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Ethiopia Tech Challenge Day 1 & 2: The Journey to Addis Ababa

Oct 16, 2017

Day 1 and 2 Friday and Saturday, 13 & 14 October

“I can’t see you at meeting point D.” Andy and I had been patiently waiting at Heathrow for Dave and Josh who just barely made it to the airport- only to discover they were at the wrong terminal. You might recognize the stomach-sinking feeling as you’ve just discovered you are standing in the wrong place. Best part is, the gang isn’t even in a foreign land with foreign signage yet… we hadn’t even left Heathrow.

Luckily enough, Dave and Josh made it and the whole U.K. team touched down in Addis all in one piece! Granted we were a little tired from the overnight flight’s trolleys being rushed up and down the aisle, and not to mention the odd request for a doctor due to a medical emergency onboard being called over the loud speaker. Flying with Ethiopian Air was quite an interesting experience, and not just because we were with Mr. Andy Sangster. Our personal highlight was the announcement informing us we were now allowed to turn on our calculators.

In the meantime, Ayman had been having his fair share of in-flight entertainment with a screaming lady at the back of his plane and staff running back and forth trying to calm her down. We did all choose to fly on Friday the 13th.

Moving on to our day time activities, we had a few objectives:

Buy some hand tools to support the solar install (it turns out it would have been useful to have Ayman with us at this stage, as everyone always starts speaking to him in Amharic and we were getting seriously conned!)
Meet Dereje from Lydetco Solar (our solar partner in Ethiopia) to discuss final plans
Buy Dave some deodorant (his choice, not ours don’t worry!) and …
Josh, out of the kindness of his heart, brought out some clothes for one of our client’s security guard’s sister, so we had to meet her! – Whatever it takes, right?
As we headed out to start this quest, we were immediately commandeered by some local “tour guides.” Said “tour guides”, kindly and gratis obviously, took us round town and showed us where to buy the cheapest and nastiest screwdrivers and cable ties. They then wanted to show us the local church, and local church-going tortoises.

Naturally, very eager to explore the sights, we obliged. We soon found ourselves next to the church with our hustlers, uh I mean “tour guides”, looking for the local monk with the key to let us in. After taking our shoes off and a little compulsory praying we had a full guided tour, including being led to the crypt (under an extremely thick steel door, which we were all convinced they were going to close on us) and shown all the amazing artefacts/tombs of some of the most iconic names in Ethiopian history – including His Imperial Majesty Menelik II, Emperor of Ethiopia, and a painting by Michelangelo that was some 400 or 500 years old, worth who knows how much!

This almost brings us to nap number 1 of the day, but not before we were dragged into our “guides’” uncle’s gift shop in some random abandoned block of flats. He promised us a very good price… a lot.

Finally, after a few hours’ sleep, we headed to the bar to await Ayman’s arrival and have a bite to eat. Pizza was on the menu. And given we have a short flight tomorrow, we followed James’ recommendation to avoid ordering meat if there is any doubt. We all complied, except for James. Despite his own advice, James ended up with the chilli beef pizza for lunch. The evening meal consisted of a bucket load of meat wrapped in what looked to be flannel. We soon learned this flannel was in fact injera, a traditional Ethiopian bread.

(James, we wish you good luck on the flight tomorrow- and for the record, James is holding Ayman accountable as the injera was his recommendation!)

We are now relaxing in the bar half-asleep (actually asleep in Dave’s case) waiting for the arrival of the US West Coast Team. (As I write this, the UK team is giving me the evil eye as I assigned rooms to be shared between the regions, meaning no-one can go to bed!)

Anyway – that’s all for today folks – wish us luck with our flight tomorrow and we will post again soon!

James Kendall