The image most people have is that Ethiopia is widely distributed in times of crisis: starvation, drought, poverty and diseases. Skinny adults and children observe the camera lens with a lost and helpless look. Lying in a desert landscape or in the middle of the street, they are apparently desperate for food or help. Well, Ethiopia doesn´t look good in the picture.

Begging is established and socially accepted here. It is more or less expected that a portion of your wealth ends up directly into the hands of beggars from the streets. If you oppose to contribute, this decision is also respected by those who beg. It´s difficult to find a beggar who will talk a lot and will follow the pedestrian for miles. He asks, you answer. And so it is.

It is virtually impossible to walk around the city without having to turn away at some point, avoiding an image that is hard to handle. At the same time, it is impossible to spend time on the street without a spontaneously smiling. Somehow, the (very genuine) friendliness and warmth of the Ethiopian made ​​me feel very welcome. I've never seen people so helpful, friendly and open.

The country clearly lacks basic infrastructure and maintenance. The streets and sidewalks are generally wide and well designed, but the asphalt is flawed, full of holes and leaks. Often, street and sidewalk are mixed in a pile of stones stacked up covering or exposing small lakes that form with the rainwater. Sometimes we observe the sewer exposed on openings in the ground with more than 2 meters deep.

To cross the wide streets, crosswalks are widely respected. Despite the shortage of traffic lights in operation, dozens of police officers organize traffic and drivers are always aware and stop to the safe crossing of pedestrians. Traffic express a little of the country's social disparities. Among walkers wrapped in blankets, mini-vans for public transportation and cars in questionable condition, one class stands out: the middle / upper class of the international aid agencies.

Pickup trucks and 4x4 vehicles stamping the most diverse combinations of initials and logos march through the city. These vehicles stand to the dirty gray landscape of the rest of Addis Ababa, carrying mostly a clean white color. There are some places in the city known for being attended almost exclusively by that class (whether they are foreign or local consultants hired by these agencies).

In the region of Bole, full of embassies and representations of international organizations, we can find a wide variety of products directly imported from the U.S. or Europe, or Friendship Market or Bambi's Supermarket. In addition to the markets, some cafes offer a more, let´s say, Westernized environment. Of course, the prices, though still infinitely cheaper than in the West, reflect certain social disparity. The famous Kaldi's Coffee is the Ethiopic version of Starbucks (or the reverse, as many here say), and as a friend of mine told me, offer besides coffee, a meeting point for farengis (tourists / white people / foreigners) to get in touch with the widespread prostitution in the country.

We hear lots of complaints of lack of job opportunities in the country. And the lack of professional qualification offers the best options from begging than in stressful underemployed. Still, there is a wide variety of "street jobs" such as shoe shiners and shoe cleaners (yes, with soap and water), phone card and books sellers, taxi assistants and, of course, a few cheaters by the areas filled with tourists.

The best job opportunities are with agencies and international organizations. Jobs displayed on bulletin boards along the streets and with companies of job relocation. At the same time, many complaints also come from these organizations accused of investing more money in their own team and well-being than on the specific needs of the country. The great complex of the UN exposes some of that reality.

The country's currency is the birr, which in English sounds like "beer". Perhaps cordiality comes from there, after all, every debt is resolved by paying a few "beers". The bills appear to have been printed once in the past and never again. They dissolve in our hands and smell really bad, giving the impression that they are circulating for a long time. In various bills that passed through my hands, one was marking 1995. The problem is that, knowing that the calendar used in Ethiopia is eight years late *, these bills may have more than 20 years.

Despite the urban esthetics of the country being unfavorable to the lens (but favorable, of course, to the sensationalism), the feeling of traveling the main streets and small alleys is that you are at home. Well, actually I felt much safer here, walking by night and in total darkness than at home, but each one with their own problems. Ethiopia, then, does not look good in the picture. But outside the television screen, or magazines and newspapers pages, the country brings a charm mainly characterized by the human coexistence.

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