Saturday, February 23, 2013

A short trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

On January 6th at 6 am Ana and I sat on the edge of a bed in Barcelona, Spain doing a Skype interview in our pajamas with the head of a school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We chatted for a good hour and when it was over we crawled back under the covers hoping to sneak in a couple more hours of sleep before getting on a plane back to Egypt.

A flight between Barcelona and Cairo is 4 hours...but the time from door to door is more like 12. We had secured a second interview with Addis for the following morning and when that was over and with a virtual handshake it was a done deal-Ana and I accepted jobs. The school was kind of enough to spare us the job fair experience, but asked if we would come to Ethiopia for a professional development workshop headed by educational gurus Thomas Guskey and Lee Ann Jung. note: Invite us anywhere and we'll come! A group of us were suppose to have dinner with Thomas our first evening but he had gone wine tasting during the day and called it an early night. I termed dinner Waiting For Guskey.

During the past week we saw the campus, attended 2 days of workshops, ate excellent food, made new friends, and discovered a new city and country.

A sure sign of a good school: after school wine tasting on campus. Try this at a public school in the States and you're on the way to being the top story on the 6 o'clock news.
Tukul hut on campus
Unlike Egypt, there are more and better beer options. I also tried a Hakim Stout, which was more like a dark ale. At fifty cents-dollar a bottle you really can't go wrong. 
This all your really need to get the party in your tummy going.
A group of us went to the German Beer Garden for dinner and sadly all the brats were sold out. Not only was there a lack of brats but the place was packed and we were moved to the restaurant at the hotel next door. Several teachers in the group claimed that the best toilets in Addis were in this hotel. You can decide.
The school gave us a driver for the day to explore outside the city. We were driven to Menagesha forest and saw baboons and what looked like skunks on meth, which turned out to be colobus monkeys.
The big car has the right-of-way. 
The Menagesha forest has a nice path leading to the campground and waterfalls. Time to buy camping gear.
Tukul huts outside the city. Each time we passed a group of children they waved and yelled "foreigner" at us.
The landscape in the dry season, when we arrive in AUG it will be the raining everyday until Sept.
Neighborhood pets.
A cup on the stick along the dirt road means talla and araki (home brew) is served here. At the end of a long day selling goats at the market will make any person thirsty, stopping off for a cup is the straight path to a sure hangover. Yours truly was a little shy to sample some. 
We stopped at Meta Brewery for lunch and a beverage. The beverages happened to be water and Coke and the meat plate we wanted wasn't served because it was a fasting day-a result of Easter season. The grounds hosts a swimming pool, restaurants, and waterfall that gives the brewery the source of their water. 
Drink up. 
Your first bowl of tibs with injera might give you tibs tummy. 
The goat market below our apt.
Another view from the apt.
Schindler's lift. Go ahead and toss tomatoes our was a bad joke.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New Years in Berlin

We were told that we must go visit Berlin, so we did.

Need gummy bears and a "maybe baby" pregnancy test? No worries, Berlin has vending machines at most U and S-Bahn stations with both items and a whole lot more.  
Had a couple of beers in Berlin but wasn't impressed. Picked up the Black Flag shirt at a swap meet in a bar we accidentally ran into. We asked for a recommendation of a place to grab a home cooked meal and was told that Zum Schusterjungen in Prenzlauer Berg serves nice dishes. 
43 year old currywurst virgin no more. 
Sure Berlin has Check Point Charlie, The Wall, Brandenburg Gate...etc. we eventually got around to all that but it certainly wasn't no Currywurst Museum. 
Eat your heart out IKEA.
Going for the gold.
Ana's new occupation.
We stopped at a Christmas market for some good eats.
K├Ąthe Kollwitz-Mother with her Dead Son is a World War II memorial. 
Do you like pricy thrift store shopping? Prenzlauer Berg is a goldmine.
We spent New Year's Eve at Schokoladen and saw some electronic music. The opener was a one man show of impersonations of other musicians...a parody of covers.
If you miss the sounds of living in a war zone head to Berlin for New Years. Call it a surround sound of explosions for the 5 days we spent there. The above is the firework remains on the sidewalk outside our apartment. I may be a little old fashioned, but throwing large firecrackers into a train station is a little unnerving.  
Nothing says "f**k the needy" like burning their donation drop box with fireworks. This may sum up Berlin.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe memorial has caused a lot of stir and prompting other groups to erect their own such as the Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism.
If the Currywurst Museum has you on the fence about visiting Berlin, then the Ramones Museum will seal the deal. What do the Ramones and Berlin have in common? Actually, nothing. Maybe I'll open a Klaus Nomi museum in Tijuana.
5 euros gets you a lifetime entrance fee plus a beer. 
We did a conventional bike tour of the city on one day and a walking tour of the alternative Berlin the next. Our first stop was Tacheles Squat, once the epicenter of the underground art scene recently had its doors closed. To read more click here.

The nazis really like the reinforced concrete bunker concept.
The alley leading to the Anne Frank Zentrum in Mitte.

There is a plan by the city to renovate/gentrify buildings along the Spree. Some are a little upset about this. 
According to our guide, the world's largest stencil. 

East Side Gallery is the famous 1.3 km stretch of the Berlin Wall that remains. 
During our stay we did have a chance to catch a couple of films during the American independent film festival Unknown Pleasures at Kino Babylon. These murals are painted on opposite walls leading to the balcony.
Just in case you wanted to know we saw Dark Horse and The Loneliest Planet. On the plus side several moviegoers brought their own takeout and indoor picnic.  

Just in case you're counting.