Oh’ great state of Ethiopia, what wonders would you unfold for my eyes to see….
Our main area of focus while we were in Ethiopia was to cover the lives of reformed prostitutes living in healthy environments contrasted against active prostitutes in the red light district of Addis Ababa. It’s right here where I would put some interesting facts about the sex trade in Ethiopia but I just realized I’m writing a story of travels for friends and family, not the scrutinizing subscribers of national geographic.
After a massive breakfast, which is in every hotel in the third world, we headed out to one of the reformed hooker- homes. Before this trip, I entertained thoughts of driving around in huge, nasty Land Rovers completely caked with mud and surrounded by pitch black africans that had the bodies of olympians but wore aviators and chomped on cigars and betel nut while cradling AR-15’s. I couldn’t of been more wrong. Outside of the grandpa’s basement hotel lobby we were picked up by the most spotless little kia’s you have never been in. The insides looked like they had just arrived from the factory floor and I literally felt bad for putting my well-worn and dusty Merrell’s on the rug. The drivers wore suits and were fairly light skinned (for africa) and all of them were pretty skinny so I couldn’t really tell who the security was from the non-security. We quietly shuttled to the first home, deep in what you would call the projects of Addis Ababa.
Another fun part of these trips is what I call “Stepping Out”. This is when you pull up to some random ass area in a foreign country in these relatively ‘amazing’ cars that are not normally seen in poorer areas. You already get a bunch of rubber neckers driving in a car that was built before the 90’s and clean; especially with a bunch of white faces peering out the windows. Eventually you pull up to a place where children run shoeless and the smells that permeate the air are all at once intriguing, ethnic, disgusting, and gagging yet savory (It’s really indescribable unless you are there for yourself). I, myself, tend to be on what you would call the tall side of things and 6’3″ sticks out in ethiopia like a giant talking q-tip. This trip I learned a trick though, I brought along a bag of dum-dum’s (a lá Jennifer Garner in The Kingdom) to pass out to the kiddies. It totally worked. So instead of seeing a humongous scarecrow stepping out of a nice car that had 15-grand worth of camera gear around his spindly neck (that could be easily beaten down and robbed) i represented a fountain of sucrose-spouting goodness that had a strange yet friendly smile.
Another goal of mine on this trip was to fire a gun from one of the security personnel. The problem was that instead of the colorful guards I had envisioned, we had somewhat quiet government bodyguards with us that would be the equivalent of a state trooper mixed with the secret service. But wouldn’t you know it… the dum-dums worked with them as well and within in seconds i was chatting in broken english with a security guard about what kind of gun he had. The only problem with this was that he wanted my knife in exchange for firing a gun, which was definitely not a rational solution. He envied my knife like it had come from the right hand of God himself so I decided to go back to work, photographing every interviewee and the home they lived in.
Addis, for the fear of sounding like a douche “I’ve been everywhere” traveler, quickly started to get boring. There wasn’t that much going on and the b-team that I was on was definitely set up for a more chilled schedule…
The Red Light District
(This is as far as I ever blogged about Africa. It has now been a year since and while I can still recall some amazing and beautiful things, I am on another adventure and will have to finish my thoughts on this trip later… hopefully.)