addis ababa round one

It's hard to believe that only a week ago we woke up on the beach in Zanzibar and went sailing on a teeny tiny, rickety fishing boat into the Indian Ocean before boarding a plane for dinner in Addis Ababa.  That was our second visit to the Ethiopian capital in two weeks, so I'll start with the first time around.

Saturday night we had an overnight layover in Addis on our way to Tanzania.  I brought a journal with me for this trip, hoping that I'd be able to write more about it along the way, in which I wrote exactly two entries.  Oh well.  It's two more than I managed in Italy...

2.26.12    7:30 am
We woke up this morning in Addis Ababa - so neat.  Our flight from Abuja landed after dark but we had just enough time to make it to the "Cultural Dinner" at Yod Abyssina where we were treated to a feast for all our senses.  

We were seated at the front of a crowded and energetic room full of all different colors of people.  Although there were many beautiful, beautiful, Ethiopian people present (they have the most gorgeous, exotic mixture of perfectly carved features and caramel-colored skin), most of the diners appeared to be tourists.  This was probably the least authentic place we could eat, but as Joey put it, "It's hard to call it a tourist trap when you're in Ethiopia."  Good point.

Inside the large and colorful hut where we sat, we watched a stage full of musicians and dancers in traditional garb - men wearing flowing white tunics and pants and women in billowing skirts - right in front of our table.  As the music pulsed loudly the local members of the crowd joined in, clapping, dancing - a few even climbed on stage to borrow the microphone for a song.

After bringing a silver kettle to wash our hands, the waiter served us the "non-fasting special dinner" and beef tibs, a decadent buffet for our eyes as well as our bellies, with its vibrant color wheel of reds and greens and yellows served alongside spongy injera and cold beer.  We inhaled our meal like starving, well, people, but not without savoring all the textures and flavors of meat and tomato and lentils and spice.  The waiter returned with the kettle, this time with soap and warm towels, and another order of beer.  

Ethiopian coffee rounded off our meal.  It arrived in a beautiful iron pot accompanied by burning incense and freshly popped popcorn.  Then we found our ancient, boxy, royal blue taxi whose driver regaled us with Ethiopian history the whole drive back to the hotel.  We crawled into bed and listened to the sounds carried through the paper-thin walls, breaking into laughter every time we heard a toilet flush.  

The coffee, the beer, the noise and the stuffy room made for fitful sleep, but here we are at the Addis airport anyway, waiting for our flight to Tanzania and Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Click here for all of my pictures from our night in Addis Ababa.


Perhaps I may be a little melodramatic at times.  Additionally, I tend to take things personally when my feelings really have nothing to do with the matter.  One of my parents' favorite things to say about me is that I will cut off my nose to spite my face.  Hmm.

I realize that Panama is considered a great post.  We would have happily served in Panama the first time around.  We bid it high last time.  I've been there - it's nice.  Especially compared to where we are placed now.  It has beautiful beaches, great restaurants and lots of old people from the US.  Kind of like Florida.

But it's not Europe.  And frankly, I had my heart set there.  So I'm not disappointed so much that they assigned us to Panama, but that they didn't assign us to Europe.

I don't think that my expectations were unrealistic.  One great colleague of Joey's whom we met here in Abuja is in a fabulous European capital now.  Another colleague will leave Abuja and head to the same fabulous European capital in a few months.  Another colleague of his from Abuja is headed shortly to my favorite city in the world.  Every person we know who has served in Abuja received one of their top five bids.  Our top seven bids were in Europe, five of them with perfect timing.  Yet we were assigned number nine, which was imperfect timing.  Frankly, I find it insulting.

I'm sure this seems petty.  I know.  It is.  But serving here has been freaking hard.  And we were told that serving here would virtually guarantee our pick of anywhere in the world for our second post.  Which seems to me like a pretty blatant lie.  Joey's CDO (career development officer) told him that all posts above us went to people with higher differentials.  I don't see how the smaller winter bidding cycle had eight other people with higher differentials (considering ELOs (entry-level officers) aren't allowed to serve in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan), while Joey's colleague who heads to the fabulous European capital in a few months bid in the huge summer cycle.  Where were all the people with higher differentials then?

Oh, and the same day we got our bids was the same day that they finally approved an additional 10% differential for Abuja.  Seven months later.  It really just makes me want to scream.

So while there are some amazing benefits to Joey's career, this is also something that we (okay, me.  Joey, ever the laid-back, nonchalant man that he is, could really give a shit.  He's amazing at accepting the hand he's dealt and making the best of it.  Maybe that's one of the reasons I love him so much: his "that's the way the cookie crumbles" attitude really complements my "oh really?  Well GFY!"-ness.  (I know, I know, I'm so eloquent)) have to very carefully weigh: are the benefits worth feeling like someone's pawn for "the needs of the service?"  We certainly haven't been singled out - this shit happens all the time - but I just don't know if I can handle being tossed around to places where I'm meh at best and horrified and bawling under the covers at worst.  Also, as calm and collected as Joey is, I'm not sure how many more we-got-our-post-Melissa-is-having-a-meltdown he can handle.  

Anyway, that's where we are now.  We'll have to truly consider all of the costs and benefits (which will certainly involve more than one Excel spreadsheet).  Right now the plan is there is no plan.