Thursday, February 15, 2007

Places to go and people to see

This very interesting blog entry comes from the New York Times Online via my mom (thanks, Mom!) I know for those of you parents who traveled to Ethiopia to bring your children home, it comes as no suprise to read about the beauty and charm (as well as affordabilty) of travel to Ethiopia. It's nice to see Ethiopia get this type of a positive review and maybe a little tourist traffic, too!

February 14, 2007, 1:29 pm
Where Else Is A Hotel $2 a Night?
Nicholas D. Kristof
I'm regularly badgering students to travel abroad and, especially, to escape their comfort zones and visit the developing world. So here's a more specific suggestion: take a vacation trip to Ethiopia, for it's a perfect place to make a first visit to Africa.
For the last few days I've been running around rural Ethiopia, on my third visit, and it again strikes me as safe, cheap and even vaguely efficient. You can get relatively cheap flights to Addis Ababa, the capital, and then there are plenty of public buses that criss-cross the country. Roads are pot-holed but aren't bad by African standards (which means that you're bus is unlikely to disappear into a pothole and never be heard from again).
People are friendly and helpful, and enough English is spoken that you'll often be able to find someone who can help you out if you get lost. There are also a fair number of English language signs to go along with those in the local Amharic alphabet. And there is plenty to see in a land with a truly ancient civilization, from historic churches, castles and obelisks in the north to exotic tribal cultures in the south. And on the way you'll have fun, too: On the seven-hour journey from Addis to Jimma, I encountered a large group of baboons, including a mother with a baby on her back. When I got out of the car to take their photos they scampered about 50 feet away but didn't seem unduly alarmed.
Ethiopian food is perfectly good, and (as Naka noted in a snarky comment below about my provincialism) delicious macchiato coffee (however you spell it) is available even in small towns. I've been having about five a day. In one little town I ordered four of them – for me, Naka, our interpreter and our driver – and the total bill came to about 40 American cents. Which reminds me of another attraction of Ethiopia: Its currency is called the birr.
Bus fare for a day-long trip would be about $10. A night's lodging would start at a few dollars for a basic room, equipped with a bed and a few cockroaches. And if you do get malaria, there are plenty of private clinics to make you well again. If you're nervous, you could even buy a used cell phone with a local sim card and some talk time for less than $80. You could use that almost anywhere in the country.
So pick up a Lonely Planet guide and make the leap. You can't consider yourself fully educated until you've experienced how much of the world lives, and that's something you don't learn in class but by traveling in the developing world. And this is an African country where you can drink macchiato coffee.

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