How is that for a high-falutin’ title? I just want to mess with the people who are doing serious research and find me on the 4532nd page of Google.
Wait a second before I get started. Let me empty my ashtray full of phlegm. (Photos upon request.)
The economics of being sick are merely that I spend more money than when healthy. I take flights, I stay in nicer places, eat better (more expensive) food, and so on. Obvious stuff, really. I wish I could rest at a CouchSurfing host’s, but I don’t want to make anyone sick and I am hardly a good candidate in my condition: “Hi, my name is Kent and I have been a wheezing bag of germs for over two weeks now. Can I visit?”
I am staying at a hotel called Mr. Martin’s Cozy Place. I like it here because it is indeed cozy, there is hot water and water pressure at the same time, and everyone is used to my coughing fits. These are qualities you can’t sneeze at. Most Ethiopian hotels are a paradise for Peeping Toms with windows above the doors, but not Cozy. Most hotels have 3-watt light bulbs that you can’t read under. Not Cozy. A hot water shower is rare, and hot water combined with water pressure doubly so. Viva Cozy!
For two nights Cozy was full and I had to stay nearby at the Rose Pension, also named the Roth Pension, which is a brothel. How do I know it is a brothel? Maybe the packet of condoms on the towel? Then there’s the woman who showed me the room and said it cost 120 birr ($7) and was excited to announce, “You can stay 24 hours!”
Ethiopia’s currency is the “birr”, pronounced “brrrr” with the rolled “r”. I say all frozen food should be priced in birr. Or if a temperature is less than zero, instead of degrees, we should say it is “minus five birr.” One US dollar is about 16.6 birr.
Paying 173 birr to be cozy is a little excessive, more than what I am used to, but if it facilitates my convalesence, this is when you need to reach deeper into the pockets. Most low-end hotels cost between 70-100 birr, but if you pay a little more, say 150-250 birr, the quality goes way up.
You may be asking yourself, why not always pay the extra $5-$10 a day and live better? On a long trip the difference really adds up. Besides, it isn’t really $5-$10, but 80-160 birr, or more to the point, the amount of goods and services you would get for 80-160 birr. You can get quite a lot for that. I had lunch yesterday at the main post office cafeteria for 12 birr. To mail a postcard is 4 birr. A minibus ride across town is about 3 birr. A two-liter bottle of water is 8 birr. A croissant the same. A pizza about 40 birr. Internet is usually about 15 birr an hour. You get the idea. Traveling cheaply doesn’t have to be a mad race to the bottom, but you become accustomed to making that your comfort level.
You might also be asking why I am not resting somewhere—anywhere— other than in the big city. I like big cities. They tend to have electricity, running water, greater food choices, access to pharmacies and doctors, faster internet and goodies like this. Cough syrup was 110 birr in Lalibela and is less than 30 birr here in Addis Ababa.
My coughing and phlegm have gone way down since I started taking ibuprofen with the Cipro. I can see even light at the end of the tunnel.
Can’t decide where to go next. I could visit Jimma. A tourist brochure really knows how to sell it:
“Near to Jimma there is a hippo pool where the hippos are reputed to be exceptionally large. Regrettably, irrigation schemes threaten to dry up the pool and the hippos will gradually die out in this area.”
Come on down!