I’m going to start this post by saying we tried.
We really did tried. I was so excited to see this kids for the museum field trip day. We planned to spend half the day with the kids and then the rest of the day at Merkato. I was guaranteed that I would be going to museums I had never visited before.
The day of, we piled into the bus and headed to the museums. Mateos told us the kids would be late, so we should kill time at the museum. There was a sinking feeling in my gut as we pulled up the the National Museum which is definitely a museum I had already been to. They bamboozled me. We decided to go in anyway since some of our group (Pratiksha, Myra, Mateos, and Isabelle) had not been before.
We started on the bottom floor this time (per my suggestion). As luck would have it, there was a Korean tour group also there at the time and they were getting an English tour, so we joined their group for a bit. Mateos definitely stood out, and it was the first time I felt like I wasn’t the weird one in Ethiopia. The tour group was super slow though, so eventually Dim, Rupal, and I (who had all been at the museum before), went up to see the third floor which they hadn’t seen last time. The third floor was a cultural artifacts floor and was definitely not a place where we would need to spend a lot of time. We finished the floor in almost record time.
In short, we were bored. Dim and Rupal actually wanted to go to Nati’s house since his university was close by, but we didn’t know how to get there. Finally, we all somehow found each other again and collectively decided that it was not worth waiting another hour or so for the kids to show up.
“Well, what else did you guys have planned for today?”
I’m not really sure what happened here, but the driver agreed to take us to Merkato which really worked out for us. Merkato was intense which was easy to tell even from the car. Nati was supposed to meet us at Merkato, but looking back on it (hindsight is 20/20), we probably should’ve picked him up and then went because there was no way we were going to be able to meet at Merkato. The driver, Cherinet, said usually they give the tour of Merkato from the car because it’s so dangerous (pick-pocket wise). He even offered to stick around so we would have a ride back, but we didn’t know when we would be done so we told him it wasn’t necessary.
As soon as we exited the bus, Dim immediately went to bargain for a backpack while some “tour guide” stuck himself to us. Mateos attempted to handle the guy, but after some time he actually appeared to be useful, so we just let him be. I can’t stress enough how overwhelming Merkato is, especially for people who get antsy around large groups of people. At some places, you’ll almost get run over by cars and at others, there’s almost too many people to pass through quickly. Some merchants are willing to barter with you and others…not so much. Many people came up to tell us to be careful of our bags which was actually really nice. Also as a note, if you’re wanting to buy tea spices, just buy them at the supermarket because they’re not that much cheaper at Merkato. In fact, spices wise you probably can get anything you want at the supermarket. Merkato is nice for the experience though I think. I probably won’t go again though. It’s way too much for me.
So anyway, this tour guide helped us around Merkato (soooo glad I made a list the day before thanks for the idea Nati) and we started buying stuff. My list inspired some sort of coffee pot buying contingent within our group, but Isabelle didn’t like the holder she bought for her coffee pot so she started using it as a hand-holder. We also bought some dresses on the street which was kinda sketch. The dress ended up being a bit too long for me, but I might see if I can’t get it altered or something. We had no luck finding Nati (to be fair, his phone died), but we did somehow find Corina and Jessica.
For lunch, both Mateos and the guide left us. We ended up going to a branch of Tsige Shiro which was on the 7th floor of some building (PS. if you buy a kilo of anything it might be wise to not buy a kilo. Just saying). It was pretty good though and our waiter was super nice so we left a nice tip. By this point, we were getting tired, but there were only a few more things people wanted to buy. We began to walk around again, but Rupal felt a bit sick so we needed to find her a way to get home. We finally found a taxi to take her home although it probably would’ve been better if at least one of us went back with her.
After this, we went straight towards the fabrics/clothes/etc. Isabelle was looking for a shirt for her boyfriend, and Pratiksha and I were looking for gabis. We finally found stuff, but Isabelle had little luck on the shirt front. Myra somehow ended up with a shirt though. The day was long by this point, so we decided it was time to go home. Unfortunately, everyone kept pointing in some random direction when we were trying to find minibuses to Bole. At one point, the guys pointed behind us, and that’s when we knew something was up. We were then told that there were no more Bole taxis at that time, so we followed some lady to another stop near Mexico Square and by that point I was pretty done with the day.
Overall, Merkato was an experience. If you want the full experience, I think its definitely worth going at a time when all of it will be open. But I also think there are better places or areas to buy some of the same things we bought. If you get a chance, I would go, but there are also plenty of places to buy souvenirs if you can’t get to Merkato.
After Merkato, we went to Azmera Shiro that night for dinner and got rained in. We attempted to wait out the rain, and eventually it calmed down enough that we could attempt to make our way back to the guesthouse. Somehow, in the midst of this, Leello decides he wants to race back to the guesthouse in the rain. There are many things wrong with this idea, but the biggest one is in the rain. I don’t know what we were thinking, so we agreed to it and then sometime within the first bit of the race, Leello ends up falling. I didn’t know he had lost his glasses and he totally forgot about them to until we were some distance away.
“Wait, my glasses.”
So we run back to where he had fallen along with Arash. We find the glasses, but unfortunately, they’re broken. Like broken broken, not a little glue can fix it broken. When we got back, Dim played doctor, and everyone was worried and standing outside of their room waiting on news. It kinda put a damper on the evening, but Leello emerged from his operation fully operation sans sight. Guess it could be worse?