Dear Diary- Ethiopian Time Travel

So I have been in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, two days now and I’m happy to say I’m alive and well! It is the 12th August 2007 Western Time, but the 1st of December 1999 Ethiopian time. Confused? Yea, me too! Ethiopia uses the older Coptic Calendar which is 7-8 years behind the Gregorian calendar used by most of the Western World. They also have 13 months, 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month with 5/6 days depending on whether it’s a leap year or not.

To make thing even MORE confusing they also use a different time. Not just a different time zone, but a different way of telling the time! Unlike the convention in most countries, the start of the day is dawn, rather than midnight. Thus, 7:00 AM in East Africa Time corresponds to 1:00 in daylight hours in local Ethiopian time. This makes thing SERIOUSLY complicated when trying to figure out opening/closing times and trying to book a bus!

Moving on…on arrival all the hotels seemed to be booked out. Dragging my huge, over sized backpack through the narrow, busy streets wasn’t helped by the occasional thunder storms and torrential rains. So much for a warm, hot climate! I flicked through my guidebook trying to locate the address of the various hostels and cheap motels listed but was shit out of luck. There were no street names to be found anywhere so I kept getting lost and walking in circles.

Sick and tired of walking I hailed a taxi. All the taxis are old Ladas and they totally live up to their name. I remember my Dad telling me a joke when I was younger, “What do you call a Lada with 2 exhaust pipes? A SKIP!” Well Dad wasn’t too far off. It took the taximan 15 minutes of revving and jerking the gear stick just to get the car started and when I put my bag in the boot I noticed there was a HUGE hole and also no wind mirrors! Madness!

When I eventually found a place that had a spare room…I discovered it was far from a ‘Hotel’ room I would be getting. I really didn’t care though as long as I could take off my backpack, lie down on my bed and think why on earth I left my awesome summer job teaching English in Ireland for THIS?!

After a well deserved nap, I felt calmer and a little more optimistic so ventured out of my ‘hotel room’ in search of food. I asked the guys sitting outside reception (they were all sitting around on plastic chairs sipping beers and smoking who knows what) if I could get food anywhere near and the conversation went like this;

Me- “Can I get food anywhere near here?”

Guy- “Fish…no food…FISH!”

Me -“You have food, yes?”

Guy – Fish fish, no food..fish!”

Me, “Umm okay fish. Great, do you know where I can get some?”

Guy- “No.”

And he sits down and starts chatting to his friends. Well, that was weird! I went in search again and ended up buying a bag of peanuts off some cute kids on the street corner, went back to my room to hibernate! I ended up watching TV as the countdown to the millenium is on…only 30 days to go! Can’t believe I will get to celebrate the millennium AGAIN! So totally cool. Tomorrow I will be brave and venture a little further in this crazy city, as I need to change all my  money, sort out Malaria tablets (I decided to take a risk and buy them here instead of at home- way cheaper!) and book my bus to Shashemene. Oh and ring my parents…better let them know I made it here!

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10 thoughts on “Dear Diary- Ethiopian Time Travel

    1. haha I am indeed! This post is part of a series I’m writing where I am copying old entries from my diary into my blog! 🙂

  1. The place was a bulwark of Christianity in the early years of the faith. Seem unjust that E’s history has been marked by so much tragedy as it seems to be today. Haiti is still quite a mess too. There still are half a mil homeless from 2005 hurricanes. $$$ has just evaporated.

    1. Hey Carl, Ethiopia is still an amazing place, with SO much rich christian history, with rock hewn churches dating back 100’s of years right back to 1187 and still acts as a centre for pilgrimage along with Aksum. It is also the origin of Rastafarianism, in the town of shashemene which I will write about soon.

      Haiti is such a tragic case. We have been studying loads about it in my masters humanitarian action course, it will take years for them to recover. 😦

  2. I gave you bad bibliographic information. The title of the book was Blackstar Safari : from Cairo to Capetown over land. He didn’t even mention the difference in the calendar and the time telling. He went to Harare and saw the hyenas and got called a “farengi” everywhere he went by gaggles of children and elderly people who would just howl at him. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me.

    1. Yeah it is true they call you “farengi” which means “foreigner” but not in a bad way. Thay have a name for foreigner in every African country, but the way the use it is usually very harmless. Thanks for the info on the book, I will be sure to check it out! We went and fed the hyeenas in Harar too…such a crazy experience!

  3. Hahahaha 🙂

    Just the other day I agreed to meet someone at 9 (since we have been using Ethiopian time I just added six hours and figured we’d meet up in the afternoon.)
    At 9 in the morning he woke me up asking why I wasn’ ready

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