The Backpacker Who Almost Starved to Death in Ethiopia

On Aug 21nd, 2015, I arrived in Bole Airport, Addis Ababa.
— What?! You took an airplane?! Not hitchhiking?
— Right…… I went to the Ethiopian embassies in Kenya and Uganda and they both told me that I could not apply for their tourist visa there unless I was a resident of any Eastern African country, which I was not…… Then the only way left to go to Ethiopia legally was to board an airplane (which would cost me A BIG FORTUNE! 😦 😦 😛 ) and get visa on arrival.
Upon my arrival, I filled in some form declaring that I was not carrying any severely infectious disease. When I was giving the form over to the staff there, the young man told me that since I spoke English, perhaps I could help the old Chinese man over there. Then he pointed to some bench behind me. I walked over to this old Chinese man, whose name I have actually forgotten. He was having a problem with his visa, which he prepared through some middleman while he was in China. The middleman proved not trustworthy and the agency in Ethiopia said to receive him according to the middleman was already blacklisted by Ethiopian government. He did not speak a word of English and he was afraid that he would be sent back immediately. Worst of all, there were his nephew waiting for him just in the luggage collecting hall of the airport and the nephew was terribly worried. He had been sitting there waiting for the “final judgement” for more than 12 HOURS. I tried to approach the staff responsible for visa checking but they were very rude. Before I could say two words, they immediately shouted at me “Stay back!” After several times of trying, I had to give up. The old man was rather calm and asked me if I could bring the update to his nephew. Sure!
After I got my visa on arrival, which was valid for 30 days and cost me 50 USD!! What a fortune!! I entered the luggage hall and saw this bunch of Chinese people fidgeting there. Right! They were the nephew and his friends. I told them what I knew. They were calling the Chinese embassy for help and actually they were personal friends with the consul of the embassy, but guess what? Chinese embassies are the most irresponsible embassy I ever know! They in fact refused to take any move, not even sending someone to translate for the old man, let alone intervene…… The nephew was very angry and threatened to do something radical. At that time I was very short of money and since they had been working in Ethiopia already for a while, I asked them if they could help me to find some cheap place to stay. The nephew phoned some Chinese people and I talked with her on his phone. Her name was Zhu. Zhu was the daughter of a family who ran a family hotel in Addis Ababa. She said that she could give me discount — Normally staying one day in their hotel, with every meal included, would cost 30 USD. She could give me 15 USD. Well, that’s still pretty expensive for me, a nomad with about 35 USD left, well hidden in my underwear pocket. 😉 😀 However, I agreed at the price since it was midnight already. She picked me up from the airport and I told her my story. She said she could find even cheaper places, with the help of her assistant, who was a local Ethiopian girl. GREAT! Yes, please help me to find a cheaper place! We drove first to her hotel, where they prepared me a simple meal. There were many lodgers there, watching TV and talking, all Chinese. After the meal, it started to rain really heavily. We found her assistant and drove around for about one hour to find the cheapest guest house. Finally I settled in a guest house for about 12.5 USD per day. I thanked them and went to bed. It was about 2am.
The next day I went to explore Addis Ababa and ate some roasted corns as the sole food of the day. They were delicious and one cost about a quarter USD. Therefore, after calculation, I noticed that I had money enough to survive for about 2 more days. 😀 Amaing! 😀 Then? Then I prayed to the God of Travelling and the Goddess of HItchhiking to bring me some good luck! 😛 What? What if they would not answer my prayers? Well, then…… The real big ADVENTURE would start! 😀
When I came back to the guest house, I heard from the receptionist that “my friend”, a Chinese man was looking for me. What?! The only people who knew I was in this guest house were Zhu and her assistant…… I had another “friend” already? This “friend” left his phone number and I called him. That’s a Chinese businessman who was staying in Zhu’s hotel. Later he heard of my story from Zhu and guess what?! He needed someone who spoke English for his construction projects. Long live the God of Travelling and the Goddess of Hitchhiking! 😀
We met in the evening. He was a thin Chinese guy about 50 years old, from Jiangsu province, had been doing construction business in Africa for 5 years but had been in Ethiopia for only like half a year. We went for a drink and talked. I told him that I studied Biomedical Sciences and bascially knew nothing about construction. Moreover, I was on a tourist visa, thus formal employment was prohibited. That did not bother him. I could see that he was shrewd and straightforward. He borrowed me some money to buy a pair of shoes, as I was wearing sandals and that would not do for working on a construction site. That was Saturday as I can remember. On Monday morning at about 5am he would come to pick me up with his driver and I would go to a project in some small town named Motta, North to Addis Ababa. He offered a salary of 250 RMB/day, which was about 30 something USD/day. Good enough for me! I could earn some money to continue my journey to Sudan and then Egypt and buy a flight ticket back to China.

I found a job, in construction! It’s pretty amazing, especially considering the fact that I basically knew nothing about construction! 😀 😛

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