The 17-hour flight from Newark to Addis was only half full, so we could stretch out and sleep. We stopped for about an hour in Lome, which looked beautiful from the air.
In Addis, we stayed at the Choice Guesthouse on the south side of the city, in Gotera. We knew we'd be flying in and out of Addis a few times so we wanted to be fairly close to the airport. The people at the front desk were very friendly, and although the room was small, there was a courtyard where the kids could play soccer. The guards, who didn't have a whole lot to do, were always willing to kick the ball around with the kids (we brought a One World soccer ball with us, which I highly recommend, as it lasted through our entire trip over all kinds of rough terrain). There was a small outdoor area for eating breakfast. We got most our meals from the "Depo St. George House" next door. Yes, there were drunk people there at 8:00AM, but their addictive fir-fir was the best we tasted in all of Ethiopia.
We mostly got around Addis by mini-bus. Every ride was a small adventure. Will we get on this one? Will we sit in a seat, or on the wheel well, or on top of each other? Who will we meet? On our first mini-bus ride - thunk! - an entire wheel fell off and we all got out in the middle of Bole Road. The kids still think that's hilarious.
Being in no rush, we spent a few days in Addis seeing the city and recovering from jet lag. On our first day, after switching mini-buses, we went to the Harmony Hotel (short walk from Bole Road), which has an indoor pool and a good restaurant across the street.
On the second day we took the new light rail train to the Stadium terminal, walked across Meskal Square, and from there took a bus to Amist Kilo (we figured out how to buy tickets and find the stops just by asking people, who were invariably helpful and kind). We coincidentally had lunch in the same restaurant where A and I had had our first meal on our last return trip. A funny little story - D ordered 'tibs and they kept bringing him chips until finally I was able to remember enough fidel to write down ጥብስ and impress the hell out of the kitchen staff. After lunch we went to the National Museum. The evolution exhibits there are great.Then we took a mini-bus back to Meskal Square, walked back to Stadium, and got on the rush hour train. Holy crap, that was CRAZY. At every stop we thought, there is just no possible way they can get more people in here, but somehow they did. When it was time to get off at our stop, A literally had to punch someone in the stomach to make a path. The kids still think that's hilarious. In the evening we visited with Arafat, brother of Dawitt, who was our guide on the first return trip, I delivered gifts from his family in the US, and he gave us a cell phone.
On the third day, we spent the day with friends who have kids the same age as my boys. Mostly the kids played on the PlayStation and watched TV. I actually think ordinary experiences like that are really important - they help the kids understand that living in Ethiopia doesn't have to feel that different from living in the US and gives them a sense of the range of "normal" life in Ethiopia. The same goes the Hilton Hotel pool, where we spent the fourth day. I had thought I would hate going to the Hilton - and it did feel weird to be in a place full of White people - but the kids met so many other kids with such a range of backgrounds - Ethiopian-Americans visiting from the US, Ethiopians who had previously lived in the US, Ethiopian-British, Ethiopian-Swedish - and I think it was really good for them to see such a spectrum of what it means to be Ethiopian.
On the fifth day we took a taxi to the airport and then a quick flight to Bahir Dar.
Read Part 2