June 2014
« Aug    

Ethiopia: The Last Days of the Trip

Due to travel sickness, most of the last days were spent at the hotel, simply reading or resting. Even if I hadn’t been sick, the opportunities to travel outside the city were limited since she had to work during the day. Otherwise I would have loved to go visit Gondar and Lalibela, as well as the Great Rift Valley.

I did go to Tomoca one last time, and along the way yet another guide accompanied me. I told him that I wasn’t interested in a guide, but he wanted to accompany me to learn English, Ok, fine. Along the way I told him that I’d like to help out a bit more before leaving, and he showed me a place where they were selling meal tickets for 1 Birr apiece in packs of 8. After buying the last of the coffee, I used what I had left and bought a bunch of these packs, and then we split it to distribute to different people.

There were a lot of people in an alley just outside. I tried to focus on the kids and older people, and most people were grateful but some, especially the younger males, were a little aggressive and expectant. I started to walk back to my hotel and I gave out tickets especially to people who were blind, old, or crippled. For these people, I feel that no amount is enough and I hope that one day the technology will be there and will be affordable enough to help these people out.

Of course, my “friend who wanted to learn English” Efram did expect something by the end as he accompanied me back to the hotel. He had been a good guide (even though I told him I didn’t want a guide), and he told me what he wanted (new glasses, new shoes, and new clothing). I gave him a pair of pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and 100 Birr to help him out. He actually looked disappointed when he saw there was ‘only’ 100 Birr, which was a reaction I really didn’t like. He tried to persuade me to go buy him glasses, but to me there’s a difference between helping out and being taken advantage of. I said no, and then he wised up and did thank me for what I gave him, and we parted ways.

Overall I have mixed feelings. It feels good to help some people out especially when they appreciate it, but it’s really heart-breaking to see so much misery and poverty. At the same time, some people, and it seems this is more true of the people who are healthy than otherwise, grow expectant and look upon foreigners as nothing more than walking dollar signs, which is an attitude I really don’t like; sometimes when I walk outside I just want to be left alone and not hassled because I’m seen as someone that can be taken advantage of.

To be fair, my guide was helpful and I enjoyed talking with him. I appreciate that he showed me how I can help people out by purchasing meal tickets. If I have a lesson to people like him, it would be: be honest about your intentions, and don’t bite the hand that feeds. Being a guide for foreigners is a perfectly legitimate and honest activity, and I do appreciate the service that I’ve received and I’m fine with paying for that. At the same time, if someone says no, you need to respect that and not pretend you just want to practice your English and expect money afterwards.

I also visited the Merkato before leaving, which I will talk about in a post to come.


Leave a Reply





You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge