I have the theory that gasoline is brought to the gas stations in the middle of the night, and that you have a better chance to find it if you wake up early in the morning and beat the swarms of tug-tugs to the pump. Unfortunately the buggers have the same theory, so by the time I got to the one gas station that was supposed to have gasoline there was a line of about 20 tug-tugs waiting to fill up. I drove the wrong way unto the station and found out that yes, they had gasoline, but the power was off and they couldn’t operate the pumps. So I was going to have to wait as much as a couple of hours for the electricity to come back, and then would be at the back of an interminable line of tug-tugs.
I am ashamed of what follows. I had not been waiting for more than a couple of minutes when the power got back, and the feeding frenzy started. Since I was almost at the pump, but on the wrong side of the line, I bribed the second tug-tug in line, backed into the pump, and got served first. Oh, there were some expressions of disgust among the tug-tug drivers, but then they saw I was a ferengi and shrugged their shoulders as if to say “The old man doesn’t know any better. What can you expect from a foreigner?”
The land between Kombolcha and Addis is beautiful. The valleys support healthy agriculture, and the mountains truly have an Alpine feeling to them. I realize that this has been a good year, with plenty of rain, and the image could be quite different under drought conditions, but right now there is an overall feeling of prosperity everywhere. I have also seen lots of water development projects that have been sponsored by international charitable organizations, and reflect that the investment made, coupled with the hard work of the local communities, has really had a tremendous effect in the well-being of the people.
I am not sure if today is a special Sunday, but many small towns are in a most festive mood. The ladies are beautifully attired with snow white shawls, and the older gentlemen are elegantly dressed with white shoes and smart shirts. In the towns where Muslims form a majority, the women are dressed in colorful dresses and shiny scarves. And, of course, everyone is on the road, oblivious to the passage of cars, tug-tugs, and big trucks. In one of the towns the crowd was specially boisterous, and at some point I was surrounded by a happy crowd who thought my little car was a perfect drum to accompany the singing and dancing. No worries. As soon as some of the folks realized I was a ferengi they opened a narrow path to let me pass, and I had the whole party waving goodbye to me and pouncing on their next victim.
I finally made it to Addis, again on fumes, without the least idea on how to reach the Green Valley Hotel. So I decided to trust my gut feelings, weaving my way through the maze of avenues on faith until, joy of joys, I saw the hotel right on front of me. A very pretty piece of navigation, if I say it myself.