The smell assaulted my nostrils as soon as I got off the plane. A mixture of diesel, food and an “I’m not in America anymore” smell that is indescribable. After 30 hours in a cramped, overstuffed plane (at least I got an aisle seat!), a brief, torturous stop in Rome, where we were allowed to look out the dirty windows and imagine what Rome might look like before taking off again, we were swept away in the hustle of getting visas, exchanging money, and praying that all of our luggage got there safely so we wouldn’t have to wear the wrinkled, smelly clothes we had on our backs for another minute.
It had the look and feel of Taiwan, which I mentioned to our driver, Bin Yam, who told me with some amusement that they had brought in thousands of Chinese workers last year to construct the new roads and bridges. Driving into the city, it was reminiscent of a place teetering with the balance of old and new. As our old van swerved to avoid potholes, donkeys loaded down with packs, straight out of the old testament trotted along. Herds of goats with streaks of purple and pink hair(to distinguish animals to their owners), made its way through people and shops, shoe shiners and homeless, trying to avoid the whip of its master. Concrete and glass buildings being erected by men standing on scaffolding made of sticks. Home Depot and Pizza Hut, somehow very different, but yet familiar caught my eye as we whizzed by.
It’s been a week and I still really have not had time to process my trip to Africa. Or rather, trying to put it all into words. So, I guess I’m thankful that I can try to use my pictures to tell the story. We never really ventured out much into the city. I relied on hanging my head out of the window with my camera perched precariously on the ledge, coughing through the diesel fumes and trying not to fall out during the bumpy rides.
As we turned off the paved road on the way to our hotel, I tried to clamp down the fear of the unknown, saying a silent prayer that our hotel would be nice, safe and clean–boys paying with an ancient foosball table next to a stream of sewage and stagnant water, shops mixed in with huts and animals and people and kids. Venturing outside our (nice, clean and comfy –such a blessing) hotel one day, I noticed a young boy sitting alone. I snapped a quick pic and noticed later when I downloaded it, that he was curious about me too.