again the driver was really tired and had problems to stay awake. He fell asleep two times for maybe 1 second. I asked him if he was tired and he answered that he was okay and we only had six km left. After some minutes he stopped and bought a bag of chat.

Bahir Dar is known for the Blue Nile River waterfall, that was why we wanted to go there, but the driver didn’t want to drive us because of the bad road. He said that there is nothing to see there, no water at all because of the dry season. We had talked to people who had been there recently and they recomended us to go. The driver tried to the very end to get away from driving us. It was too late in the day and it would take 1.5 hour on a very bad dirt road to get there. Finally we won the fight and went there in the afternoon. You can take a look at the photos from the waterfall, dry? NOO! So I had a little argument with the driver and asked why he told us it was all dry. He told me that he didn’t agree to drive us there in the first place. Of course he did, that’s one of the things we asked for to see on the trip. I’m very happy that we won the fight because the waterfall with its surroundings was the best stop on the trip.

11 hours in the car the last day and of course more chat before we were back in Addis. We got the fuel receipts to pay. After we had paid everything and the driver was gone we took a closer look at the receipts and found that he had tried to fool us with one receipt to much. Now we have talked to the first driver with our complaints. The worst is of course that the driver fell asleep and had to use drugs to stay awake.

Simon is now back in Sweden. We had a great time and saw a lot of beautiful places in the north of Ethiopia.

January 24: An angel at the immigration office

We couldn’t extend our visas in Stockholm when we were home during the Christmas break because we still had valid visas. First time we went to the immigration office here in Addis to get our visas extended was chaos. We couldn’t see any line, it was just a room filled with people fighting to get through to the desk. Hanna made her way and I was pushed back. Hanna was told that we had to come back the day before our visas expired and then bring a letter from the university. So on Monday this week we went there well prepared, at least we thought so. It was a queue this time so we were happy, it was just a small detail missing for us, we had no dollars to pay the visas. Why would we need dollars when we’re in Ethiopia using Birr all the time? By a coincidence we started to talk to a man who had lived in Sweden for the last 20 years or so. I was on my way to a bank to get dollars when he lent us 50 dollars that we could give back to him later, he just took our Ethiopian phone numbers, so nice of him. We spent maybe 1,5 hour in the queue before a woman looked at our applications, she wrote number 4 on Hanna’s and number 5 on my together with the time 1:30 pm. We thought we had to be in room 4 and 5 at 1:30 pm so we went to see where to find these rooms so we knew where to be after lunch. We went to a room with number 4 on it. We sat there waiting for some time before we found out that room number 4 was only for Ethiopians. We then tried number 5 and there they told us that we should go to room 77. This is where we started to be a bit upset. We went to room number 77 and there they told us that we had to go to number 3. The room we started in had number 3 on it so we told him that we had been there already. He kept telling us number 3. I went to see if I could find any information, but instead I found two more rooms with number 3, confusing? yepp, Three rooms with number 3 on them. They told me to go to room 77. I went back to number 3 where we first started and found out that number 4 and 5 on our applications weren’t room numbers, they were our numbers for the queue after lunch. Why couldn’t she just say so when she wrote the numbers, immigration office should be able to talk English! We saw people in front of us in the queue getting room numbers so of course we thought we got that too. After lunch we were actually sent to room number 77, it was kind of tricky to find the right room because they had 77 rooms with number 77 on them.

The whole process took us 7 hours. 7 HOURS! Then we had to go back there on Wednesday to pick up our passports with our new visas. When we tried to get dollars from the banks we found it very hard. We tried three banks with exchange service, but they just bought dollars. We had to go to the biggest bank office in Addis where I had to apply to get dollars. Yes that’s right, I had to fill in an application form to buy dollars with my birr. I was lucky, my application was approved.

The photos I posted last time were taken 10 minutes from our guesthouse. We went out in the sunset to look around in the area and we meet these cute kids. I printed the photos in a photo store the next day and we walked back to give the prints to the children. It was so fun to see their faces when they saw the photos. We also bought them a soccer ball so they were very happy to see us again.

My friend Simon is coming tomorrow and we have hired a driver to go on a road trip up north. I hope I have a lot of new photos next time I write.

January 18: Korean Hospital, chapter 3

There are moments when I don’t want to be in Ethiopia anymore. I’ll give you four examples:

1: When I get problem with my stomach when we’ve been here no longer than 1.5 week.

2: When I get problem with my stomach when we’ve been here no longer than 1.5 week and have to get up 1 am to go to the toilet and find that there’s no water anywhere in the compound.

3: When I get problem with my stomach when we’ve been here no longer than 1.5 week and have to get up 1 am to go to the toilet and find that there’s no water anywhere in the compound and then have to go again at 1:30 am and there’s still no water.

4: When I get problem with my stomach when we’ve been here no longer than 1.5 week and have to get up 1 am to go to the toilet and find that there’s no water anywhere in the compound and then have to go again at 1:30 am and there’s still no water and then wake up again at 5 am to use the toilet and there’s still no water.

This time I didn’t wait as long as last time to go to the hospital. So yesterday we went to the Korean Hospital for the third time, by now they recognize us. It was the same procedure as last time, and the results also showed the same. One week of antibiotics again, hopefully for the last time.

I’ve already mentioned problems with the toilets here in earlier posts. It’s just so weird that it’s so hard to get them to work properly. Behind the guesthouse there’s a toilet graveyard with over 20 old toilets. In my opinion they should make place for at least three more. It seems like they need some kind of toilet engineer down here to make them to actually work and hold for a long time. The three real toilets we’ve seen at the university are all broken in some way.

Since I wrote last time Hanna has been hit twice. It’s the same man both times, standing at the same place. When he sees us he walks up to us and hit Hanna, not very hard but still, with those crazy eyes and all I don’t know what he is capable of.

What I like more is that my friend Simon will come here next weekend to visit us. We’ll go on a trip up north for a few days so I have to work with the project on weekends now to get time off for the trip.

January 7: Christmas

We’re back in Addis Ababa after two weeks Christmas break in Sweden. Today it’s Christmas here in Ethiopia. They have their own calendar so they don’t celebrate at the same time as we do, it’s also the year 2006 here now. Yesterday evening, priests in churches around our guesthouse started to pray/sing out loud in speakers. They normally do it every Saturday evening and keep doing it all night long. But yesterday it was more intense. It must have been at least three priests at the same time that were praying the whole night without any pause. I guess they are the reason I couldn’t fall asleep until 3am.

We took the bus to the university as we always do, but today only the library was opened so we couldn’t go to our office. We tried the wifi in the library without success and then we saw signs about new toilets. It was like a treasure hunt when we followed the signs. We ended up behind the university where some people just had slaughtered two oxen. We were invited to try some raw meat but we kindly told them we were full after our breakfast. The meat was lined up in big portions on the ground just outside the toilets that weren’t new at all so we thought it was best to decline the invitation (we’ll try to skip the Korean Hospital this time).

After we had found a non-working internet at a hotel in Bole we decided to go home to the guesthouse to work on our project.

December 19: Dinner with a new Hitler?

We have been to Meki and Ziway for the third and last time to interview farmers. Now we spent one night there to be sure we had enough time for the interviews. We did a total of nine interviews, farmers, brokers and transporters.

Earlier this week we had dinner with a guy who came by our office and helped Hanna to buy a Christmas gift. He talked a lot about religion and that he didn’t hate anyone. This week I also read an article about the situation for homosexuals in Addis. They have to hide and live under constant threat to be assaulted or even imprisoned. So when we went out to have dinner together with that guy I wanted to hear for myself, from a young man, his opinion about homosexuals. WOW!! The discussion started with whether people choose to be, or are born gay. His opinion was that it is by choice and that Ethiopia never has had homosexuals before it was “imported” by foreigners. He later changed his mind and agreed on that that’s how you’re born. However, he said that he HATES homosexuals and we could see the hate in his eyes. At one point he asked me if I was gay and stood up ready to run away. We questioned his hate with arguments that he couldn’t respond to. It’s weird that no one ever can explain why they pick and choose the parts from the Bible they like most because they just want to hate people, and then say it’s in the name of God. I asked him if he liked the fact that it’s illegal to be homosexual in Ethiopia, and yes of course he wanted it to be that way. The last thing he said was that homosexuals should be kept in a camp!! I asked him if he knew about WWII and Hitler. Then we paid our food and left him in the restaurant. It’s unbelievable how much hate there is against gays. Even the guy without hatred became a Hitler.

December 16: Buses

We get around in Addis with the minibuses. It’s really cheap, about 1 Sek per person. A “jalla boy” is working on the bus to shout out where the bus is going and to collect money from the passengers. There are 12 seats but sometimes, especially at night time when there are no polices out, they try to squeeze in as many as possible. I think maximum I’ve seen is 21 passengers. Most of the times I don’t like when they fill the buses like that, but when it’s cold outside it can be nice to sit in each other’s lap and cuddle to get warm. The quality of the buses is not very high, it’s like they are falling apart. The whole door came off once, but after some five minutes of hammering they manage to hang it back in place. When we’re going home from the university it’s quite hard to get a bus just right outside the university because they are all full. Therefore we always walk down about 500 meters in the opposite direction to get to the place where all buses leave from. People here are really lazy, they can take the bus just to go a few hundred meters, less then we’re walking to get a bus. Sometimes they want to get off just 50 meters after we last stopped. The most extreme is five meters between the stops.

On Saturday we went to Merkato, Africa’s biggest market. We decided to try a big bus for the first time to get back home. They fill these buses even more than the minibuses. You can literally see people hanging out from the buses sometimes. Often they manage to, more or less, close the doors but with clothes hanging out on the outside. However, when we took the bus from Merkato we had to stand next to a drunk man who thought it was a little bit too fun to talk. He decided that Hanna couldn’t speak English and therefor he focused on me. When creepy people are asking where we’re from I often go for the almost truth. I told him that we were from Denmark. I had to explain to him that Denmark is not at all a communistic country. The bus ride took 40 minutes, that’s at least 20 minutes to long. I guess it was our first and last time to go with a big bus.

Yesterday we wanted to go from Bole to Stadium, a bus stopped and we asked if it went to stadium. The “jalla boy” said something to the driver before he opened the door and led me to the front seat to sit next to a girl, and Hanna to a seat in the back of the bus. After just a few hundred meters Hanna said “Stefan, They are trying to steal my Iphone”. I had no idea what was going on back there but suddenly the driver stopped the bus, I thought it was someone who wanted to get off. The girl next to me opened the front door so I thought she was the one getting off. I jumped out so that she could get out, but when I was out I saw that even Hanna got out and then the girl in the front seat closed the door, still in there. The “jalla boy” closed the rear door and off they went. I asked Hanna what had happened and she told me that the “jalla boy” stole her Iphone while she was looking for money to pay him. He then gave the phone to another man in the bus. Hanna saw everything and asked to get her phone back, which she got without any difficulties. So what had happened was that they stole Hanna’s phone but when she noticed it they wanted to get rid of us. The weird thing is that all of the people in the bus must have been on the mission to steal since the girl next to me opened the door to get me out. We were thrown out of the bus because they stole Hanna’s phone. I was so angry when Hanna told me what had happened but then it was too late to react.

December 10: Hawassa

We have been in Hawassa with Dr. Bikila and his girlfriend Hermella this weekend. It was great to go away from Addis for some days. I don’t have time to write now so I’ll just leave you with some photos from the weekend.

December 3: Running

This week has not been according to our plan. We wanted to do interviews with wholesalers this week but Hanna felt something was wrong with her stomach and went home in the afternoon on Tuesday. I made one interview together with Meklit who did the translation. On Thursday Hanna had so much pain so we had to go to the hospital. We first went to a hospital near the university but when we saw all patients lying in the entrance we decided to go to the Korean Hospital again. They found an infection caused by parasites so she had to stay in the hospital to get intravenous antibiotics.

I’m out running a few times a week. Two big differences are noticeable; the high altitude makes it really hard and that you have to withstand harassments. Every time I’m running there is at least one person that thinks it’s funny to run towards me, like a chicken race, then yell something in my face and jump out of my way. People are also screaming “money” and “foreigner”, which happens at least a dozen of times on my 5km run. Last time I was running I could see a man ahead of me walking to the middle of the road so that he was right in front of me. I thought that he might try to do something since there was no reason for him to walk in the middle of the road. When he was right next to me he spit at me. He tried twice, he might have hit me once but I’m not sure, I just kept on running. What is more fun is when people clap their hands or say “bravo” or “strong man”, or kids trying to keep up with my pace.

November 25: Fist, bamboo stick and rifle

We went on a second field trip to Meki to do new interviews with farmers and brokers. We had worked on new questionnaires to cover all information we need. As last time, we started 6 am and came back to Addis 7 pm. Our new questionnaires took a lot of time to go through together with the farmers, 1.5 hour per interview so we only had time for two farmers and one broker. Our plan was to have two-three farmers so I guess we have enough even though we wanted to make one more interview.

On Saturday we went to the lion park, which is located next to our university. I don’t like animals kept in cages, but I wanted to give it a chance. This time was no exception, it was a bad experience. The park was so small and they kept maybe six lions in really small cages. They even had different kinds of monkeys kept in too small cages. We spent 10 minutes in the park before we moved on to the national museum where they keep Lucy, the ancestor of all humans. She lived in Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago.

Saturday was also the day a guy on the street hit me and another man threatened to hit me with his gigantic bamboo stick. From his body language I understood that it had something to do with my shorts.

In the evening we went to a club called Jolly. It was such a big contrast to the streets outside where people are sleeping on the pavements. They have a dress code so everyone in there was nicely dressed. We were four swedes that had a good time and when we left after 2 am we started to fear our security men at our guesthouse. They close the gate at 10 pm, after that you are not allowed to enter. We have not heard about these rules from the guesthouse but that is what the guards tell us. We knocked the outer gate and nobody answered. As I looked through a small hole in the gate I started to feel really scared. Behind the gate was a man standing perfectly still, like taken from a Rambo movie, holding a rifle and covered in some kind of blanket. We tried to talk really nice to him, told him that we were Swedish and lived at the Swedish guesthouse. He didn’t move. After some minutes he opened the flap in the gate, really angry. I took a step back when he finally opened the whole gate, scared to get a rifle pointed at me. He let us in and then it was time for the second gate. I climbed it but Hanna and Miriam didn’t want to climb, so they called for the securities to open the gate. Two men angrily stepped out from the small guard booth. They were a bit drunk. But finally they opened the gate and we could safely go to bed. We think that the guards are supposed to be awake all night. We also think that they are supposed to be sober, but when we come and wake them up from their alcoholic dreams, they get really angry. We’re going to talk to the owner of the guesthouse to see if there are any rules about coming home late or how the guards are supposed to do their job.

November 19: Love

On Saturday Ethiopia’s national football team played against Nigeria to qualify to the world cup. Everyone knew Nigeria would win but that didn’t matter. A lot of people walked the streets dressed in Ethiopia’s colors, face painted with the Ethiopian flag. It was almost like “studenten” in Sweden, cars and busses filled with cheering people were everywhere. Ethiopians really love their country, green, yellow and red, the colors of the flag are used for all purposes. Of course we wanted to show our support so we got ourselves face painted with the flag as well.

We spent some hours in Bole on Saturday. Meklit joined us to “Stockholm bar” where we had meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry. When we entered the restaurant they even put on Swedish music.

Friends have a special way of showing their friendship that can’t be seen in Sweden. They are holding hands, like a couple. It looks so cute when two guys walk down the street holding hands like they were in love. If it had been in Sweden everyone would think that they are gay, but here it’s just a way of showing love to a friend. It’s not okay to be gay here, but no one would suspect anything if you held hands with another guy. It might be the best and worst place to be gay.

Another thing that you can’t see in Sweden is the way couples eat in restaurants. The Ethiopian food injera is eaten with your hands and they have it for lunch and dinner every day. When two people are in love they feed each other. It looks kind of stupid when they try to get a big piece of injera in to the other’s mouth, but it’s their way of showing love.

November 15: Hospital

I’ve had problems with my stomach since Saturday last week so yesterday we went to the Korean Hospital in Addis. A nurse came up to us as we approached the information desk. She talked really fast and some words were hard to hear. After some questions about what she was trying to say, I took the quicker alternative where I could break the queue and be a priority patient, I just had to pay a little extra. I didn’t really like it; the white man comes and pays more money to break the queue and get help first, but on the other hand, the hospital made a little more profit on me.

They took a blood sample and a stool sample. I had to use the hospital toilet, I thought that if I didn’t already have an amoeba, I would defiantly get it in there. I did what I had to do and in less than one hour I got the results. I have some bad bacteria in my stomach so I have to take antibiotics for one week. The nurses that took the samples were a bit rude. I guess they didn’t like the system with the “VIP-treatment”.

November 11: Security checks

Last week we received the news that terrorist attacks might be carried out in Ethiopia. wrote on November 6:

“Addis Ababa — Ethiopia on Wednesday said that Somalia’s Islamist al-Shabaab, backed by arch-rival Eritrea, is planning to carry out attacks on its soil. The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and the federal police said they have found credible evidence that the al Qaeda-linked al shabaab militant group is preparing to conduct terrorist attacks in the capital Addis Ababa and in other parts of the country.

According to officials, Ethiopia has put its security forces and police on high alert mainly in crowded areas, public facilities and on other places suspected to be targets for terror attacks.”

The Swedish embassy in Addis Ababa wrote on their Facebook-page:


Ethiopian authorities urge the public to be vigilant as they claim to have indications that Al Shabab are planning attacks in Ethiopia.

The Embassy advice is to be cautious and at all times carry a copy of your passport, due to increased identification requirements in the country.”

We have seen more security checks, pretty much everywhere. We have been talking about participate in the Great Ethiopian Run on November 24, but Hanna is now convinced that attacks will be carried out during the race. 37 000 participants, that means it will be very crowded.

November 8: Meki

The university helped us to rent a car with a driver and we were accompanied by Adam from the university to do the translation. We left in the dark early in the morning. 3-4 hours driving took us to Meki and a bumpy dirt road that we shared with donkeys and horses. We came to an onion field and the owner showed up on a horse carriage just as we got out of the car. We asked our questions and took some photos with a small audience watching us. Three farms were visited and we got pretty much the same answers from all of them. It was a day mostly spent in the car so we were tired when we came back home to our guesthouse after 6 pm.

November 4: Bargain

So we left from Ambo on Friday morning, we went back to Addis Ababa with Mr. Ashenafi from Ambo University. He took us to the biggest fruit and vegetable market in Addis. It was really intense. We had to be careful with all the people around us. We had been out of the car for about 15 seconds when a man grabbed Hanna’s arm, starting to drag her and asking questions like where we were from. Mr. Ashenafi was quick and took Hanna’s other arm and dragged her in the opposite direction as he told the crazy man to let go. After that first chocking minute at the marker we started to walk down the crowded street that was filled with fruits and vegetables, lots of them. They had a whole section of the market where only onions were to be found. We took some pictures and Ashenafi helped us to ask for the price. After that crazy marketplace we went to another market that was a lot quieter. Hanna bought a watermelon, she paid three times the normal price. You just have to bargain here.

We are doing our master thesis on the logistic chain for onions so we’re going to follow the onions from farmer to consumer. This was just a first glance at the market place, we have to come back and find answers to all our onion-related questions later on.

Ordering in restaurants can be difficult here. When one of us has ordered, the waitress/waiter always wants to run away so we have to tell her/him that we both want to order. When the food is ordered they want to run away again and once again we have to tell them that we want more, something to drink. The language is also difficult, one of our first days here we ordered bottled mineral water and ended up with one cup of hot milk each. Today when I had breakfast I ordered egg sandwich, the waitress just said “no” so I asked her if they didn’t have egg sandwiches today, she said no again. Then I pointed out in the menu what I wanted, then she nodded that it was okay to order. I also order a bottle of water. After some minutes she gave me the water and the bill, I found out that the egg sandwich wasn’t on it so I had to order again.

The weekend was spent quietly in our hood. I bought a shirt in a small shop where a nice lady assisted me. I thought it was cheap compared to Swedish prices so I didn’t bother to bargain, when I handed over the money to her I understood that I should have. She started to clap her hands while she was doing some dance steps. She also showed me everything else in her small shop trying to sell me some more overpriced clothes. When we left she told me that I have to come back and find more clothes another day. I thought the price was good and I probably made her day, so I’m happy with my new shirt. But from now on I’ll remember; you just have to bargain here.

October 31: Ambo

Ambo University has expertise in agriculture and crop cultivation. Since we are here to examine the logistic chain for onions, Ambo is the right place for us to get guidelines for our project. We spent Monday at Addis Ababa University. The toilets in the university building are not what we are used to in Sweden. They just have holes in the floor where you’re supposed to do your toilet business. They’ve had problems with the pipes which results in that a very bad smell is spread in the corridors. We have a toilet on the opposite side of the corridor from our office. On Monday we had the worst toilet smell I’ve ever smelt just outside our office and when the door was open we also got it inside.

We received an e-mail from Mr. Ashenafi at Ambo University, they would pick us up around lunch time on Tuesday and we were expected to make a short presentation about our project when we arrived in Ambo. We made a PowerPoint presentation so that we were ready for our trip away from Addis. On Tuesday, we had lunch and waited to be picked up, but they were late so we had to wait four more hours before we could begin our 2-3 hours journey to Ambo. The presentation was now scheduled on Wednesday.

We arrived when it was dark and got ourselves a room in a hotel where we have our own bathroom and pay less than in Addis. On Tuesday, Ashenafi took us to the president of Ambo University, he had a big and well-furnished office. After a tour around the whole university area, we went back to the hotel to have a lunch-break. After some sunbathing and lunch, we walked back to have our presentation. I was a bit scared that they would have big expectations on us, we didn’t have much to show them since we just started with the project. It went good, we just got a little interrupted when a secretary came in and accidentally stepped on the power cable so that all equipment went off. We got very helpful information and guidelines after our presentation, so now we know where to go to find onions.

Today we had a very interesting fieldtrip around Ambo together with Mr. Ashenafi. We started with the quarrying of Ambo stone where we got to try to hammer with a heavy sledge. It was really hard work, my muscles were tired after just a few minutes. The second and best stop was at the Ambo Mineral Water’s factory. We asked if we could have a look inside, and we even got a guide that showed us the whole process, from borehole to packing of the filled bottles. I was like a little kid in there, I really enjoyed the visit and as icing on the cake, we all got a bottle of sparkling water with apple flavor. Then we moved on to see the construction site of the new agricultural university in Gudar. It is fun to see how they build here, using wooden scaffolds. We went to see some churches and cultivation of crops in the Gudar area. The trip ended in the Gudar River where people and animal shared the water.

We are going back to Addis Ababa early tomorrow morning. Hopefully we will go to the onion fields next week.

Dhena Dari!

October 28: It’s time for Africa

We arrived 7 am on October 24th, Dr Berhanu was waiting for us at the airport to pick us up and drive us to our guesthouse. We started with scrambled eggs for breakfast at a restaurant nearby where we’re staying. We got a few hours of rest before we were picked up by Dr Bikila to get a tour at the university. The guesthouse is not what we expected, our rooms are not very fresh and the toilets are working sporadically. I couldn’t sleep because of stomach ache, in a situation like that, working toilets come in handy. In the afternoon, the short tour was made in darkness since the power was out and didn’t return until 7 pm. We had lunch with a girl named Meklit, who graduated last year and now works at the university. In the evening, Dr Bikila drove us back to our guesthouse and we had a quiet evening in our rooms.

Dr Berhanu picked us up in the morning on our second day. We got an office where we can do our work. We share it with two other people, one of them is from Check republic. We used internet and then just hung around the university and enjoyed the sunny weather. In the afternoon, we walked back to the guesthouse, it’s about 2.4 km from the university. On our way home, a little boy reached out his hand to shake hands with me, and so we did, but that wasn’t enough, he even kissed my hand like I was a president or something. It felt so wrong.

We could feel the effect from the high altitude the first days, our guesthouse is situated 2500 meters above sea level, which is about 100 meters higher up then the university, but we don’t think very much about it anymore.

We were supposed to get up early on Saturday so that we had plenty of time to explore the city on our own. My bed is pretty uncomfortable so I’ve not been sleeping well since we got here so instead of getting up early, we slept until 12. We walked down to Sheraton Hotel to take in the luxurious atmosphere. We wanted to swim in their swimming pool but it was really expensive so we decided to do that another time. We wanted to stay at Sheraton forever, but I don’t think SLU can afford that. We had to go back to our semi-working toilets and uncomfortable beds. This was the first time we took a minibus back to the guesthouse, 1 Sek for both of us, from the university and home.

Yesterday, we went to a market just a few hundred meters from home. We have not yet found normal shops to buy clothes and shoes, there are just street markets. The market we went to had more handmade stuff, with traditional Ethiopian clothes. I bought a t-shirt and an earring. Hanna tried a dress and bought earrings and a scarf. In the afternoon, Dr Bikila picked us up to go see an apartment that we might want to rent. We have to think about it more since we really like the garden and the location of our guesthouse. We had lunch in a sports bar together and then he drove us to a supermarket where we bought some food.

That’s all for now, peace out!