>It feels like there might be some traveling going on….sooner rather than later. So, in the spirit of optimism, I figured I’d once again post my opinion….this time on accommodations.
There are many choices when you travel to Addis: hotels, bed and breakfast’s, guest houses. I hear Belay has opened a guest house and I bet it is great, a good bet. However, IMHO, and since it’s my blog you guys will get ONLY that…..Ayat House is the happening place, the only place to stay. It looks just like the pic above, that’s a shot of the neighborhood, one of the nicer ones in Addis.
It IS a nice neighborhood (by Ethiopian standards, we are not talking Beverly Hills so, careful on your expectations), it is gated (they all are) and guarded (they all are) and I felt totally utterly safe there. It is a stone’s throw from the baby houses, the foster care homes of our agency: Gladney. The in country families – the reps and even Belay – live in this area and so you can know it’s a good spot to be, all the hip people hang out there. Kidding, but really, it is a very good choice if you are traveling.
This (below) is Wagayu. He is the owner of Ayat House and the most gracious host you could ask for. He is sitting with Jess, the cute sweet next door neighbor who likes to wander over for a visit now and then.
Wagayu keeps his property spotless, and has a beautiful garden with all kinds of different flowering plants and has made a little fresh air oasis in a dusty city.
When we were lucky enough to reserve the Ayat House we were not sure what it would be like. And while we specifically wanted a more “local” experience, I am a wuss about places to stay and I truly relish a posh hotel and so we were very curious to see how this would turn out. Turns out, we got so lucky! Better than a posh hotel, for us, for this trip. Once we arrived we went through the whole house, ever so amazed and grateful. It had been 30 hours of travel and we were all grubby, tired, and starving and we could instantly spread out and relax in this comfortable, welcoming home, just for us. What a great blessing. It was NOT as swishy as the Hilton or the Sheraton, it was not a McMansion, but it was perfect for this trip.
Some details to follow. But first, we have talked about and everyone has heard about lack of power and the blackouts. Well, it’s true. It was a lot of the time; no power. But. It was no big deal. Really. Wagayu had candles and matches handy, we brought (and left) a couple of tiny LED lanterns that gave off enough light. If you planned your showers (and you need to as the water heaters need a while to heat up) then you just worked around the power outs. The lack of power didn’t adversely impact our trip as far as our lodging, at all.
This is the master bedroom, where we stayed with Tariku. Very comfortable, simple, bath attached to room. Huge amount of closet space.
This was the second bedroom, slightly smaller than the master, Bananas stayed in here and was very comfy.
This, as you can see, was the bedroom for the teen boys (bet ya can’t tell that one!), they were comfy and happy too.
The living room was bright and spacious and very comfortable, but also private, with room for us all. We played with the baby, napped, and just generally crashed here.
This dining table was lovely and very useful. We ate our crazy dinner late that Sunday night, typed on the computer to upload later, and even during the blackouts, all my big kids sat around this table late into the night playing cards by tiny portable lamplight.
The kitchen, very basic, but you’re not gonna be whipping up gourmet meals in Addis anyhow. It was handy to have and well used for bottle prep and storing munchies and such.
We even cooked a bit, that first night on this stove(it has a lid that closes) and Wagayu scolded us for doing the dishes!? Turns out, he has a wonderful girl who helps him: Tsemest, and she is awesome. She did the dishes if we didn’t get to them first, she did laundry which was tremendously appreciated (and a far far better job at it than I EVER do), and in addition to working full time for Wagayu, she goes to night school. She is like a daughter to him and is sweet and awesome. I will post her pic in my coffee post – to come.
To sit and visit with Wagayu (and the shy Tsemest) was a wonderful relaxing treat, on a particularly tough afternoon. He told us of his children, showed us pictures (a handsome bunch!) and we talked easily about all sorts of things. He is just a really nice man.
And when my husband and big kids left for their brief sojourn in Egypt, he took care of me like a father. He brought me coffee in the morning and despite my protests (true) that I don’t eat much breakfast, he fussed at me and decided I’d better have some eggs. Beaten, I relented with a grin, and Tsemest made me the ever fantastic coffee and fresh scrambled eggs with fresh made bread. Bliss.
So, for us, the greatest reason to stay at a guest house and at Ayat House in particular is to experience a bit more, a bit more intimately, the Ethiopian culture. It is beautiful there. From the baskets and mesobs (above, in the dining room at Ayat), to the neighbors to the people we got to know for a moment, it was a priceless time. We aren’t fooling ourselves to think we lived like most Ethiopians. No, we lived like royalty – relative to Ethiopian standards (meaning we were escorted and driven and assisted the whole way, very cared for). But we got to skim the surface of Addis Ababa, with a slightly deeper groove than if we had isolated ourselves in our American comfort zone, with our needs for comfort and our naive worries.
Staying at this guest house made our lives and this trip so much richer. To lie in bed in the early morning and wake to the call to prayer, and a few guard dogs at night, is an experience you won’t get in the Spielberg subdivisions that reach throughout our nation. To have your laundry flapping in the wind, for all to see, at first is disconcerting and then just makes you smile and laugh…because it just doesn’t get much more real than seeing your bloomers blowing in the breeze now does it? But so are everyone else’s. And that’s ok. It’s great. To be greeted each time you leave or return with a big smile by this man and Tsemest, to practice your pitiful Amharic with him and have him help your pronunciation and understanding and laugh with you when you screw it up….it’s fun, it’s kind. It makes you feel just a little more connected, a little more like a piece of you found a home for a moment.