My journey began on Thursday 28 July when I left my home and headed back to Mum and Dad’s place. We didn’t get away until early evening, later than planned, but probably not later than expected!
I spent Friday catching up on some phone calls, paperwork and emails, and spending time with my grandmother and my aunt and uncle who visited for lunch. I also got my car serviced before I left it with Lisa, who is kindly caring for my beloved Rav4 in my absence. Such a chore, I really appreciate her sacrifice!
We left for Adelaide in the early afternoon to take my excess baggage to send unaccompanied. It is MUCH cheaper to send it this way rather than to pay excess baggage rates, but there is the risk of having trouble getting it through customs in Ethiopia. I have kept this extra baggage as uncontroversial as possible: it is just a few books, extra clothes, a pillow, my sleeping bag and Thermorest and a few other bits and pieces. No electrical items, no medicines, so hopefully no hassles. I dropped my car off at Lisa’s place, then we did a little bit of last minute shopping: a camera case for the camera I bought at Christmas time and a spare pair of sunglasses.
Saturday was a lovely clear and sunny day, unlike every day for the previous two months! I sat at the table on my parent’s patio in the sun and did some more emailing and phone calls. Such a lovely, relaxing way to spend my last day. We spent the afternoon planning our route for our trip to Spain in January, which was fun.
My flight to Sydney was at 11.25am. My parents, my grandmother and Alan and Geoff from SIM came to see me off, which was lovely but weird; I’m more used to being dropped off at the door! I had planned to spend the whole afternoon in Sydney so I could see my brother and sister-in-law and my fabulous nephew one last time. We got some yummy cakes and had afternoon tea at a playground while we watched Mr Nearly-3-Year-Old ride his bike round the bike track. He’s getting fast!
Simon drove me back to the airport at 6.30pm and my flight to Dubai left at 9.10pm. I flew Emirates, which is very pleasant indeed! Thinking I wouldn’t sleep at all, my goal was to watch at least six films. Unfortunately I got sleepy and dozed for about four or five hours so only managed four: a French romantic comedy starring Audrey Tautou called De Vrais Mensonges (sweet but predictable), Thor (loved it!), Fast Five (cute guys, fast cars, uncomplicated script… what’s not to like?) and Red Riding Hood (meh…). We landed in Dubai at about 5am local time so I got to see the sun rise over the dusty city. They hadn’t announced my gate yet, so I got one of those groovy little trollies to dump my gear onto and walked not exactly the full length of the airport, but at least two thirds of it. It was quite a hike! I found Starbucks, hoping for a chai latte, and was sorely disappointed. It doesn’t do to have too great an expectation of anything when travelling. I think it is better to go with the flow and discover new treats!
The flight to Addis Ababa boarded at about 8.30am, and involved boarding a bus and being driven to the furthermost corner of the airport. I got to experience the searing Dubai heat at I crossed the tarmac to board the plane. This leg wasn’t as pleasant, probably more to do with me being tired and cranky that anything else. I watched another movie, this time I am Number 4 which I intend to watch again sometime as I couldn’t see the screen properly thanks to the bloke in front of me who had his seat back the whole way… Yes, there was not a lot of tolerance on my behalf.
The plane landed at 11.30am and I got through immigration and customs smoothly. We had been warned of the possibility of being asked to have our luggage searched, and having to pay duty on any electrical items, but my bags were merely scanned and I was on my merry way. Brad, the middle/high school principal and an Australian, was there to meet me and another Australian family who were on the same flight. Brad drove us through the city centre, a noisy, crowded, chaotic and fascinating place! It really is completely overwhelming and it is hard to make sense of it all.
We arrived at the school compound and Brad took me to the apartment I will be sharing with fellow Australian teacher, Sylvia. She is still on holiday in Europe – I’ll get to meet her next week. The staff members at Bingham who have been responsible for staff orientation have been wonderful. I arrived to a lovely basket of goodies, including home-made biscuits, most of which are now gone, a basket of fresh oranges, bananas and tomatoes, all of which are plentiful here. They had already been bleached and ready to eat. In the fridge was potatoes, onions, carrots, a packet of minced beef, a bag of milk (yes, you heard me, it’s a wee little bag of fresh milk!), eggs, and local cheese. In the cupboard was cornflakes, rolled oats, sugar (still pretty scarce in Addis at the moment, so I am rationing it!), flour, pasta and dehydrated pasta sauce, a small tin of tuna, peanut butter (a different texture to what we get in Australia), cherry jam (awesome) and something that says its margarine, but I haven’t been game to try it yet… let’s just say it doesn’t need to be refrigerated! There was a lovely vase of apricot-coloured roses on the table, the beds were made and there were cleaning products in the cupboard. So thoughtfully set up, I think we have all felt very touched and it has made it easy to settle in.
Jacqui is my orientation buddy, and she gave me a tour of the school campus, including showing me where to get drinking water. I have a jerry can and need to fill it from a particular tank across the car park from my apartment. I think I am one of the lucky ones – it’s less than a 50m walk!
I had dinner at Jacqui’s place with her two children. We had shepherd’s pie with salad which was the perfect comfort food for a first night in Addis Ababa!