I know its overly cliché to say so about a city in a developing nation – but Addis Ababa really is a city of contrasts.
I don’t intend to give the perception that I really understand the city – having only spent a few weeks there – but it definitely is the kind of place that leaves an impression on you.
You can walk down the same street and see beautiful children playing, and suddenly be smacked in the face with the smell of raw sewage in the gutter just next to you (and them).
There are signs of development like the new African Union building, and reminders of decaying infrastructure that is in no way capable of supporting the population.
Brand new Land Cruisers ride down the street next to donkey-carts, as houses made of corrugated sheet metal sit in the shadows of 4-star hotels
Its a city with millions of inhabitants (no official tally is really accurate, largely due to growth rates and the amount of people living in slums but somewhere between 4-7million) – and no sewer system. 70% of the households have pit-toilets, and 14% have none.
Another very noticeable thing about this city is that it sits at an freakish elevation of 2300-3000m depending on the area of the city. I really noticed the thin air – and thats for someone who lives in the Alpes. The first day I went for a run – I felt winded after maybe 10 minutes – there is smog, humidity and heat in the air…but apparently no oxygen. No wonder the Ethiopians keep cleaning up in long-distance running events.
When Susan’s parents were here in June we took a drive up to Annecy for a day.
Annecy is a picturesque little city on the shores of Lac Annecy, with mountains rising up all around it, not far from the Swiss border. It has canals, plane-tree lined streets, a huge green parc right next to the lake and a city centre that has basically remained the same for the past 500 years or so.
Of course now ye ole’ shoppes selling coal, miracle cures for the plague and indulgences have been replaced by ice-cream, high-end bike stores and touristy-kitch …but still.
It was a beautiful warm day, and Grandpa treated the kids to ice-cream as we wandered through the labyrinth of windy little streets that make up centre ville.
Days like that when we feel pretty fortunate to live where we do, and get to experience what we can – especially when we can do it with family despite living so far from them.