The contrast between the Addis Ababa airport and the Dubai airport was striking. Addis Ababa was minimal with only the bare necessities (toilet paper is not a necessity, apparently) and none of the extravagance found in Dubai. Back in Seattle we each checked a huge duffle bag filled with shoes to donate along with a bag of our own luggage.
We collected our two bags and then headed to customs. Both of my bags made it through customs. I was asked what the shoes were for and had to pull out the letter we had been given. However, the customs agent next to us would not let the shoes through and ended up taking all the bags of shoes, even the ones that had been approved. Hopefully the hundreds of shoes will be approved and recognized as donations soon so that we will be able to distribute them to the local people.
Several of us left our bags with the group and went outside to try to take some pictures. We had taken one picture when the security guard told us to stop. Obviously we obliged and were going to go back inside to rejoin the others and grab our bags. However, we weren’t allowed back inside the airport even though our bags were still in there. We ended up waiting outside while the shoe issue was dealt with and our teammates grabbed our luggage for us.
We were greeted outside by members of Holt International, including Sarah Halfman, the Holt director for Africa, whom we had met at a BWOB meeting two weeks ago. It was nice to see a familiar face in such a foreign landscape.
We then loaded into vans and began the drive through Addis to the Holt office. The drive was like nothing I had ever seen before. First of all, the driving was a completely different style with numerous close calls (or at least what I could consider close calls but I guess are typical in this city) including donkeys and horses in the middle of the road. Street signs, traffic lights, stop signs, cross walks and signal lights do not exist! But the horn certainly does. There were people everywhere and lots of construction going on. But definitely not the type of construction you see in North America.
We received a very warm welcome at the Holt office which we then proceeded to tour. There was a giant welcome banner on the outside of the office and all our pictures were posted on the inside bulletin board. We were also individually handed roses as we walked into the building.
The feeling of standing out is very noticeable. Never in my life have I been somewhere where I look utterly different from everyone else. Everyone stops and stares at our group. Even though the stares are mostly simple curiosity it is a somewhat uncomfortable feeling unlike anything I have ever experienced.
Next, we will be traveling to the much more rural area where we will be building the homes.
Limited Internet access prevented Stephanie from posting these blogs while she was in Ethiopia. The trip was completed in late June 2012.