5AM. Pitch black.
The alarm goes on. My eyes shut open and my heart starts racing. I look around the dark hotel room and for a few seconds I have no fucking idea where I am. It happens a lot lately.
It’s a cold, dark, rainy morning in Addis Ababa. I’d like nothing more than staying under this cozy blanket for another hour but I can’t. I have exactly 30 minutes to get dressed, get my brain together and have breakfast before my ride to the airport comes pick me up.
I get myself out of bed reluctantly and stumble across the room looking for the bathroom light-switch. I find it. The light turns on, my head hates that. I look in the mirror…man, I look tired!
I wash my face, brush my teeth. My brain’s still sleeping. I need caffeine ASAP.
I put on my jeans and noticed the many scratches on my legs and arms. They hurt. But not as much as the ones this trip left on my heart, those are much deeper. I can’t think about it now though, I don’t have time, I gotta get my shit together, it’s late!
I zip my bag up, grab my jacket and I’m off the door heading to the restaurant upstairs. I’m SO hungry!
Breakfast options are limited: Full breakfast or continental breakfast (which in Ethiopia means…just toast🤔). I have 5 minutes left, just enough time to drink my coffee and read my emails…oh, forget about it actually! the internet still isn’t working. The government shut it down days ago.
The driver meets me at the reception and helps me with my bags. We drive through the flooded streets and get to the airport in no time.
After a painless checkin I am sitting at gate 12 waiting to get on the plane to Nairobi. I feel like shit, probably the result of the 4 hours sleep nights I’m getting lately (lately meaning the last 2 years!).
The flight is delayed by 2 hours.
I’m the last one getting on the plane, as usual. I can’t stand standing in line, what’s the fucking point? If I have to wait I reader do it while sitting so my back doesn’t kill me!
When I get to my 38A (window) seat a careless looking teenage British girl wearing way too much pink is sitting in my seat. She gives me a smug bratty look and turns her head the other way, ignoring me completely. She knows damn well she’s sitting in the wrong spot. I know it, she knows it, but whatever, it’s a short flight and I am not planning on sleeping, I have work to do, so she can keep sitting in my spot.
I get off the plane and walk towards customs, an airport health security guy stops me.
“Yellow Fever card please?”
hmmm…good question! I didn’t bother getting one, it’s technically not mandatory and some people get away with not having it so, as usual, I winged it. “ I don’t have one”.
The guy gives me a dirty look.
“Ok, come with me”.
I follow him to a small dodgy room on the other side of the floor. He pulls out an old dusty box and extract a syringe from it.😳 Before I know it he injects me with a yellow fever vaccine…WTF!
“It’s 30 dollars” he says.
I finally leave the airport and get a cab. Lots of drivers are trying to rip me off asking for 3000 shillings. I know I shouldn’t pay more than 2000 so I barter with a guy till he agrees to 1900 shillings.
There are countless vultures flying above us, they are huge and so ugly! We sit in—what at the time I thought was—bad traffic for a while, but I have no idea what’s coming. When we finally get into Nairobi I witness something I had never imagined could exist: unruled madness, clousterfucking unmanageable traffic that defies any law of logic and physics. My cabby has no idea where he is going and performs unthinkable terrifying maneuvers every time he realizes he’s on the wrong road. I think my life will never be the same again after this ride!
It takes me hours to get to my hotel. It looks discouraging from the outside but once inside the rooms are actually quite nice.I check in and drop my bag in the room. I was supposed to have a meeting at 3pm, it’s almost 5, luckly there were no issues sliding the meeting at 6pm. Now…how do I get there? I google map the meeting location and turns out it’s just a 12 minutes walk, after that nightmare ride the last thing I want is to be sitting in traffic for another hour so I’m just gonna walk there.
I pass by the lobby and a chubby Turkish man in his 50s with a thick beard and a very strong accent asks me:
“Where you going all by yourself girl?”
I tell him I’m meeting someone at the Continental. He looks at me skeptically:
“How you getting there?”
“I’m just gonna walk” I say.
“You nuts girl? You don’t walk here, too blonde, you get robbed. You take taxi!”
And before I even managed to talk back telling him I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself, he was escorting me out the door and showing me my options.
“Motorbike is faster, here take this guy!” and he screams at the guy “ Hey! Bring her to Continental. 100 shillins.”
And before I even realize, I am holding on to this guys jacket while riding at an unhealthy speed zigzaging through the chaos of Nairobi rush hour. He drops me in front of the Continental, I pay him and he strolls away.
After going through metal detectors, I finally meet Kate in the lobby and—braking my ‘eat where the locals eat’ rule—we go and have dinner at Java, a popular touristy cafe chain in Kenya. It’s nice to catch up with her but coming 8.30pm I don’t even know what my name is anymore, the lack of sleep is catching up with me. I’m so fucking tired!
I get a cab back to the hotel. I’m exited to finally sit down and get some work done with functioning wifi! In the lobby I meet the Turkish guy again and he can’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that I am there by myself.
“Why you here alone?”
“I’m here for a job”
“I’m working for an agency”
“I do not get it. You don’t have husband?
“oh gosh No”
“Why?” (he looked VERY confused)
“because I don’t want neither a husband or children.”
“I don’t believe you!” He looks so perplexed!
“oh believe me!”
“Are you religious?”
Now he looks outraged.
“I don’t understand you western girl! You need to have baby and thank God for it! I have 3 wives at home, two very very young”. He shows me pictures on his phone. Jeez, those girls look 19 yo at the most.
“Babies with all of them!” He says proudly. So being the smartass I am I ask him
“How about one of them gets two more husbands?”
His eyes pop out of its orbits.
He pauses and takes a deep breath.
“Life is to have babies and pray God. I pray every day and ask ‘who you really are? How can I connect with you? Who is the real you?’ and he asnswers sometimes, sometimes not”.
It’s getting late, i say goodbye to him, he gives me his phone number and tells me to contact him if I go to Turkey and I need a fixer, “But don’t tell my wives!” (he laughs). Another character to add to the long list of characters I meet on he road.
I finally sit down on my bed and start writing emails.
At 11.30PM the hell begins!
I knew what it was the moment I felt it this time…it happen only once before, in Morocco and I had no idea what it was then. I just found myself face down in my riad’s bathroom’s floor, unable to move, vomiting my soul out, convinced that that was the end of me, crying to the stars and bagging for mercy to all the gods in the universe for that misery to end.
Motherfucker! I have a whole night of agony and unstoppable vomit in front of me.
It goes on until 5.30 AM
6AM sharp. My driver comes pick me up.
I drag my zombie looking body out of that hotel. I can barely stand.
We stop at a pharmacy and shovel down my throat 5 different kinds of meds and start drinking small amounts of water and rehydrating solution. I feel like I’m dying.
I have a 6 hours drive on bumpy dirt roads ahead of me and then I have a job to do. And I will do it! I can handle it.
After the most nauseating and painful drive of my life we enter the Masai Mara National Reserve and the first thing I see is a beautiful, elegant giraffe running as if she weighted less than thin air….and then elephants, and lions, and wilderbeasts. And all the pain disappears and I feel alive and grateful for being here and I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and everything is good in the world! ✨
Thank you Universe