I had a nice sleep and woke up at a leisurely pace for one of the first times on the trip. After taking a much needed shower (you have no idea how dusty it was this time of year), I joined Mesele and Mercy in the kitchen for a breakfast of scrambled eggs and a traditional Ethiopian dish of bread bits soaked in spices and oil and lightly fried. We also had Mercy’s special cinnamon tea, made with a masala straight from the Addis spice market.
Then, I tagged along with Mesele for the rest of the day for a mix of work and play. First, we ran a few errands and visited Mesele’s office again at Red Fox, while I enjoyed a cappuccino and surfed the net, breaking a sweat on social media.
Afterwards we visited my relatives – my Uncle Girma’s sister Alam Tshai, and son, and daughter, Nina (my cousins). They served us delicious injera and wot, and then fresh fruit, as we chatted about my experience in Ethiopia, news from the family back in the US, and small bits of personal details from our lives. I feel so blessed and lucky to have such a welcoming family half-way around the world. I dropped off some of the honey that I brought from Lalibela, knowing that it would go to great use with them.
The next task was to go to the market, located in the city center. Mesele explained that the Addis market is the largest open-air market/souk in Africa, even larger than Cairo’s Khan al-Khalili. It’s mind-blowing to think that anything would be larger than the Khan.
Yes, there we were, in a labyrinthine maze of tunnels and passage ways that curved and veered throughout the downtown, with hundreds of nooks and crannies leading to one shopping adventure after another. You want it? You can buy it here. Everything. Seriously.
I particularly liked the spice market because it smelled the best. Ethiopians consume not only spices, but also incense for their coffee ceremonies. Here is a shot of the incense rack at a small shop that we bought some cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and dried, sweetened raisins from.
Mesele also took me to a stall selling the traditional coffee cups and the boiling pot – the jebena – and surprised me with them as a gift. Pictures to come later of me donning the traditional costume they bought me as I carefully pour coffee for my friends and family in the US.
Then, it was time to eat again (as if I hadn’t already eaten twice in the span of 4 hours). This time I’d be trying one of the local delicacies, raw meat (beef). We met at a local restaurant for white wine mixed with beer (yum, and refreshing!) and a heaping plate of chunks of raw meat. In case you’re wondering whether it’s safe to eat, read this article. It’s not recommended, yet plenty of Ethiopians eat huge quantities of it regularly (weekly) and don’t get sick. When in Rome.
I also got to meet a few more of Mesele’s friends – Peter and Kifle. We watched football on TV, ate, drank, laughed, and even talked about some of the more philosophical issues in life, including relationships.
We made a few small stops on the way home, including at a small habesha shop where we found some more coffee cups that Mesele bought for me, and bags of coffee from Tomoca, a local coffeehouse and grower.
We went home briefly so I could re-pack all the treasured gifts (many in my carry-on), and then moved onward to the guest house to say goodbye to Mercy, and also play some farewell ping pong.
We said our goodbyes and with much sadness drove to the airport for the final time for probably a year, at least. With promises of returning soon, and an expedition to the south, I said a tearful farewell to Mesele at the Bole International Airport, and went my separate way.
It’s the story of my life. Visit an exotic place, stay just long enough to leave a part of myself, yet somehow go away fuller than when I started, overflowing with the friendship, beauty, and humanity of our world.