Wednesday, June 5, 2013

High on a Mountain Top

High on a Mountain Top

If you missed last weeks post you should back up and read the last post before you start this one. This is part two of last weeks adventure.

After our meal I waited outside with Jacob while the Hubs tracked down a taxi for us.  Just standing around in Addis as a Ferengie is always awkward. Just standing anywhere with Jacob is nearly impossible. Jacob doesn’t stay still, ever. I am waiting for the Hubs and Jake is frantically attempting to run into the traffic andcrawl in the mud, basically he is trying his best to force me to lose my patience and humiliate myself in the middle of Addis.  People are beginning to openly stare at us as the other two kids arrive.  After James and Brenden join me more children, from I don’t know where, appear out of what seems like thin air. I haven’t a clue where these children come from but they materialize whenever we are out in public. These particular kids weren’t too bad because they weren’t begging money off of me, however it was really weird that all of the sudden I was surrounded by staring people. Jake made a break for it and tried to run away and slipped in the mud covering his shoes in the brown grime of Addis. Brenden, James and I stood our ground as we tried our best to keep the growing crowd of street kids at bay and hold Jake to keep him from crawling through the muck.

The hubs finally arrived with the taxi and we climbed into the little car with practiced agility and headed up the mountain. As you climb En Toto Mountain one of the first things that you will notice are the stick women. The stick ladies carry bundles of sticks from the woods on the mountainside down the mountain or up the mountain in some cases. I am moderately sure that the bundle of sticks that you are imagining is not big enough. These bundles are about ten feet long (they are like trees) and must weigh about 150lbs minimum. In the rainy season the wood is wet which makes it even heavier! We also saw many donkeys (which made Jacob ecstatic) and other livestock wandering in the road.

We arrived at St. Mary’s Cathedral and Palace of Menelik 2nd. As we spilled out of the taxi a guide for the Palace and Cathedral met us as the rain began falling for the second time that day. As we walked toward the church the sky opened up and the rain poured down on us even harder. Luckily our guide had an umbrella and we made our way to a shelter outside of the church. More than 10,000 people will sometimes attend mass at this church, the shelters outside of the church are for the members of the congregation who cannot fit inside the building. The congregation can be so large that people will be in attendance across the street! Hence the loud speakers!

At this point we have been out and about for a LONG time. I still haven’t found a bathroom so I ask the guide where the restroom is and he directs me to walk behind the museum to a small building. James had to relieve himself as well so he accompanied me. We cautiously made our way to the restroom. James really had to go so he swiftly ran to the door and peeked inside, he quickly retreated mumbling that he’d rather go outside. Oh if only I had that option at a time like this! I knew it was going to be bad. James’ reaction to the “bathroom” was my second clue. The first clue was the smell! I peered inside and what I saw… a hole in the floor with a place for each of your feet.  I’ve seen bathrooms like this before in Europe but those bathrooms were clean, had electricity and they flushed. This was just a hole in the ground! I had James guard the door because if I shut the door I wouldn’t be able to see….anything! It was awful, there was no toilet paper, nothing but a hole! BLAH!  After that was over with we made our way back to the family through the rain. When we got back the Hubs and Brenden said that they had to go to the “restroom” I giggled silently to myself and waved good-bye to them. Hey, misery loves company right. The only thing that the Hub’s said when he got back was “I just did something involuntary…and messy”. I didn’t ask any more questions. 

While the Hub’s and Brenden were having their own adventure in the “bathroom” James, Jake and I waited with the guide. As I’ve mentioned earlier even the idea of sitting still makes boys want to run wildly in circles. This means that James and Jake had to find a means of entertainment and sitting quietly and talking is out of the question.  They settled on finding stones and throwing the stones out into the rain and mud puddles. FINE, I’m not an insane mom. I let me kids get dirty, its ok! Some how throwing stones morphed into throwing boulders! Seriously, Jake was lifting and throwing stones half his size into the torrent. Suddenly Jake shrieks, “I PEE, A PEE now mommy.” Uh, really? Emotionally I cannot handle the public “bathroom” again! The guide heard Jake and tells me that Jacob can just pee off of the stairs into the storm. Really? He can just urinate right here at this historical and religious sight? Well not wanting to get myself and the 2 year old soaking wet (not to mention I’m pretty sure that I’d have to dunk him in disinfectant if he used the public restroom) I decided that if it’s good enough for the guide it’s good enough for me and certainly it was good enough for Jacob. I dropped his drawers and had him aim into the tempest. He was so happy to unleash his inner nudest that he tried to remove all of his clothing! I eventually convinced him to put his pants back on and he went back to tossing boulders into the rain. I think that this kid definitely has a future as an athlete in the Highland Games!

The Hubs returned as the rain let up and we headed to the Palace of Menelik 2nd.  The palace was not what I think of when I think of a palace. It was large with white walls and a grass roof. The building was made of limestone and was cold to the touch. There were wood floors on the inside and we were able to see several rooms including the banquet hall and some storerooms.  We learned that the king’s meat was actually stored in a separate room from everyone else’s!

We marched back to the church but were unable to go inside because the church is only open for mass. We were able to walk all around the outside and that was very nice. I learned that Ethiopian Orthodox churches have 8 sides that correspond to 8 angels. I also learned that the church has three levels, which are symbolic of the trinity.  Pretty neat stuff, make sure that you take a look at the pictures.

After we saw the church and palace the guide told us that there was a 700-year-old rock church about a 20-minute walk up the road. We could not say no to that, so we headed in the direction of the church. We realized that if we walked we might not make it to the church before it closed. We needed a ride! There were no taxis in sight! The guide acquired the services of a truck turned bus and we climbed in. I am very sure that riding in this type of vehicle is against embassy regulation and we are not supposed to be using the services of this type of transportation. We really had no choice though and we were not in the city so we felt that it was worth the risk.  The drive was scary. The driver nearly hit a stick woman a donkey and half a dozen sheep not to mention that Jacob and I went flying every time he made a turn. We did make it to the church in one piece and gratefully we stumbled out of the truck.

The rock church was carved out of a single rock. Three holes, each one representing a member of the God Head, were chiseled out of the stone.  It was not beautiful in the conventional way but it was still wonderful to be able to visit something so ancient.  At the same sight was the Cathedral of Saint Raphael. This church was beautiful from the outside but just like St Mary’s it was not open except for mass, so we were unable to go inside. We decided to walk back to St Mary’s and try to get a taxi down the mountain from there. As we headed down the road toward Addis a few children walked with us. Two girls who were at St Raphael’s strolled along side our little group. As we marched on it seemed as though every ¼ mile or so our guide had to send kids away. I felt like the Pied Piper! The kids just followed us! We had a band of them with us!  At a beautiful vista we stopped at a little table where a woman was selling coffee and paintings and other little trinkets. We sat for a while and took in the beautiful view. Our entourage of little Ethiopians stopped as well. They played in the road as we took a little break. James and Brenden even played with them for a while. The kids were pushing paint can lids around with wire sticks to see how long they could keep them up. James and Brenden weren’t any good but they had fun anyway.

We made it back to St Mary’s and began to search for a taxi but found none! We ended up procuring the same truck that took us up the mountain to take us down. Again the ride was terrifying! He dropped us off in the dress district and we began walking. It started raining again, hard.  We needed to get home! We found a taxi and asked how much to Meskel Flower and he told us 250birr! I told him “No”. He offered 200, I told him 150 and we started to walk. He caught up to us and said that 150 was ok.  As we climbed in the driver handed a bundle of Chat to someone. Chat is a plant that people here chew to get high. It has similar side affects as marijuana. Ok so this driver is totally chewing and selling chat and my kids and husband and I are driving with him in terrible traffic in a rain storm! OMG keep it together! I was freaked out the whole drive back. We did make it to the house and paid the “sky high” taxi driver his 150birr! The story should end there but the we had one other really cool thing of note that happened the next morning that I just had to include in this post. 

The next day Brenden and the Hubs went back to the Embassy because John Kerry was in Addis for the African Union Summit and was making a speech at the American Embassy and all embassy families were strongly encouraged to attend. I was WAY to tired to put myself through another outing so I stayed behind with the two younger boys. John Kerry actually spoke with Brenden for a long while.  All in all a pretty eventful weekend!

Until next time friends and family!
 Survival Tips for Visiting Public Restrooms

  1. Use the bathroom before you leave so that you don't have to use public bathrooms.
  2. Bring toilet paper.
  3. Bring hand sanitizer.
  4. Remember that it can always get worse!
Palace of Menelik 2nd

St Mary's

St Raphael

Gate at St Raphael

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