Today I took my first-ever domestic flight (outside of the states) on Ethiopian Airlines from Addis to Lalibela. As my alarm recently broke, I had a fitful night of sleep wondering if the "room call" would end up working out or not. I ended up waking up about every half an hour and eventually around 445AM decided that 5AM was getting pretty close and I got out of bed. I had my things packed and was ready to haggle my ride to the airport. Three taxis parked outside of the Tiatu Hotel, all of which the drivers were asleep. After waking up one of the drivers we ended up agreeing on a price similar to what I paid getting to the Tiatu a few days earlier. I got to the airport and all the formalities went smoothly. I was early enough to read a bit in my book and take some photos of the sunrise out of the window.
Addis Ababa airport at sunrise
About ten minutes after take off I switched to a window seat and started trying to capture the views out the window. Although, this window was a lot more dirty than the Saudi Airlines Flight I took earlier this week. The flight did give me a perspective on the region. I enjoyed the ride even if it did last less than an hour :)
Ethiopian Airlines Airplane
Composite Image: Logo from Napkin and Skyscape
Looking east while headed north from Addis Ababa to Lalibela
Looking Down on the Terrain Approaching Lalibela
Almost Landing Approaching Lalibela
On the Tarmac at Lalibela Airport
To my surprise, not a single person reviewed my identification. Domestic flights are a different breed I gather.
Two days ago I wrote a hotel I found on Wikitravel that stated "Only hotel in Ethiopia that charges same for local and foreigner." As I'm not a big fan of skin-color based economies (who would be?) I decided to inquire about a room. The owner of the Tena Adam Hotel wrote be back and confirmed the Room charge.
When we landed at the domestic terminal and walked across the tarmac in the arrivals hall there were many hotel booths offering free rides for customers staying at the hotel. As the Tena Adam is not the most popular hotel, I wasn't surprised to see they didn't have a minivan transport. So I got on a minivan bound for town, some 30 minutes away. I enjoyed the view out the window and felt like we were definitely not in Addis anymore. As we approached town, I handed a small piece of paper to the driver's assistant with the address of the Tana Adam. He left me off in the Werek Dingay district, some 2km from the town proper, and a young man helped me find the place. To my surprise, the most useful thing I had written down was the name of the owner, as many people knew his location by his name "Befekadu Sisay", not by the name of the hotel "Tena Adam".
After I set my stuff down in a nice room, I had a stroll around town, even though it was blazing hot. I ate lunch at a fancy gringo restaurant with a nice garden and then walked back to the Tena Adam. In town I was approached by no less than 20 groups of kids. The experiences ranged from simple "Welcome" to a girl trying to pull my backpack off my back. In the middle of this spectrum were the majority of the experiences which were: Kids yelling "Money!" "School Pen!" "My father is dead, give me money!"
I've heard from other travelers that giving to begging people in Ethiopia is actually illegal and you can be fined for giving. Not sure if that law is ever enforced, but I never give money to kids. In India you can almost be certain the beggars are "owned" by a master and the masters receive a large majority of the proceeds. In other countries where begging is less organized, I can imagine it still only leads to temporary rewards: purchases of candy, soda, lolly pop, etc. Kids around here do not need more dental issues to battle. Additionally, giving to one encourages others to behave similarly. If one person gives, the word spreads quickly and soon enough, kids at a young age learn that outsiders are like a vending machine. Press the "my father is dead" button and out comes cash or change from the pocket.
After returning to the Tena Adam, I was happy to see that almost no one asked me for money or school pens. Seems that the "downtown" area concentrates the begging and attention. After visiting the tourist ghettos of Kathmandu, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai within the month, I've noticed a very similar pattern.
Highlight of the day was meeting the owner of the Tena Adam, a friendly man named Befekadu. In the afternoon after his work was finished at his health clinic he runs in town, he walked me around his village and showed me a new house he is building. His garden has apples, bananas, roses, and coffee. We ate Injera and hot spicy sauce called at a family member's house.
Tonight he has invited me to dinner at his family "dwelling home."