6/25/2017 1 Comment
10.30pm, pitch black owing to no street lamps, the only light coming from the occasional fire burning in a barrel, tended to by the outline of what looked like slightly desperate men and dodging enormous pot holes. It was starting to rain, an ominous sign of the monsoon that had broken earlier that afternoon. A few threatening drops, followed by an eerie nothingness for a few minutes and then the sky opens and roofs cave in under the sheer weight of the water. 10 minutes and it’s all over again for a few hours.
Tonight was certainly surreal. I’d spent it as part of what turned into an improvised Ferrangi comedy act performing (loosely) an Amharic pop song on stage with someone supposedly quite famous (it was all lost on me but the audience thought it was the funniest thing since Americans discovered Benny Hill)
I’d eaten strange Ethiopian food (dried goat meat in a killer orange powder) I’d had a traditional coffee, poured from a pot with an elongated neck and served with popcorn-and now I was stumbling through one of Africa’s most dangerous slums in the dark.
I’d known there was something odd about the guard on the door from the instant he decided to pat me down on the way in. Just a vague ‘I don’t trust you! feeling.
Time to leave and stuffed full of goat, slightly buzzing from briefly becoming East Africa’s answer to Beyonce/Benny Hill I should’ve said no and walked away when the guard said “taxi!” took me by the shoulder and let me to an unmarked car. Unlike most taxis in this city, this one actually had windows and seats that were attached.
Alarm bells wailed louder than Bob Geldof at a benefit gig.
The guard and the driver clearly knew each other and had a brief conversation in Amharic. We agreed an amount (100 birr without argument which, on reflection was extremely unusual if not 100% unlikely here) and moved off towards Kera district.
We stopped, around us someone’s goat looked a bit startled
“This Kera!” (Funny, I don’t remember picking a hotel in the slums!)
“You give me 150!”
“We agreed 100”
So that was how I found myself in my little blond rich Westerness making my way through a shantytown in the middle of Africa.
An inward sigh of relief as I recognise a landmark (the abattoir)
The crowd stops bustling and starts turning, trying to work out the location of this supposed Ferrangi in the gloom.
I move into the shadows and begin walking fast, hoping there wasn’t another abattoir in town, dodging stray goats and weaving around oncoming slightly stunned Ethiopians.
Someone knocks me-hard and a hand hits my pocket. Someone else pinches my arse. I think that was a misjudged grab for the money belt. Someone else pats me on the head. (I’m not a goat)
What is this?? The Addis variation on Clapham Common?!
Eventually I spot two cops and fall into line behind them, hoping they won’t notice me but will be a deterrent all the same. After all, they’re both carrying enormous guns and sunglasses (I’m not sure why either)
I shuffle along behind them for about ten minutes before breaking free at a major intersection and stride back to my room, the shouts of “Ferrangi!” accompanying me from passing cars the whole way.