Well, it's been a struggle getting back into the swing of things after the longest holiday we've had for a while, but a couple of good nights of sleep have made the world of difference. There's still piles of work on my desk that haven't been glanced at yet, but we'll get there in the end!
What an experience! Ethiopia certainly isn't at the top of most people's lists of preferred destinations, and it was only because we have family there that it was on ours. But what we discovered was a fascinating country, with equally fascinating history and people. Sure, it's a Third World country, with widespread poverty, minimal infrastructure and some pretty apalling social problems, but we loved it!
Firstly, a plug for Emirates. We will be flying with them whenever possible - and given the destinations they fly (you can go to 204 destinations from Dubai!), we'll have plenty of future opportunites. Their service is great, their aircraft are excellent and their prices are strongly competitive. We also got upgraded to Business Class for both the Dubai-Addis Ababa legs which was greatly appreciated - it has motivated Mrs Inventory and I to save even harder so we can travel nearer the front of the plane more often!!!
We arrived in Addis Ababa some 36 hours after shutting the door at home, so it was a long haul - Sydney to Dubai was over 14 hours alone. Our first taste of Ethiopia was the Visa process - all paper-based; no automation or computerisation. If you are in the stationery business, there could be a killing to be made in Ethiopia with self-carboning forms. Everywhere we went, paperwork was completed in duplicate, triplicate or more, with neatly cut or torn sheets of carbon paper! Customs passed without drama (unusual for faranji (westerners) we were told) then it was family reunion time, and out into the Ethiopian sunshine for our first taste of the traffic.
If you have a nervous disposition, the roads in Ethiopia are not the place for you! Scant regard is shown to road rules, intersections are negotiated on a "see a gap and go like hell" basis, and the quality of vehicles is dreadful. Taxis abound - the cars are either Fiats or Ladas of 1970's vintage, the vans and utes (with canopies), all painted blue and white, all in disrepair, and all seemingly driven by maniacs. Negotiating the traffic is full of challenges - despite Addis being one of Africa's largest cities, it has a distinctly rural feel, with herds of goats and sheep everywhere, the occasional cattle beast, and donkeys being routinely used as a means of transport. Pedestrians seem unaware of the potential perils of traffic, and cross the road wherever and whenever they choose. Beggars abound, especially around the larger churches. And in the Merkato area, Africa's largest open-air market, homeless people sleep on median strips in the middle of the day - apparently, it's not safe for them to sleep at night!
So, that was our initial impression - more will follow, with pictures, in coming days.