Well folks, if I’ve been lagging on keeping up with this blog, then even more importantly, I’ve been lagging on the Ishi Bekka Chronicle - our Ethiopia PCV newsletter that I design and edit (in-chief). But I think that after all, I threw together a decent issue, thanks for the most part to my amazing contributors. Maybe with my newfound free time I’ll get back to posting real stuff on this blog. For now, without further ado, here is the new issue of the Ishi…
may 27, 2012. kitfo guest house, addis ababa.
jenny is not a prostitute.
jenny is many things, but she is not a prostitute.
i’m not suggesting that any of you have ever made that mistake, but i have to assume that was exactly the mistake made by mr. martin of cozy place fame.
it used to be i would frequent mr. martin’s cozy place when i went to addis because it’s a quaint guest house style establishment in an off-the-path but decently central location. it has a few rooms that i would even describe as nice. which is why, a month before jenny arrived in addis, i reserved one of those nice rooms for her visit.
then i got to addis the day jenny was to arrive. mr. martin claimed i had never made a reservation. i argued that i had stood on that very spot, leaning over that very reception counter, exactly one month prior, helping his wife fill out the reservation form and write us in on the calendar. he said that wasn’t possible because look, see, the pages are totally blank. i didn’t bring up the fact that the pages were clearly brand new and recently printed, and that it seems preposterous that a busy guest house has an entire month with not a single note on the calendar, while the bookending months are covered with scribbled notes. i let that be and just asked if i could get a room anyway.
the entire place was booked solid for a week by a german tour group.
ahhhhhaha. there it is. the habesha moment. the moment when the guy you thought was so cool, and actually made ethiopians look good for a change, turned out to be just another money hungry hustler who saw a chance to squeeze a few extra birr out of some tourists at the expense of the people he knew would not stand for paying ferenji price. he smiled that smile at me, that idiot smile that they all get when they know they’re fucking you over and there’s nothing you can do about it. that smile of self-satisfaction that – even if me walking away and not buying their wares or paying for their services means they don’t make any money – will linger long after i’m gone because, like baseball in america, inconveniencing ferenji is ethiopia’s pastime.
but mr. martin would make plenty of money today.
no i couldn’t get a room. he says, the place is all booked up, he says. i should have made a reservation, he says.
i tried to gently reiterate that i had most certainly made a reservation. that it would have been silly not to because my wife (it’s just easier that way) was coming to visit from west africa, so of course i made a reservation.
he must have seen in my eyes all the insults i was screaming at him in my brain, which no doubt included calling his wife, his mother, his as yet unconceived daughter, and any female pets he might have, whores.
he suggested that i find a room at the kitfo guest house across the street.
i would soon find out that this was his rebuttal. he was going to get paid, and paid nicely, from this gang of pink skinned socks ‘n’ birkenstocks deutsche bags, and i was going to deal with it. no, sir, he was saying, your wife is a whore.
in the midst of my worst spring ever, this guy was going to ruin one of the rare things about ethiopia that i actually enjoyed – mr. martin’s cozy comfy closet – and he was going to make sure that the only thing that could make it all better – a visit from jenny – would get off to a rough start.
i walked across the street, the median strip of which separates an otherwise respectable neighborhood from what we call “prostitute row”. i crossed the border, marked by a battlefield of lipstick stained nyala cigarette butts that had died the most dishonorable of deaths, crushed out by cheap high heels, the last thing they saw before it all went black was an upskirt shot of a dollar whore’s slightly dented nether regions. into the walled fortress of the kitfo guest house, which could (and should) be translated raw meat hotel, where the restaurant out front looks like the tiki lounge of an off-the-strip las vegas guido joint circa 1979 (ferenji calendar).
though they were overpriced, the rooms didn’t look so bad. at least they didn’t arouse suspicion at first glance. then again, suspicion wasn’t what these rooms were intended to arouse. upon further inspection there were some telltale signs, however. the top blanket was laid over the bed neatly enough, but there was no topsheet underneath, and the fitted sheet was far too small and simply tossed askew over the mattress, as though housekeeping didn’t expect anyone to actually get as far as under the blanket. all the utilities were turned off in the bathrooms until late at night, unless you requested that they be turned on, at which point the staff would begrudgingly do so just until they saw you turn out the light, or heard the shower stop running, suggesting that they don’t expect or appreciate the clients using the facilities until the middle of the night when they will inexplicably be needing to shower for some reason. the most glaringly suspect feature of this hotel was that the toilets were equipped, not with bidets, but with those little hand held spray nozzle extensions you find in western sinks, for helping with the removal of baked-on grease and grime and whatnot. this was possibly the first time i’d seen one attached to a toilet. at first i thought this was overkill. i mean, there was a shower, and there was soap, and toilet paper, and this wasn’t exactly a fancy hotel with fancy clientele or – oh right, it’s for vaginas. it’s for the prostitutes’ dirty disgusting vaginas, that probably have baked-on grease and grime and whatnot.
i’m sure that with their last breaths, as they looked up at those battle-scarred bargain bin steak drapes through stained underpants, sheer from overuse, not by design, those nyala cigarette butts thanked the proprietors of the kitfo guest house for providing spray nozzles so the chain smoking whores out front could hose off their undercarriage once in a great while. then they enjoyed what i have been begging for for nearly two years: a swift crushing death beneath ethiopia’s crusty heel.
of course the whorehouse atmosphere at the kitfo didn’t quite click all the way into place until jenny and i spent the majority of our early morning trying to cuddle and enjoy sleeping in together to the soothing sounds of a man aggressively negotiating a price for the “services” he was audibly partaking in all goddamn night.
in case you’re wondering…
one american dollar: 18.3 ethiopian birr
one loosey nyala cigarette: 1 birr
a room for the night at the kitfo guest house: 250birr
a vagina for the night at the kitfo guest house: 30birr
spending my first night with jenny in months at a thin-walled whorehouse on a mattress with no sheets: priceless.
* * * *
stay tuned for our next episode:
lions and tigers and bears… who cares?
may 26, 2012.
8:30pm global standard time. 2:30pm ethiopian time. 20:30 hours, military time.
along with jenny, the time finally arrives in which i can no longer ignore my need for a fucking watch.
jenny: hey, where are you?
dave: downtown, hanging out with nikki and some people. wait, are you here already?
jenny: yeah, it’s like 8:30.
dave: i thought your flight arrived at 20:00. that’s –
jenny, nikki, diane, chelsea, ben, and about half the habesha in the room: 8 o’clock!… moron.
dave: aaaaaaaaaghhhhhiiii am a moron.
* * * *
stay tuned for our next episode:
common sense isn’t all that common.
it’s cold in masha again. how cold is it? it’s so cold that on a morning run with alex, we approached a team of horses, and i could actually see one of them fart steam.
that’s how cold it is in masha.
* * * *
stay tuned for our next episode:
CS Doubelyew, didn’t he write the Chronicles of Narnia?