I have arrived in Africa. It took 5 days to get here from Nome, though my baggage is still on its way. After a night in Chicago, a pleasantly unexpected day in Brussels, and a stop in Paris, my first view of the continent was Addis Abeba, the capital city of Ethiopia. When flying over the outskirts of the city farm fields and gardens make up a mosaic of oddly shaped greens, yellows, and khakis. Closer to the town small home structures begin to appear; clusters of aluminum and plaster roofed huts positioned near muddy rivers and red dirt roads. From above the city there are buildings that look like could be at home in any rural American setting. Homes and office structures, a soccer field, a market place, and what appears to be a newly built hospital. From the ground this view changes. The streets are narrow, as is to be expected, transportation is by foot or motor bike and there are few large vehicles to be seen. The many multi story grey buildings I assumed were steel office type structures look as if they have been bombed. Windows are no longer intact, roof tops are caved in or non-existent, walls are leaning precariously towards busy streets.
When I stepped off the ‘Ethiopian Airlines’ jet I expected to be stifled by the heat, instead the air is unseasonably cold, (60F) and laced with so many smells it is hard to distinguish where one stops and the others begin. A young barista in a white gauze dress sits on a raised platform outside a café making tea and popcorn. The eucalyptus wood and charcoal smoke from her stove hang in the air so thick I can still taste them hours later. Thankfully the incense is so thick any unpleasant city smells are well masked. The ukulele strapped to my pack has become a useful conversation piece several times already. I have been asked by several shop owners to come in and play for them in exchange for tea. The people I have met, mainly women shop workers, are gracious, and the tea is so plentiful it is easy to see how a person could fall in love with such a place.