I apologize in advance.
Yes, I know I could’ve just changed the number to 4. But then I would have had to re-number everything and I didn’t want to do that.
Since I didn’t go anywhere fun this weekend, I ended up going on the trip with the kids to the botanical garden. It sounds really exciting right? We looked it up online and it looked really nice. The small group of us that was going (Mike, Will, Yosef, Arash, and I), were somewhat excited because looking at flowers should be nice, right?
The day started off okay. Mateos ditched us because this place was going to be like 45 minutes away by car and he had things to do. There was also a big graduation happening at the time, so the roads were super backed up. The bus arrived late and once we got on the bus, we had to immediately go off-road to get anywhere. The driver was super nice though, so I trusted him to get us where we needed to go. Somewhere along the ride, I fell asleep and woke up to see that we were suddenly climbing up some mountain towards a place marked “Addis Ababa City Limits”. We passed the gate and literally just turned around and went back down the mountain. I saw a lot of places that could potentially be the botanical garden, but then we pulled into what looked like a construction site.
Actually it didn’t just look like a construction site. It was.
I had no clue if this was actually where we were supposed to be. Maybe we were just waiting here for the kids. I saw on the sign it said Meles Zenawi something something so that would make sense, right? We had nothing better to do, so we walked around this small construction area and waited for like an hour until the kids arrived.
Once they arrived, the tour began. Apparently, this was the botanical garden. No, it was not finished yet. It was being constructed. And not only that, it wasn’t just a botanical garden. It’s actually a memorial garden for the former Prime Minister. Surprise!
Double surprise, the whole tour was in Amharic. Lucky for us, Yosef is a great translator, but wow was that an oversight.
In fact, the whole place was still so under construction that the bridges built so we could avoid the mud hadn’t been completed yet and we had to pick between walking on mud or possibly falling to death on these slippery holders for the wooden slats of the bridge. You know, it’s a bit like playing Russian Roulette.
That’s not the best part yet. We’re not even close to the best part. The kids were apparently complaining that the entire tour was about the former Prime Minister’s life. They came to learn about flowers. Why were they learning about this guy’s life instead? Same, kids, same. Except at least you actually understand the tour.
At some point, we were looking at this hole in the ground. A literal rectangular hole in the ground. The guide apparently said “Something important is going here, but we don’t know what.” The kids then called for an Oromifa translator to explain this hole (I guess). It was a very interesting hole. That was going to hold something important. We just don’t know what.
We continue walking on mud. Finally, we reach some building that looks under construction. Instead of listening to the guide, all the kids start to climb on the in-progress building. There’s literally only the group of TAs and one or two students near the guide as he explains this will be part of some big hall that will hold around 80 people (and there will be another near it as well). Then, since there was nothing else to look at, we climbed it as well because, why not? The view was pretty nice at least.
I gotta say, though, the best part of the tour was definitely these buildings:
They look like trees from far away, but up close, you see they’re just made from very small pieces of rock. The inside was even better. Of course, the kids were curious so they climbed onto the roof. Not wanting to be left behind, I did too. Because why not.
While I was going down, Teklu came up to force all the other kids down. I picked an opportune time to scram. I say these buildings were the best part of the tour, but really, the best part was probably feeling like a celebrity. At some point, the kids just all started taking pictures with us. I’m not really sure why. I took at least twenty selfies. There was one point where I tried to sneak past and then Winner (a kid from my lab) grabbed my sleeve and pulled me back because he wanted a picture and I really couldn’t say no because he’s in my lab!!
Yet, this wonderful weekend was not yet over. When we returned from dinner (Arash and I), I discovered that Yosef had purchased a bike. Not only that, but he purchased a bike and he didn’t know how to ride a bike. This immediately meant we had to go biking the next day so he could learn, right?
We woke up fairly early the next day (like 8AM) to try and teach him how to bike. Of course, the bike had no training wheels, so the first order of business was to rectify that.
People outside (the guards and just random passerbys) were more than happy to help us out with teaching Yosef. I’m a very small person, so it was never going to work out with just Yosef and I doing this. I was really grateful for their help because they could better balance the bike. Unfortunately, our first attempts were failures because Yosef was afraid of crashing into a car (we were on the road). The guard told us about a field on the other side of the road where Yosef could maybe practice, so we started walking over there. It’s very difficult work transporting a bike over highway dividers. After crossing the road, we had to traverse through the piles and piles of trash that I could always see from the guesthouse. At some point, it started getting really muddy and Yosef started having second thoughts. We were almost to the field (we could see it from where we stood), when Yosef decided we should just go back because it was too muddy. Let me add that this was a brand new bike (supposedly), so I understand his hesitation a bit.
We ended up finding a place near the guesthouse. It was a muddy area between the sidewalk and Airport Motel. The Airport Motel guard was super nice about letting us use it and was even cheering Yosef on for a while. At one point, Yosef went by himself for a grand total of 3 seconds and it was such progress!!! Unfortunately, he was unable to recreate that success. By the end of all this, he turns to me and says, “I give up”. I guess I’m okay at teaching many things, but biking is not one of them.
The bike was a bit dirty after, so the guards people helped us clean it off with water and sponges before we took it back inside which was really nice of them. I felt like the whole community of Mam Guest House-Airport Motel-Random Street People were invested in Yosef’s progress and were willing to help, but alas, Addis is not a place to learn to bike. I’m glad Yosef had a plan for what would happen to this bike, otherwise it would’ve been a very sad purchase. I may not have travelled anywhere cool this weekend, but I still had a great time in Addis, no matter how sarcastic I sound about the whole ordeal.