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Ethiopia: Everyone’s a Hustler

Another relaxing lunch on the road in Ethiopia

Traveling at the speed of the bicycle, we spend much more time in the the places in between, than we do in most cities, but when we are, the country transforms.  From the pace of subsistence farming in the country, to pace of life in the city where millions of Ethiopians live, everyone transforms, man, woman and child, to a hustler. You, you, money, money, 1 birr, 10 birr, mister mister, I love you, you you, pen, pen pen, money money, and on.  Knowing the strange logic of needing to turn down the car radio in order to read the street signs, and knowing that there is no volume knob on Ethiopia, it is safe to say that a clear mind is never at hand on the hustling streets of town.

Local CuisineIn an economy where pennies matter, everything is for sale and every sale matters.  You will never run out of toilet paper in Ethiopia, you will never go hungry, and you might as well take up smoking, for the three most consistently and persistently available items. Walk 20 steps you’ll find your tissues, candy, cookies and smokes, walk another 5, and you’ll find your socks and underwear, another 10 for mangoes, bananas, and pineapples, 2 steps for a shoe shine and 7 more for the 1 birr service of how much you weigh.  You could in fact start at one end of the street, weigh yourself, eat a cookie at every possible cookie stop, and then weigh yourself again at the other end just to know you got your money’s worth.  There’s hardly even the need to walk anywhere when a small tuk tuk ride up the street will cost you 1 birr, which in context is roughly 5 cents.  Beside the point of how easy one could become a cookie filled laze-o, the underlining story is the thin lining of pennies which keeps these city running.  Millions of people selling you one millionth of a product; one serving of soap, one stick of gum, one block in a taxi, and one plus one, plus another one, eventually, adds up to something. You can’t blame the street hawkers, and salesmen trying to make their case on you, but one million ‘you you’s’ later, and we’re ready for the country side once more.


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