we arrived in yabello fairly early on in the day. it seemed like we should totally be able to catch a ride to the next town, and thus get to Moyale on the Kenyan border by nightfall. after eating lunch (spaghetti again!), we caught a minivan taxi to the main road outside of town. the taxi was absolutely packed w/ people, and everyone was totally squished. an old lady sitting next to me kept staring at me. eventually she started touching my hair and the hair on my arms as well. they don’t see very many white people around here…
there is a main highway (if you can call it a highway) running next to yabello, and lots of cargo trucks take it to get down to Kenya. we were hoping to get a lift from one of these, so we waited patiently by the side of the road. while we waited, random kids would come up to us and play or ask us for money. it shocks me just how often we get asked for money here. it seems like every kid in the country feels that they have the right to yell “gimme money!!!” at us. it definitely gets frustrating at times. of course, the reason it happens is that wealthy tourists come through town and think “oh, these poor children!! they have nothing” and start dishing out cash left and right. after this happens for a while, the kids start expecting cash from anyone who looks like a foreigner. it’s a sad situation, cause I’m sure the wealthy people are just trying to help, and want to be kind, but really it just encourages kids to beg… kids who should be in school or out playing, end up spending their time following foreigners around asking for handouts. most of these kids are really nice and friendly and are actually really fun to interact with, so it’s sad that their view of foreigners can be so skewed at times. even the guides who live in Ethiopia tell foreigners time and time again “don’t just randomly hand out money/gifts to any kid you see!!”
the place we were waiting at was right in front of a fancy hotel. one of the staff kept coming outside to check on us and see if we were ok, and kept saying tat we could totally wait inside the hotel if we wanted to… to keep away from the local kids and other people. it was pretty sad… this guy really looked down on the locals, and had no clue why any foreigner would want to interact with them. we kept saying that we were ok and that we were actually enjoying talking to people, but he really didn’t believe us. I guess most people that stay at his hotel probably just avoid interacting w/ anyone, only being driven around in their landcruiser and talking only to hotel and restaurant staff as they go. sad.
after waiting for hours, there was still not a single truck. we had to give up and try again the next day. *sigh*. by this point we were eager to just get things over w/ and finally get to Kenya, and the prospect of staying in town another day wasn’t great. oh well. we got a room in town, and as we were walking around the hotel, a large group of girls called us over and talked to us for a while. it turned out that they were all from different cities in Ethiopia. so I asked them what they were all doing here in yabello. no one answered, and it seemed like they just started talking amongst themselves. huh? so I asked again, and once again, no one answered. was this that confusing of a question? they all seemed to speak good English. did I need to word it in a different way, so they would understand. and then it finally dawned on me. they were all hookers. whoops!! now wonder they didn’t want to answer!
we went back to our room, and minutes later, there was a knock on our door. huh? I opened it to find this guy that ad been talking to earlier at the bus stop. I had made the mistake of telling him where we would stay and he had followed us here! so, he starts talking to me for a long time, and finally gets to the point. he allegedly is a student, and says that text books in Ethiopia are expensive. f he sends me 50% of a textbook cost, will I pay the rest and buy him text books? *Sigh* it really just never stops. people will always ask us for $$. I cant believe this guy actually came to or hotel!! when I told him I had no job, and when I was done traveling I would have no money, he then said that maybe back in the US I could find some rich person to send him money? surely everyone in the USA was rich? perhaps my family might send him money?? arrggghhh. eventually I got him to leave me alone.
these kinds of situations are so hard. on one hand, I feel so bad for these people. most of them probably really are very poor and really could use some money. but I cant just give money to everyone. I just cant! plus, I really wonder if giving them money will really help, or just encourage more begging etc. the thing is… the more poor countries I travel in, the more opposed to giving money I become. I see sooo many people struggling here. people working their asses off, people hauling carts, people driving buses at 4am, people washing dishes, people doing all sorts of shit jobs for next to no money. all these people are working so hard to do anything they can to actually earn a living. and then, next to them, are the beggars.. the guys who do nothing all day except for come up to tourists and give them sob stories and ask for cash. and the sad thing is… I really bet that the beggars earn more money than the maids, drivers, sweepers, etc. they just walk around and ask, and I think a lot of tourists just give. even a few bucks a day and they already earned more than someone who has struggled all day just to get by. on the flip side though… these beggars still do have rough lives I’m sure.. who am I to judge the methods they use to get money. *sigh*
due to a miscommunication, we were told that the bus this morning leaves at 5am. we woke up at 4:30am, only to find out at the bus stop that it leaves at 6am. great. over the last 12 or so days, we’ve woken up before dawn probably about 10 of them. sheez. so damn tired. the bus slowly drove towards Moyale, and it was hard to sleep on it cause there was a rooster on the bus that kept crowing the whole time. just cant escape from the roosters. ugh. on the bus we met these two guys Bruno and Alex who were working as volunteers in Uganda. we ended up spending the rest of the painful next few days w/ them.
after a few hours, we arrived in Moyale, a town on the border of Ethiopia and Kenya. finally!! but our ordeal was far from over. there were all sorts of formalities to deal with now. we had to go through customs, and get our passports stamped on both the Ethiopian side and the Kenyan side. it’s funny, apparently bribery is a really big problem in Kenya. such a big issue, that they have to have signs, complete with happy clipart, asking people not to pay bribes. we also had to try and exchange money. we spent forever walking back and forth along the dusty main road, hauling our packs in the blazing sun. finally we arranged everything, and the bought bus tickets to Nairobi for the following day. we were exhausted, and only then did we finally check into a hotel.
at night, we dragged ourselves to go get some dinner. it was actually really good, one of the first really good meals we’ve had in days. they actually had a large assortment of different Ethiopian sauces etc and we got to try them all. it was quite an impressive spread! afterwards, the 4 of us went to a bar and had a few beers. at the bar, they were playing Teddy Afro really loud. I swear, *everywhere* we go in Ethiopia, they play Teddy Afro. EVERYWHERE. I think we’ve heard every single song he has at least a million times. he gets played in every bus, restaurant, bar, club, hotel, car, everywhere! each day we’ll hear him played in a t least 5 or 6 different places. actually, his stuff is pretty damn good. really fun music. but still… I don’t know how the people here, who have listened to his 2 albums over and over for probably years now can handle it!!
in the morning we woke up early again, crossed the border and then went to get on our bus. the bus people told us that the bus would be leaving in 2 hours. as we walked around though, other people kept coming up to us and trying to sell other bus tickets. we kept saying that we already had tickets, and they would respond that the bus we had tickets for was probably not going to go. huh? was this a trick? we kept saying no, we were taking a bus in 2 hours, and then they said, fine, just come see us in 2 hours when your bus doesn’t go. 2 hours later, sure enough, turns out our bus isn’t going. we had to switch buses.
we had for several days been very nervous about this bus ride. for one thing it was a 24 hour straight bus ride over bumpy horrible unpaved roads. but that wasn’t our biggest worry. we had heard that this particular stretch of road often gets attacked by bandits. it’s allegedly a very dangerous and lawless part of the country. cars and buses often get stopped and mugged. then, to add even more fear, we heard that just a few weeks back, there was a huge massacre in this area where 90 people were killed. holy crap!! of course, the massacre was due to tribal conflicts, and had nothing to do w/ tourists, but t was still really unnerving. of course, due to the lack of atms I mentioned earlier, we didn’t have enough $$ to fly to Nairobi, so this road was our only choice. all traffic on this road is supposed to have an armed escort just in case… our bus had none.
to say the ride was hellish would be an understatement. the road was the worst road I have ever experienced. the bus rattled uncontrollably, and it was impossible to sleep, plus our backs were in constant pain. it was really unbearable.. and I’ve taken soooo many bus journeys in the last year. TONS.. but this was by far the worst. so painful. of course, as usual, the Ethiopians refused to open their windows.
due to all the security issues here, we kept passing through military checkpoints where an armed soldier would get on the bus and look at everyone’s passports. I noticed several times that some people quietly slipped the guard some money. what were they bribing him for? eventually we stopped to eat… right in the town where the massacre happened. nice. the lunch was goat meat in sauce. I really have a bit of an issue with goat meat (which I’ve eaten a lot by now).. it’s so damn chewy and always gets stuck in my teeth. ick. well, at least it was a change from what we’ve been eating over and over!
the two guys Bruno and Alex had bought some chaat, and I finally got to try it. it’s actually quite a complicated procedure. you have a large leafy twig, and only certain leaves (the young tender ones) are to be eaten./ so you spend ages picking through the leaves and finding the right ones. you are supposed to chew them and not swallow. after a while, you have a large mass of chaat in your cheek. well.. I didn’t really eat too much, but I never really got an effect from it. actually, dealing with it was too much of a pain, so I stopped, but Alex and Bruno kept chewing and chewing for hours. man, they got WIRED! it really seemed like they were high on something.. guess this stuff is stronger than I thought!
let’s see.. other notable happenings on the bus trip: we had not one, but 2 flat tires throughout the trip. one of the windows on the bus busted out, so we were actually able to breathe for a while! at sundown, the bus stopped so all the Muslims could get off and pray.. it was a really cool sight to see this row of men on the side of the road, all praying. such dedication to their religion!
the hellish ride continued on and on. the bus was sooo disgustingly dusty and dirty, and dust kept pouring in through the broken window. the bumps were SO awful. finally when we got to Isiolo, 6 hours from the end, the road was paved. from then on, it was a bit better. we drove on and on through the dark… and then… caryn had to pee. *urgently*. well, normally, I would have just asked the bus driver to pull over, but this was a weird bus, kinda shaped like a truck, so the driver was separated in a cab, while all the passengers were in a another section. so there was no way to get to the driver. crap. I looked around. it was pitch black and all the passengers were asleep. I tried to wake one of them up to ask what to do, but he spoke no English. caryn was getting desperate. we had no idea what to do, and how we would alert the driver…
at this point, caryn opened our guidebook, looked up the word for “stop” in Swahili, and then proceeded to stand up and bang a pole loudly with her flashlight while yelling stop over and over. what an insane situation!! everyone was startled awake and totally confused what the crazy girl was yelling about. finally, it turned pout that someone who worked on the bus was in the back row, and he walked up to the front and signaled using a button for the bus to stop. phew! a few hours later, caryn had to pee again, but this time we just found that same guy, and had him stop the bus again… no banging or screaming necessary. heh.
finally, in the morning around 8:30am, we arrived in Nairobi. holy crap… what a journey. we were so tired, so dirty, so exhausted. we barely made it off the bus, caught a cab, got a hotel, and instantly fell asleep. by this point, from the time we left Turmi which was the last village we actually wanted to see, we had been taking random buses nonstop for about 5 days now. it’s been quite a journey.