My mind was uneasy and my soul could not rest so I decided that if I could find a reasonable flight to Ethiopia, I would just hop on a plane and go. Late Sunday night, December 21 I started searching the internet for flights. I thought the trip would be cost prohibitive but I found a flight for $1550 leaving flying Turkish Air on December 24 with a 10 hour layover in Turkey. I was sure that was no reason to not go. Early Monday morning I contacted a travel agent to have him verify the flight and he said all was good. While I was talking to him I kept checking and found a $1600 flight on Luftansa. Anyway by Tuesday I booked a Luftansa flight leaving Chicago Thursday on Christmas day arriving in Addis on Friday night. I would have three full days in Addis and then board a plane heading for home on December 29.
In my opinion the Lufthansa flight was best from here. It was 8.5 hours to Frankfort with a two hour layover and then 8.5 hours to Addis.
Always check sidestep.com for the absolute best airlines rates. Using side step I found Kayak and that allowed me to compare flights.
Needless to say having only two and a half days to pack and prepare was like a mad dash but I did it and arrived at the airport for take off with time to spare. I had one carry-on bag for me and two 49.5 lb bags with donations for the orphanage. I focused on what was essential, prescriptions, survival stuff, edible treats, and sensible shoes. If you are not like me and don't wear heals for all occaisions you may be able to skip the shoe part.
Remove the items that you are carrying from their packing. It makes more room and weighs less. Also weigh your luggage on a home scale before you head to the airport.
The travel agent that booked my flight suggested that I stay at the Harmony Hotel at $100 a night. It sounded it reasonable and I was game -- sign me up. In speaking with another AP she mentioned that someone she knew had just returned and stayed in the Dimitri Hotel. I checked out the Dimitri online and immediately booked a queen size room (what they call standard) at $60. That also included free Wi-Fi. It was the best decision of all. I ate the majority of my meals at the hotel and my total bill for four nights including food was $307.00. My meals included roasted chicken, grilled fish, french fries, this really delicious rice, you get the picture. The food was good and I also had at least one glass of red wine every night. I did also eat Ethiopian food but that was all at the orphanage in the home of the director.
Stay at the Dimitri hotel and tell the owner Senait that I sent you! One thing, there is no elevator so ask for floors 1 or 2. I hiked up four flights several times a day. It was good cardio but uhhh...
Without knowing it, by staying at the Dimitri I was a 5-7 minute walk from the orphanage. Because it was so close I was able to go a few times a day, go back to the hotel do other things and return. The Dimitri is in an area about 10 minutes outside of the center of Addis. Next door there was a bank and down the street was a hair salon, a cafe, and a corner store. The Dimitri is small and they pay close attention to service. It was more like being in a large family residence, they took good care of the families that were there. They were able to find me a driver, book his time, and negotiate the rate. I paid $40 for five plus hours with a driver who took me anywhere I wanted to go. My driver Daniel was great and cute -- young but cute. He suggested that I go to the museum and I loved it. He also asked what things I wanted to shop for and without me knowing he called a shop owner ahead and when I arrived they were waiting for me.
Ask the Dimitri to see if Daniel is available. Let them negotiate the rate and know that you can still try to get the rate down lower but I thought what I paid was fair.
I loved the shop that Daniel took me to it had very nice traditional dresses. I went in wanting to get one traditional dress and maybe a few things for friends. As the shop owner pulled out way too much, I asked him the price. He told me to first select ALL the things that I wanted and then we would negotiate the Ethiopian way. I picked a beautiful dress and four large silk scarves. He wrote down his opening price of 3800 birr or $380. Uh...no! He told me that I should right a counter and I countered with 1500 birr or $150. He laughed at me and told me that I was not serious and that my offer was almost insulting. He put a big "X" through my offer and told me to try again. He countered with 3600 birr handed me the paper and I circled my original offer of 1500. I asked how much just for the scarves. He said $80, I said $60, he said $75 was his final offer and I said it is $70 or nothing. He gladly took it and then continued to talk about the dress. I told him that I would not pay the $280 that he had come down to. He continued to get me to negotiate and finally I told him that I had a crisp $100 US bill at that would be my final offer. He went from 2800 birr to 2400 birr to 1800 birr or $180. He told me that at that rate he was making no money. I assured him that I wanted him to make money and that he should try to sell the dress to someone else for a profit. I had $100 US and that would be my final offer. No matter what he said I offered the $100 or told him I would go. He finally agreed to the $100 and then told me that I negotiate like an Ethiopian and for that he wanted to give me a gift. He gave me another beautiful scarf for "free". So I left spending 1700 birr just a bit over my opening price of 1500.
Decide how much you want to spend and don't feel guilty for negotiating for the best price.
With less than a week to plan I made it to Ethiopia and had an amazing time. In my short time there I managed to:
- Spend significant time with the children at the orphanage.
- Be the recipient of countless sloppy wet kisses and tight, tight hugs.
- Go to church and receive a special blessing from the priest on Gabriel.
- Drink coffee daily and eat one meal daily with the orphanage director.
- Watch the children's good night routine including dinner, prayers, laughter and warm milk.
- Go shopping in the supermercado, go sight seeing, visit the museum, and tour Addis.
- Search high and low in many markets for milk.
- Turn down four marriage proposals and two offers for arranged marriages.
- Dance the traditional dance of Ethiopia complete with shoulder and head movements.
- Go to the palace and be one of 90 guest a the 85th birthday party of President Girma, the current President of Ethiopia.