Salambo discovering Ethiopia
As I am preparing to travel to Europe for the summer and momentarily interrupt writing on this blog, I need to mention a few words about the “true expat life” I lived in the last couple of weeks, going around the various embassies.
Firstly, I had the great privilege of being granted access into the American Embassy, known as the Bunker in some circles because of its high security features. I was invited to a kids birthday party, hence the access. On entry, I was automatically searched and had to give away my mobile phone and camera. Even my five year son commented that “it was like a prison”! From the outside, the new building made of heavy concrete looks like a high security jail, but once inside, one could be anywhere in the US. The tarmac roads are in perfect condition, the gardens are meticulously cared for, an ATM machine is available and US citizens can enjoy the use of a swimming-pool, a club house, tennis courts and a state-of-the-art kids playground. No need to venture into the city. It is quite a contrast with the wild parks of the French or Italian embassies.
Embassies are an important feature of life in Addis. Not only do they act as the administrative office and legation of their respective countries, but they also double as a centre for social entertainment for the expats. Horse riding competitions, tennis tournaments or other events are regularly organised inside embassy grounds. The Italian and French Embassies, located at the very footsteps of the Entoto hills in grand compounds with secular trees, are the oldest and probably the most prestigious ones due to their prime location. The Italian Embassy, which used to be the Governor’s private villa during the Italian occupation, was the first legation to be established in Addis, as indicates the diplomatic number plate 01 on official Italian cars. It was followed by the French legation (diplomatic plate 02), the British (03), the American (04) and the Belgian (05). Today, the diplomatic plates go beyond 100, a good indication of the diplomatic capital Addis has become. Still being in a diplomatic car remains a bit of a status symbol in Addis.
Between the Franco-German friendship celebrations at the French embassy, horse riding at the Italian embassy, a birthday party at the US embassy as well as many farewell parties in more embassies, I had my fair share of expat gatherings and I am now ready to regain my anonymous freedom of movement in Europe.