So, I made it. The twenty-hour journey over here was fairly uneventful, although I did meet a very talkative Ethiopian-American child who taught me my first Amharic word: ጫፍ. In case you were wondering what that meant, it means ‘nipple’. (Don’t ask. I have no idea either.)
Upon leaving the arrivals gate, it became clear that my airport pick-up person did not receive the memo that I would be arriving later on Sunday. I was therefore left without a ride into town. Normally this would be a terrible idea in a developing country, where aimless stragglers leaving the airport end up as prime targets for scams and other unsavory activities. I couldn’t help but regret my poor planning as I walked down the dark path into the parking lot, thinking of all the possible scenarios that could ensue. Fortunately, Ethiopians are a relatively friendly and honest bunch, and with a few pointers from helpful strangers, I was shuttled into a taxi cab with a young Ethiopian couple.
As we drove down the unlit dirt roads and through the crazy traffic, it very quickly dawned upon me that this was not a typical night in Addis. The city was in all-out celebration mode. Dozens of vans and trucks full of men passed by honking and cheering left and right. From my limited experience, this could only mean one thing: a football victory. And I was right. As it turned out, while I was 10,000 feet above ground, Ethiopia had won the qualifying match against South Africa for the World Cup. Even as I write this from my small, dim hostel room, I can hear the honking and cheering off in the distance. The sense of familiarity in a new setting is somehow reassuring. Hopefully I will still be able to get some rest tonight, seeing as tomorrow will be my first day in the office. For now, sleep is calling.