Day 10: Colonialism Through Capitalism

Got up as late as possible as my flight was not scheduled until 16:20 and my stomach was not great. I haven’t actually been great since the bus incident before Gonder when I suffered severe dehydration and although the Pepsi was good at the time, it was probably not the best thing to have on an empty dehydrated stomach. After checking out about 12, I sat in the courtyard and relaxed. Three Dutch teenagers, two girls and one guy, were also here and were going on the same flight. They have been doing some kind of voluntary work for Oxfam and now they were going to do a little travelling before heading home. Eventually our taxis came and as were all going together the Dutch guys suggested we use one vehicle but the taxi drivers said we each individually had a contract with them and therefore I had to take the second vehicle. I didn’t of course have a contract, a guy asked me outside when I was going to the airport and he said he had a “friend” who could take me…. He just wanted to make his money as they charge foreigners more for taxis try to get a large tip out of me but hey I’m not going to argue…. for once! I’m fed up with it all to be honest, it’s draining.

My journey was not direct as we drove all the way down to the Jerusalem hotel right at the bottom of town to pick up a weird African American guy who kept going on about how much he hated the Chinese people. I think this was because of the impact the Chinese are having in this part of Africa, where they are helping local governments develop and build infrastructure however this is at the expense of raw materials, resources and increasing debts. After all they’re not going to do it for nothing. I think he saw it as another type of colonialism which I guess it is, “colonialism through capitalism” as I like to call it. But the way he was going on about it made me think that he may have had some kind of mental problem. He was talking about the need to kill people to make a point, bit scary really. At the airport the guy who had bought me clearly wanted his anticipated tip for bringing me here instead of me travelling with the Dutch guys. So I just said thanks, and walked away, no tip. Maybe he learnt a bit about being nice to people instead of trying to grab money out of them, but although he still got the fare I knew he daren’t follow me into the airport to demand a tip as he clearly wasn’t a proper taxi driver and security would have got him.

On the plane, and these are small propeller planes with just two seats on either side, I had the amazing luck to be sat next to the mad guy from the taxi…. joys…. I thought I should at least try and make conversation before he started to say something on the plane that would scare the other passengers. He went on about not knowing who he really was any more because he’d been travelling for so long. He’d been able to travel like this as he had businesses back home that offered him this lifestyle. Lucky man. Then he asked me how much I tipped the minibus driver. So I said I didn’t as I wasn’t happy with them but for taxi drivers in general one or two per or even 5 to 10 if they have been very very helpful in arranging things as well. At this point he actually looked shocked as if he was going to do something really bad to be before saying, “I gave him 100” and muttered something about the locals being racist. I did point out to him that a 100 Birr was about US$13 and would be a big tip in the States so why would you do it here? But I did try to comfort him by telling him that on my first day here I did the same because it was easier than putting up with the hassle. It turned out he’d been tipping absolutely everybody 100 Birr for everything and I suppose it’s no wonder local people see tourist as easy money. So just in case I thought I’d ask him for 100 Birr for the information I’d just given him, he said “no”, so I responded “racist”, which luckily he found this hysterical remembering what he’s just said previously, otherwise that could have been disastrous!

At Bahar Dar airport he was back on form and started to argue with the staff getting annoyed at them for what seemed like no reason whatsoever, but I think it was because his luggage was taking so long. So at this point when a boy offered me free transport into town which would usually cost 40 Birr and a room with 40 Birr knocked off the price per night, and which overlooked the famous lake here I figured I’d go along with it. He was of course offering such a cheap rate for this expensive hotel as he was hoping that I would join one of his expensive tours and pay around US$100. So I decided to spend my birthday morning in the nice hotel and went along with him with every intention of leaving the next day. After an interesting day I had a nice meal in the hotel and relaxed in bed after watching English football on TV, seems to be the big thing here.