Never thought I’d say “I hate the big city”

I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. Have you seen Fargo? I haven’t, but I’ve heard it’s similar (disclaimer, part of that movie was filmed in my hometown). But I always dreamed of big city life. I had my heart set on NYC, but as I grew up and got to know myself better I realized that Minneapolis would do just fine. For a while…

Shortly after university I felt the pull to hit the road and found myself joining Peace Corps and moving to Ethiopia. I thought readjusting to small town life would be difficult, but surprise, it wasn’t. That said, my “small town” has a population of about 300,000, but by Minneapolis standards, it’s still a downsize.

Well, I’ve spent the week in Addis Ababa – Ethiopia’s capital, population 3.5 million – and I can honestly say, I hate the big city. And I know it’s not fair, big cities in developing nations are wildly different from big cities in developed nations…but I still feel over it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still jump at the chance to live in Rome or Chicago or D.C., but right now, all I want to do is run home to Hawassa.

The worst part of big cities in Ethiopia – the traffic. Last night I went out to dinner with some volunteers staying in a different neighborhood in Addis and then I had to make my way back on my own. I could have taken a private taxi for 150 birr, but seeing as that’s how much it cost me to get from Hawassa to Addis, a five hour drive, I have a hard time swallowing the price.

Instead, I decide to take line taxis…public minibuses…in the dark. Which wouldn’t be such an issue, but I’m horribly unaware of directions here. I start my journey in Telebole attempting to catch a minibus to the Piazza area. Five, ten, fifteen minutes later and still nothing. So I hop in another bus that claims they’ll let me off near Piazza. Five minutes on the bus and I’m dropped off, told that my destination is nearby. After wandering around for 20 minutes, with at least 20 Ethiopians attempting to help me, I finally stumble onto the right minibus.

At which point it is made painfully obvious that I was never anywhere near Piazza in the first place. The second bus drops me off in an area of the neighborhood that I have never been before. If it wasn’t for the help of a wonderful, grandfathery man, who knows if I would have found the next line taxi station.

But my confusion after the first minibus means that I’ve missed all of the Piazza to Sarbet buses for the evening and it’s uncertain if I’ll even be able to make it to Mexico. Luckily, ten minutes later and I’m on a new bus. I’m let off in Mexico – a nightmare due to construction – and I magically find one of the final Sarbet buses of the night. Close to an hour and a half later, I finally arrive at my hotel…no more than a few miles from my starting point. But I still feel like the night was a success. Instead of spending 150 on a taxi, I spent less than eight.

Never again will I bitch about public transportation in Minneapolis. Or in any other developed city for that matter. I guess that’s my biggest takeaway from being in Ethiopia…things can only get easier after this : )

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