Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 3 – Monday, January 23, 2012

Today is the day I get my bags back! Sike! They were supposed to arrive via Amsterdam and then Cairo, but alas, they are still sitting in Cairo as of the morning. Well, that little quandary was tough because I was supposed to bring my best clothes for the US Embassy meetings we were to have on Monday morning. Thankfully, Mr. Bascom, Johnathan’s father, let me borrow his fancy dud’s and I gussied-up with what I could muster. After breakfast, we were picked up by an embassy car and drove over to the embassy via a stop at CSA, the Central Statistics Agency of Ethiopia.

On our way there, we traveled down the street with a MASSIVE line of people all waiting for their opportunity to apply for an external visa out of the country. Most were young, most were women, and most were wearing clothing more associated with Islam. It appears that many are leaving Ethiopia for places like Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries for domestic work. Our driver indicated many were from Muslim parts of Ethiopia, such as Jimma and Bale. On the road to CSA, we got to see the city in all of its busy activities on this first work week-day on our way. Now, if you go to CSA’s website, you could be somewhat impressed, especially for a developing country like Ethiopia. However, visiting CSA on the ground is quite different. It is a big tin roofed shack with several computers, printers, and lots of cables everywhere. Part of the reason I am here is to conduct a workshop for geography faculty with Johnathan and Emma on digital atlas making. We have been collecting geo-spatial data for a while and CSA holds a large share of the data we would like to use. It is near impossible to get however. Politics, guarding to maintain power of who holds the knowledge and data, and limited resources all prevent this challenge. We met for a few minutes with some and then headed off to the embassy.

The US Embassy is old here, but has a newly built complex – a bit of power-play show against Chinese influence which is dominating much of Sub-Saharan Africa in its bid to gobble up agricultural land to feed its people. The embassy was spectacular and after going through all of the necessary security procedures we began our morning meetings. We met with Fulbright program folks, which was a joy. We then met with some of the people working with Ethiopian data and discussed our workshop in more depth, data needs, and also the next steps for greater geo-spatial knowledge throughout the country. It was an engaging and enthusiastic morning and we also were able to re-arrange our travel to Bahir-Dar for Tuesday morning, instead of the afternoon, so that I can pick up my lost baggage from the airport in the morning (it is supposed to arrive at 3:03AM on Tuesday morning). We had lunch at the US Embassy and then headed over to Addis Ababa University to walk through a cultural museum housed in the former Emperor Haile Selassie’s palace on the grounds. It was great and my boots supported with Dr. Schoals gel packs lived up to my needs – I was gel’n in Ethiopia – thanks for the gift Kellie!

We are got authentic Italian food tonight in Addis (Jimmy Carter and Brad Pitt approved restaurant here). I had homemade pasta fettuccine with gorgonzola cheese and a lemon gelato. We are heading up to Bahir-Dar just south of Lake Tana in the morning. Lake Tana is the headwaters of one of two sources of the Nile river, the longest river in the world. The Blue Nile (from Lake Tana in Ethiopia) and the White Nile (much further south on the African continent at Lake Victoria), form the Nile river in Sudan and continues flowing north to Cairo, Egypt. Can’t wait to see some of the falls near the lake tomorrow (with my luggage)!

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