Cutting for Stone is a great novel set in an Ethiopian hospital set in the time of the attempted coup of the Haile Selassie government by marxist rebels. We both read the novel our first summer in Wales and  Ethiopia plans were hatched. We arrived at Addis Ababa at 1:50 a.m., international time (more on that later). It was the first day of the 50th anniversary of the African Union Congress and the airport was locked down. So I was not surprized that our hotel pickup for Lucy Guest House was not outside customs. Someone suggested I might find them in the parking lot. So I left Erica and walked out in the warm night air. No driver. Just a Finnish missionary, lots of taxi drivers with dollars in their eyes and a soldier with his semi-automatic making it clear that no one goes back in the terminal. I couldn’t see Erica or any of the hotel help desks we could have used at that point, only the distant warm glow of the terminal lights. Thankfully the Finnish missionary used her connection with higher authorities to convince the guard to let me return. With nose pressed against the terminal glass I semaphored to Erica with sign language that the only way forward was into the darkness. It was now 3 hours to first light, 21:30 local time (more on that later). We finally negotiated an OK price with a driver who “knew” where the guest house was. 30 minutes later (4 am int’l time) with Lucy not to be found he pounds on an iron gate and we check into a tiny room with bed and light bulb. Three hours pass unconsciously until the African sun pouring through metal security blinds wakes me. I stumble into the dusty street and in a few minutes find Lucy Guest House in the next block. Their excuse was they thought the arrival was local time which is 6 hours behind the rest of the world (international time). Yeh, right, well. Things got better. We disappeared in our room at Lucy’s a few hours then off to eat. Unlike other experiences we’ve had in Africa the food in Ethiopia is fantastic. At lunch we met a local travel writer who also gave fantastic advice. He sent us right out to Moscow Square, where the big military parades occurred during the communist era. Today it’s a big traffic snarl come informal bus station. We bought tix for the south for the next day. That night we went to the nearest restaurant and lucked into one of the last tables, packed with locals. We had an amazing vegetarian meal called  beyainatu fasting. pj 024The non-fasting version includes gobs of raw meat. This was followed by live traditional Ethiopian music and dance. Amazing. Behind us was a large family. During the dancing their little girls stole the show. pj 025 Next to us was a local doctor getting tipsy on a honey based drink. We encouraged him to read Cutting for Stone. A nice first day!
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