The sun was shining and it was wonderfully warm when I landed in Addis. Jess, who works for Hope for Children, met me at the airport with Benji, a lovely driver who is going to help me get around for the next month. Taxis are painted blue and white here and in entrepreneurial spirit, Benji’s done his own paint job on his Toyota Corolla. The roads are extremely busy with ‘Blue Donkeys’ –blue and white minibuses that form the backbone of public transport, white 4x4s peppered with insignia of various NGOs and embassies, industrial trucks pumping out thick smoke – a symptom of the mass of building work that is going, a whole host of personal cars zig zagging, weaving and tooting, and the occasional real donkey or two, nonchalantly meandering to who knows where. Owning a car here is a luxury of the middle class – so all of the roads are flanked by lots of people walking too. Although there is still acute poverty, people approached the car begging when we stopped at traffic lights, signs of development are everywhere. It feels like the city is on the cusp of utter transformation – there is much more tarmac on the roads than when I was last in Addis in 2009, Addis now boasts a light rail service and there are tall buildings in the process of being completed along most main roads.
We drove to Yeka guest house, and were met by Elizabeth, my extremely welcoming and gracious hostess. By strange coincidence, Yeka is just a short walk away from the British Embassy, where I stayed the last time I was here. It has an eclectic mix of guests – Chinese construction workers, families who are in the process of adopting, or who have already adopted and a few others who are here with NGOs, embassies or to volunteer. At dinner, I met with a Belgium couple who have adopted a sweet sixteen month old boy from Harar. They have been trying to adopt for almost a decade, and are so happy to have been successful now. Yesterday, their papers were finally approved, so they are going to take him home to Belgium on Saturday. I’ve met a lovely girl who is Australian and was adopted from Ethiopia when she was five – this is her first time back since –she is going to be volunteering at The School of St Yared kindergarten for the next month. It’s so interesting to hear everyone’s stories!
After I’d eaten, I pretty much crumpled into bed, feeling utterly exhausted and a bit topsy turvy as my body adjusted to the altitude (Addis is approximately 2400 metres above sea level) and the time difference – an awkward 7 hours behind Sydney.