The first week of AddisCoder was mainly a preparation and getting to know each other week.
There was actually quite a bit of work to do. Each day, we would try to arrive at campus around 8-9am (sans the days we went to the telecom to try and resolve the issue of having data). The campus we were using was the Addis Ababa Science and Technology University (AASTU). We worked on creating exercises for the known lectures at the time (basically, the ones Daniel would be doing), and also setting up the labs we had access to. The first few days we only had access to what we called the “old labs”; these were the two labs that we first got access to plus the lab on the fourth floor of the building across from the old labs. It seemed like the virus was not easily exterminated and we weren’t allowed to reinstall Windows on the machines, so we resorted to fixing the issue by installing Ubuntu on everything.
Sometime mid week, we found out that we were supposed to be using a much larger lab space with around 170 computers. However, there must have been something that went down because we instead were stuck with the “new labs” which were in a building near the parking lot. There were four labs in that building.
While we did setup and worked on exercises, the Ethiopian TAs gave a crash course to the Lab Assistants or LAs. The LAs were college students who were interested in starting a similar program to AddisCoder in their community and were volunteering to get an idea of how to run such a program. They basically covered four weeks worth of material in four days which was impressive.
The food in the cafeteria surprised us the first week. We came in on Tuesday expecting a traditional meal and got spaghetti with some sort of meat sauce (?) instead. The next day was a traditional Ethiopian meal, but then the next day was rice with bread. The rice was probably one of my favorites because it was so good. Friday was again a traditional meal. We also witnessed the coffee ceremony in person (for me, it was my first time), so that was exciting as well. Coffee and popcorn became a staple of our diets for the next five weeks. It was pretty lucky for us that the cafeteria food was pretty good because the campus we were at doesn’t have many places nearby where you can eat at. It also meant we only spent money on dinners which was good for people not on a stipend.
Speaking of the stipend, we went on Thursday or Friday to the Meles Zenawi Foundation building to pick up our stipend. I don’t know why we didn’t think about it, but of course we would just get it in stacks of cash. It was actually kinda intimidating to go into the compound at all because the guards at the gate seem so strict, but by the time we were exiting, they had started playing football and seemed less intimidating.
Dinner was great during the first week for the most part. During the first week we went to Spurs, Yod Abyssinia, Tsige Shiro, Bella, and Dakko Kitfo.
Out of the places we went, I would not recommend Spurs. It’s themed like the Native Americans but it’s apparently a South African chain (don’t ask me why). They had everything ranging from burgers to quesadillas, but the food itself was kinda lackluster. Definitely not as flavorful as the traditional food. Also, how do you mess up a quesadilla? It’s just cheese and a tortilla!
I also wouldn’t recommend Bella, if I’m being honest, but I probably didn’t order the right thing. I got the Carbonara (not a good choice), but apparently everyone who got the Arrabiata really liked it. The pizza…was hit or miss. Take your chances if you want.
I already mentioned Dakko, so I won’t rehash it, but I did like it a lot.
Yod Abyssinia is a cultural restaurant where you can watch live dancing and music while you eat. It’s definitely more fun on days when it is packed, but even if it’s not packed, the music and dancing is nice. The first time we went, we ordered two liters of tej. As far as food goes, I’m not entirely sure what we ordered, but it was pretty good. The food there is a bit more expensive than other places, but you’re paying for the entertainment so I guess it balances out.
When we went the first time, both Arash and Daniel went on stage. They are braver men than I.
(skip about about 3:30 to see Daniel)
The best place we went the first week was probably Tsige Shiro. Although the portions we got were small, the shiro was so so delicious. Legit, the shiro just disappeared off the plate. This is definitely a place I would recommend going to if you get a chance. If you don’t really want the variety place (which you really don’t need here), I would just order the shiro itself (Bozena Shiro or Tegabino is the kind we always get) and then possibly Misir and Gomen Besega. But really, you just need to go to this place and experience it yourself.
On Saturday, we went to Kaldi’s. The Eritrean President came in for a visit this day which made all the roads crazy. We were actually trying to go to La Parisienne, but it was closed, so we went to Kaldi’s which was right next door. I got a tea with milk which I liked. Others got yogurt, sambusas, various types of coffee, etc. I’m not great at judging coffee quality, but I think it was okay as far as coffee goes. I mean, Kaldi’s is apparently like the Starbucks of Ethiopia.
After our coffee, a small contigent of us marched in a random direction to just go explore. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we somehow ended up near the Red Terror Museum and Meskel Square which is a fairly long walk from where we started. I guess complaining while talking is very motivating. Unfortunately, when we went to the Red Terror museum, they said it was closed (even though it’s Saturday) because of the Eritrean Peace stuff that was happening. Just our luck. Meskel Square had the flags up for the World Cup though which was nice. We tried following some people into what looked like a stadium but was stopped by the guards. Some nice bystanders tried to help us get in, but at that point we decided we weren’t particularly interested in going into the stadium.
After being turned away, we somehow made it to the nearby (like very very nearby) Addis Ababa Museum. It costs 50 birr to get in. I personally was not a big fan of the museum, but if you have nothing better to do, it is an okay museum to go into. There’s some historical and cultural stuff on the first floor and then some art and celebration stuff on an upper floor. For some reason, the lights weren’t working in certain rooms. There’s also like a secret room on the upper floor or something? We got rained in, so we stayed at the museum a bit before deciding we would take a taxi to where Daniel and Corina were since we were all planning on watching the World Cup.
Dim took charge of trying to negotiate a taxi. Unfortunately, something got miscommunicated between leaving the museum and going to the taxi stand, so the price we negotiated was for the guesthouse. We started moving (with Jessica in the front), and as we were driving, Dim suddenly asked, “Wait, are we going to the mall?”
“Yeah, wasn’t that what we agreed upon?”
“Oh, I told him we were going to the guesthouse. Jessica, just tell him we want to change the destination”
Unfortunately at this point, the poor guy is driving, so we’re trying to tell him we want to change the destination to the Saro-Maria, but he 1) doesn’t understand English very well and 2) is driving so of course he can’t look over at the map we have pulled up. But somehow he “gets” it (we think), so he’s driving when all of a sudden he goes to make a U-turn.
“We missed the turn,” says Jessica.
Ok, nothing big. So he makes the U-turn and as he’s driving, we see a flash of lightning and the thunder sounds from right above us. This happens just as he passes the turn (again) that he needs to take. It’s a bit obvious at this point that the guy has no idea where we (or he) is going, so we just tell him to stop and all get out. The thunder was as good of a sign as any. We make the rest of the journey on foot to where Corina and Daniel are, and then it was time to try and find food (and a screen for the game).
We end up at some place called the Beer Garden which is part of the Beer Garden Inn. They don’t let you take water in. You’ve been warned. At first, they tried to seat us in the fancy restaurant inside the hotel (because there were not enough seats in the restaurant), but when we came back, we had somehow managed to grab a table large enough to fit all of us. Two things about the Beer Garden: it’s a great place to watch the World Cup if you want a crowd and excitement. It’s a terrible place to eat though. At the very least, whatever food I got was subpar (it was potato soup). I think the best thing they had was french fries. At what appears to be a German restaurant.
They do have these large 5L towers of beer though which is fun for a group. The beer is okay, but I’m not a beer person so I really can’t judge.
On Sunday, we welcomed Sahaana, but it was a pretty lazy day to be honest. We somehow made it out for coffee at Tomoca which is across from the telecom office. I had a really great spris coffee there, but it was impossible for me to finish with the amount of caffeine in it. I also went to Azmera Shiro twice in one day; once to eat lunch with everyone and then a second time to welcome Sahaana as part of our ad hoc welcoming committee.
It was really difficult to find a place for the World Cup finals on Sunday, and among all the chatter in the group, we finally ended up at some Turkish restaurant that let us have front row seats to a Turkish broadcast of the game. We had already missed half the game at this point, so we were more than willing to take what we could get. The game was exciting and ended with France winning, much to Leello’s delight.
After the game, it was time to find dinner because I didn’t order a single thing except water from the Turkish restaurant. Apparently, Leello had friends he wanted the group to meet, so we split for a bit to find them. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually know how to get to the place we were going, so we kinda winged that part, but it’s fine. We made it to the restaurant which was Dessalech Kitfo. The very very sad thing about this was that Dessalech was very loud, so it was definitely not a good place to bring friends that you wanted to talk to and catch up with cough Leello cough. The food seemed okay, but if I’m being honest I have no idea what we had except kitfo. I know Mike tried some raw kitfo, but I was definitely not up for it at that point. Would I recommend Dessalech? Sure, I guess, if you’re wanting a cultural restaurant and you really like kitfo. Is it a must go to? Maybe not.