Thursday, April 24, 2008

Random Ethiopia Travel Pointers

In Ethiopia right now it is the rainy season now. They call it the "Little Rainy Season," but really that is just a technicality / something for your husband to say every time you look at him from under the pile jacket that you're holding over your head in a feeble attempt to keep dry. (He told me not to bring a raincoat.) You also could buy an umbrella once you get there -- $5 for a small one, but only do that if you want to stop making your husband feel bad. :)

Note! Special Note! Alert! Hey! Ethiopian hotels and banks will not accept USD $100 bills that were printed in 1996. (!) So, if you are like us and are going with a very specific and well-thought-out amount of cash that will allow you to meet your needs and buy your gifts but not with a lot of extra money to lug around and risk losing, then ... hey! Any other denominations (except 100s) are good for any year, and for $100s, any year is fine except 1996; I guess there are a lot of counterfeit '96s out there for some reason, so the Central Bank of Ethiopia just decided they flat-out won't take them. (I guess they don't know about those fancy felt pens that change color on the fakeys.) We didn't know this (who could know this?), but luckily we accidentally/on purpose found out that we could exchange our 1996's at the money exchange at the Addis airport (we were trying to be all sneaky and smiley with the money-changer people and just slip them through unnoticed, but it turns out they didn't even seem to look -- on two separate occasions -- so if you get stuck with some, try to exchange them there. It's just very out of the way.

Here's a picture of Eric and Dessi at the Thomas Center on one of our first days together. Just to break up all these facts.


We stayed at the Ghion, and it was fine. Nothing fancy and the restaurant really isn't very good at all, but it was $86 per night with a queen-sized bed. (They say it's a king, but it is not.) After we had Dessi with us, we stayed at the Hilton. More than double the cost, but everything was so clean and easy that it was worth it.

The Hilton also provides free cribs. However, the crib sides cannot be lowered at all (for gentle baby pickups and deliveries), so you have to stand on your toes and lean over, then lift or lower from your armpits. Our baby is 8 kilos (17.2 pounds), which is really, really a lot, and so anyway you can see where this is going and I pulled my back out during a late-night pickup and spent the next morning in the fetal position on the bed, feeling around my purse for Advil and looking for husband-sympathy while at the same time realizing that I am no longer the center of his universe.

And rightly so. :) Very happily so.

Anyway, this is a good lead-in to ... if you have time, there is a fabulous, fabulous massage place called Boston Spa. It is $12 per hour, they have real tables (with real headrests), trained and very-good therapists, and tea afterward. We only went once (and it was before we got our baby), but it was really fun and highly recommended. The number is: 251-11-663-6557 or 251-11-651-2509 or 251-91-124-8213. The Hilton also has massages, $18 for 45 minutes, but they're just mediocre.

I would also recommend (anywhere -- they have it everywhere) the "mixed juice" drink. Ethiopians are big on fresh-pressed juice, they're popular and delicious and I drank them with abandon while happily slapping down my 40-cent-per-glass payment, but there's this special drink, it comes in a clear glass mug, and it has avocado on the bottom, then guava (or papaya, I'm not sure), then pineapple and you squeeze a lime on top. It's layered and pretty, it's practically a meal, and it's one of the top-five best things I've ever tasted.

When flying home with a baby, try to reserve the bulkhead with a bassinet. It is the best! I don't know, maybe everyone else already knows about this, but I had never seen it before and would neverever have thought to ask, just the ticket agent guy offered. Even though I personally couldn't sleep (because even though our baby still cannot roll over, I was afraid she would just kick her legs over that thing's edge and then fly off of it and plunge to her head-injury while I slept nearby and that I would never be able to forgive myself), she (and her daddy, whose imagination is not so vivid as mine) both slept peacefully for almost the entire trip back.

We bought three cans of NAN-2, the formula Dessi was using in Ethiopia (you can't get it in the States), and I wish we'd bought four. It is taking longer than we expected to transition her from the NAN to her new formula here -- we started with 40:60 (new to old), and that caused a day of farting and crampy unhappiness; we went down to 20:80 for three days, now we're back to 40:60 and all seems well but we're almost running out of NAN, and if for some reason she had not liked the brand we first switched to and we'd had to start all over with a new brand, we wouldn't have made it. (We switched her to Earth's Best organic infant formula, and it seems to be going over fine enough.)

The best thing we had while traveling were Playtex drop-ins. They are so easy and clean! Only thing is, they're a bad-plastic number (five, I think), so they've now been pushed to the back of the closet in favor of glass bottles, although we'll use them again on future long journeys to third-world countries. (If you're laughing, then you must be new to this blog.) :)

That is all for me. Mostly I wanted to tell that story about the 1996's, because there are a LOT of them! It must have been a big mint year or something (or they're all fakeys, ha ha.) Overall, traveling in Ethiopia is a breeze -- fun and easy!



Katy said...

Wow! Where else would one find such useful and interesting information? Nowhere! I'm happy to hear that your daughter is doing so well.

Julie said...

Hey, found you through the fabulous Katy. Thanks for the tips, and congratulations on your BEAUTIFUL daughter.