I have just finished my first week in , all in the capital . My first few days were extremely busy, but things have been very low-key since then.
I arrived at 7am on Thursday morning (September 1st), after approximately 28 hours of traveling. I was pretty exhausted but since Friday is often a half-day for government workers, I needed to get started on my official business right away. One of the friends of the project arranged a driver for me, Sisay, and he and I left my hotel for the offices of the Wildlife Authority soon after my arrival. After a number of trips up and down 10 flights of stairs, a hell of a time trying to find the correct bank to deposit my and Ali’s research fees in, and the help of some very kind wildlife officials, I made it out with my official letter of support and a receipt for my fee payment.
With that in hand, Sisay and I headed across town to the Immigration Ministry, where I needed to apply for a resident’s card. What an adventure. First I went in the wrong entrance – apparently men and women enter on different sides of a building and I had tried to go in the men’s side. Oops! Once inside, I wandered around for a little bit trying to find the correct room to wait in. All the signs were in Amharic so it was a little challenging! Finally, I found the correct room and the correct forms to fill out, and a Somali lady nicely loaned me a pen. I filled out the form to the best of my knowledge and waited in a long queue to have my paperwork checked. I was starting to get worried as the clock ticked its way towards noon, as everything shuts down for lunch at that point. Luckily, I was the last person the lady checking papers helped! So I got my forms nominally approved and was instructed to come back at 2pm to a different room with a different line. I went at met Sisay and the car and we headed to the Lucy Restaurant near the National Museum for lunch.
We finished eating around 1pm, so we figured we could try and get my driver’s license approved at the US Embassy before heading back to Immigration. So I headed inside, armed with passport and license. Once again there were many sets of lines and frazzled workers, but at least some of the signs were in English! Once I had gotten my license checked, paid my $50 notary fee and waited in yet another line, I was sent to an embassy worker who made me raise my right hand and swear that all the information on my license was correct. I didn’t tell her that I no longer weigh 125lbs (although that may change over the course of the next 9 months!), so I was able to get my official stamp and instructions about my next destination in the quest for an Ethiopian license – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since Sisay and I had a little time before we needed to be at Immigration and the MoFA office was nearby, we headed there next. Once again, I picked the wrong entrance. Once I made it to the correct entrance, I was told that driver’s license certification was done at a different branch of the MoFA! And not just that, the officials at the second branch were having an important meeting so the offices were closed all afternoon. So much for that errand.
Next stop – Immigration. I waited in another line for a while to have my picture taken, then an additional line to pay for the processing fee. I was hoping that once I had done that, they would just hand me my resident’s card, but no luck – I was instructed to come back the next day at 2pm to pick it up. Sigh. It was okay though. With no more errands possible for the day, Sisay drove me back to my hotel and I took a much-needed nap!
I was woken from my nap by my phone ringing – it was the wildlife official I had been working with, telling me I needed to come back to his office because he had forgotten to give me a letter for the park officials in Debark! So on Friday morning, after sitting in a traffic jam for at least an hour, Sisay and I made it back to the Ethiopian Wildlife and Conservation Authority office. I was hoping to just pop my head in and get the paper, but the man I needed was in a meeting, and then when he was out of the meeting, the Archives person he needed to file the forms with was out of the office. What a start to the day! It was nearly noon and I hadn’t even started on the list of errands I had been hoping to accomplish Friday morning! As I was preparing to leave however, the Archives man returned and I was able to get everything processed quite quickly. Yay!
Onwards to the MoFA branch #2! We arrived – of course – just as they closed for lunch. So Sisay and I killed another hour and a half of our time at the Lucy Restaurant (I guess Sisay really loves their food!). Then we joined another line at the MoFA, sat in the rain for a while, then finally had the privilege of paying for yet another stamp on my license certification paper. Then off to the Immigration Ministry again, where I was able to use the correct entrance, avoid all lines (amazingly!), and pick up my bright green, squeaky clean, hot off the press resident’s permit! Very exciting! One set of tasks was completely accomplished! And only one more errand remained – taking my many-times-stamped sheet and license to the Road Authority.
I think the Road Authority was my favorite of the places we stopped at, perhaps because I didn’t have to do any of the talking or negotiating! Since EVERYTHING there is conducted in Amharic (including all the forms you have to fill out), Sisay came with me and basically did everything for me. After a fair amount of shuffling from one desk to another, we were handed my new license – a tiny slip of paper with a photocopied picture of me on it, a postage stamp sort of thing on the back, and an incorrect birthdate. I was a little surprised that after all the stops along the way, all the stamps and signatures and this and that, I just had a business card basically (and printed on regular weight paper!). Luckily, we weren’t entirely done. Sisay ushered me out of the building we were in to one next store, where I paid a lady 15 cents to laminate my license! Amazing! Now at least it won’t get destroyed in my pocket. :) So great.
So those were my two crazy days of bureaucracy. Since Saturday, life has been pretty much off-the-clock. I walked to the Hilton one day (about 40 mins from my hotel) to buy plane tickets up to the field site, change some money, use the internet, buy shampoo and conditioner, and generally just get out of my hotel. I also went to church with Sisay on Sunday – a riotous, lengthy (but pretty fun) affair full of singing and dancing and jumping around while it bucketed down rain and thundered like crazy outside. I’ve watched a number of movies on the TV in my room, read some books on my Kindle and generally relaxed. I also went on a trip to the Piazza to buy some methanol for the lab. Now that all the necessary official stuff is done, I’m itching to be up in the mountains! Yesterday (Tuesday) – Julie (camp manager) and her friend returned from their vacation and Ali is arrived from the US. This morning, we flew to , ran some errands and drove up to Debark. We had coffee there with some Peace Corps volunteers, then headed up to the Simiens! Hurrah! It’s been foggy and rainy since we arrived in the highlands, but hopefully it will clear up in the morning so we can go see geladas!