May 14, 2005
I'll be honest. Language barriers, cultural differences, and economic disparities often make hanging out with locals exhausting. Many times, I just want the ease and comfort of having beers with other travelers. The travelers I meet color my journeys almost as much as the countries themselves.
Melissa has been a popular character in these tales, so I'll begin with her. She made only a brief reappearance in Addis. One afternoon, I met some of her co-missionaries in the street. They told me she was in town, so of course, I sent her an email. My hotel in Addis doubled as a brothel. I was wonderfully amused by the idea of potentially sleeping with a missionary in a brothel. But she never responded to my email.
I ran into Melissa a week later on her last day in Ethiopia. She was
busy with last minute shopping and a goodbye dinner,
before getting on her flight home. She said that computer problems
prevented her from responding to my email. I know not if it was an
excuse or the truth. But anyways, I did not get to sleep with a
missionary in a brothel. The irony would have been
great... maybe some other day.
I met a surprising number of Americans in Addis Ababa. The American backpackers in Asia seem to be all from San Francisco. The Americans in Africa are a much more diverse crowd, here for a variety of reasons.
I met a girl from North Carolina with the most spectacularly stereotypical Southern name ever. Her name was "Scarlett". Her father was white and her mother was Filipino. I suspect, though it's just a guess, that her parents overcompensated with her name because of fears of her being mixed-raced in a white Southern society. She visited Ethiopia once before as a tourist, and returned to look into research opportunities for a Fulbright scholarship.
Zach was from Virginia. He was a mellow, laid back guy, who began on a backpacking trip through Europe. He made an unexpected turn or two and suddenly ended up in Egypt. From there, he met people who raved about Ethiopia, caught a flight, and ended up way down in Addis Ababa. Scarlett had the most stereotypical Southern name. Zach had the moh...st steh.....re.....o.....typ....ih....cal ak....cent.
An Alaskan woman was doing volunteer work of sorts. She was working with street kids, but was also covertly befriending pedophiles. She'd remain their friends until she had enough evidence. Then she'd turn her "friends" over to the police hoping for convictions and long sentences.
She gave me exciting news about my plan to cross the Bering Strait. Fishing boats cross the channel year round. Based on that, it sounds like my plan might be possible. She warned me to be careful though, because many of the boats smuggle fur or heroine. And finally, she told me to make sure that whatever boat I found had "thermal suits" to potentially save my life in case of capsizing. The weather in Siberia is going to be a massive change from the oppressive sun of equatorial Africa. That much is obvious, but the enormity of the difference hasn't quite sunk in yet.
While we were talking, a report came on CNN about gun control laws in America. She laughed. "There is no way that they're going to take away my gun; a grizzly bear lives in my backyard." Alaska and Siberia are going to be very different than Africa, but with grizzly bears(!) they should be equally exciting.
One day while walking through the Piazza, a man came up to me and said, "You don't know me, but you're Adam Katz - World Traveler". Jim once sent me a message through my website.
We had a talk over a cup of tea and he gave me very strong
recommendations for Georgia and Armenia. I've been considering
Georgia as a possible route to Russia (instead of the 'Stans). Now,
that's looking more and more likely. Georgia is still a bit of a war
zone, but the situation changes daily. I will wait until I get closer
to check the current situation, and see if it's possible to travel
through Georgia up to Russia. Georgia is a country that I definitely
should visit though; apparently, they drink more wine per capita than
any other country in the world.
I think of myself as being very well traveled. But on rare occasion, I'm humbled. Two Italians showed up in Addis Ababa the same week.
The first of them has been working as a gourmet chef during the Italian tourist season and traveling the other 6 months of the year for the past 25 years. If I'm ever in Calabria, I have a place to stay; he promised to give me some real Italian food, and his house has an amazing view over the ocean to Sicily.
The other Italian has wandered the world for the past 35 years. I've been
a bum for the past 4 years, but this guy is a professional. One day in the
guesthouse he booms out, "Work.... I don't know nothing about work." You
do not need a lot of money to travel the world, but he must have inherited
some serious money, or something, as he was traveling the world in his own
yacht. Now, that's the life.
The Hot Hungarian Girl
It was love at first sight - tall, thin, very athletic, with a great smile, a kind of wild energy, and obvious self-confidence. The second time I saw her, she was ordering double-shots of Ouzo. How could I not fall for that?
But, alas, it was not fated to be. She was traveling with two guys, both of whom were also in love with her. The girl, and one guy, were completely penniless. The other guy, the only one who had any money, was supporting both of them until they flew home. But he was so distressed over her rejections, that he permanently locked himself in his hotel room. The other guy went to the other extreme, and followed her around until she told him to go away. She bounced around cheerfully, seemingly completely unaffected by any of this.
She was beautiful. She loved traveling, Ethiopia, and Ouzo. She
was exactly what I'm looking for. But with a pile of destroyed guys
trailing in her wake, I decided she was more trouble than I could
handle. I decided to stay away.
Dean the Australian Adventurer
Dean from Australia decided that he wanted to sightsee Puntland in North-Eastern Somalia. Let me repeat that - He wanted to sightsee Somalia. But, let me give a few more details. Puntland is a separate country, though unrecognized by the International community. It's far safer than the area near Mogadishu.
He found an English guy who was willing to go with him. The pair of explorers found a truck full of refugees going to Puntland. Since the refugees were illegal, the truck snuck through the desert instead of following the road.
At one point, bandits shot at the truck. The two tourists hid under a woman's spare Burqua and went unnoticed by the robbers. The driver probably paid something to the bandits, but the refugees and the hidden tourists were left alone.
When Dean and his friend arrived in Boosaaso, the capital of Puntland, they were immediately arrested. By avoiding the road, they missed immigration checkpoints where their papers needed to have been stamped. Fortunately, they only spent one night in jail before a EU representative showed up, and got them released. He laughed, and asked them "What the hell are you doing here?" They were the first tourists he'd seen in 14 years.
The real punch-line to the story was an article in the local paper. It congratulated the police for apprehending two "illegal immigrants" from Europe.
I convinced Dean (he wasn't hard to convince) to follow my footsteps
and walk from Ethiopia to Kenya. I haven't heard from him
since. He hasn't responded to my emails. But, I assume that he's
Giram, the Ethiopian Jew
Giram is not a traveler, but he deserves a mention. I met him in a Piazza bar. He kept buying me beers. Giram was an Ethiopian Jew and told me that he was very proud to be a direct descendant of Solomon. He exclaimed that we have the same face and the same nose, just of a different color. I took a good look, and he was right.
I didn't get the whole story, but
his mother went off to Israel, and somehow left him behind. At one
point, he went to Israel to look for her, but could not find her. He's a
Christian now, and says that he doesn't care that he couldn't find his
mother - "It's just God's will."
The Sudanese Refugee
I met a Sudanese American who returned to Ethiopia for a visit. For a year, he had lived in a refugee camp in Ethiopia before amazingly getting a visa to go to the United States.
The little refugee girl I saw in Lodwar, Kenya [ journal entry ] made a huge impression on me. I wanted to know what her experience would be like, leaving the refugee camp, and going to America. This guy (shame on me for forgetting to write down his name) was able to give me some of that information.
Sixty people were selected from his refugee camp, and taken by bus to Addis Ababa. In Addis, they had a medical exam, which half of them failed. Another half failed the subsequent immigration interview. Of the initial 60 people, 45 of them were sent back to the refugee camp, and only a very lucky 15 made it to America.
He was dropped off in the center of Iowa, not speaking a word of English. The government provided him with an apartment and food stamps for 3 months. With, no choice, he had to adjust and learn English very quickly. But, with motivation, this was no problem. Within 25 days of arriving in America, he had a job.
Now, 7 years later, he's still in Iowa and is a fairly successful businessman.
Leave a comment! I'm much more inspired to write when I know people are reading.
I loved this entry! Great stuff. Read some of it to my gf and she laughed. These anecdotes compliment the photos so well in that they are another form of detailed but discrete information.
sid and fern - Aug 21, 2005
adam i feel like i am right there with you, it is great to read yoy sid
C(h)ristine - Aug 22, 2005
the vignettes are great -- i love the people. i'm getting short stories in my head, i'm so inspired!
Samantha - Sept 08, 2005
Hi Adam, I'm so glad you're writting again. I love reading your journal. I can't wait to hear about Egypt. I just got back from there in June and I'm missing it so much, take lots of picture k?
Eric Giles - Jun 21, 2007
Man,, I've been reading for hours now and I know I should be home in bed... Thanks man- you've made my night... and I will continue reading for days to come. Thanks again