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March 5, 2002

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From Aksum we planned to go south on Ethiopian public transport. At 5 AM we followed other local travelers to the bus station outside of town. Because we were foreigners, the attendants let us on the bus first. When the attendants opened the gates for everyone else, pandemonium erupted. The people rushed to the bus and shook it during the mad scramble. We felt under attack. Ethiopians are serious about using every inch of space. We thought someone was going to ride on our laps. The bus doesn't leave the station until people are standing in the aisle and leaning on each other. Underway, the potholes and gravel roads rocked the bus and passengers fell into each other. By mid-morning we reached Shire, a town that doesn't deserve to be recognized by a map. Nothing here but a bus station. We provided the day's entertainment. People were nice, curious, willing to stand and gape at us. Sitting in an outdoor cafe, we drew a crowd. We thought about asking for ticket sales, the show - Lost Tourists.
Crazy bus scene, crowded, bumpy, and dusty, but this lady looked calm and composed in elegant jewellry.
Ethiopian priests carry colorful parasols and intricately carved canes.
How do people spend their time in a town of subsistence farmers and 50% unemployment? They play ping-pong. It's mandatory to gamble on yourself during these games. I lost 2 birr (25 cents).