I have been in Ethiopia for two days now, and so far the trip is not off to a spectacular start. I arrived at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris three hours ahead of my flight to a "line" of more than 100 people waiting to check in. My bag was, of course, over the allowed weight, so I had to transfer half of it into a new bag, which is fun to do in front of many of angry people.
At that point we had to go to a weigh station to have our carry on bag weighed. The airline has enforced a limit of 7kilos/15lbs per passenger. My bag weighed in at 30kilos/67lbs, so we had to get supervisor to approve it. After that, security told me my carabiners (rock climbing clips I use to attach my cameras to my bags in the field) could be used as weapons and sent me back to check them in. I had already checked two bags, and a third would cost 50€, so the supervisor asked another passenger to put them in his bag and give them to be at baggage claim in Ethiopia.It was an all-night flight and I sat with my big legs tucked in the fetal position, unable to sleep for the duration. Upon arrival in Addis Ababa, I waited two hours for the guy with my stuff in his bag, and still have no idea where he and my stuff ended up. I found a crappy little hotel in the city center and slept for 16 hours, woke up and began my quest to find internet access. The $100 modem I used in Kenya is now obsolete and replaced by one that costs $140. Another $30 is needed to set up service and then it's 10 cents per minute to use it. All of this was frustrating, but when I found out that the $250 cash I had just up and vanished from my pocket, I was beyond upset.
I have a lot of experience traveling, and like to think I am fairly wise to the way things work in most places. But I haven't the slightest idea how someone could have gotten $250 (which is more than 20 Ethiopian bills, a large wad) out of my front velcro pocket without me knowing! My only guess is the share taxi I was in (picture about 15 packed into a minivan, almost sitting on top of each other) must have had the pickpocket placed right next me.
I must say that it is really frustrating to get robbed in a country you have come to photograph in. To go somewhere to show what the local population is living through, and then be robbed by one of them, is a bit of a bummer. I am smart enough to know that this happens everywhere in the world, and I am sure that the overwhelming majority of Ethiopians would never do such a thing, but it happened and it is frustrating.
Anyway, it is back to work. I will begin my photography here in Addis Adabad in the coming days, focusing on the lives of the poorest of the poor as well as childrens' issues. I also hope to do some work on AIDS here, although the government is not so happy with the presence of journalists here, so what I am able to do may come down to how well I am able to avoid the police and slip under the radar. Next week I will be traveling to some remote regions to do pro bono work for the International Rescue Committee, documenting the lives of refugees living in their camps.
All of that being said I would like to use this as a que to remind all of you that this blog is my primary source of income and without your support I can't afford to do the projects I do. The internet service I paid for today (yes, I changed more money and got everything set up) was done so that I can provide you with regular reports and new images over the next month. If you are the type of person who supports National Public Radio, Public Broadcasting or other arts, why not chip in and help ensure that I can report independently without the influence of the mainstream media and corporate advertising dollars. I can't continue what I do without the continued and generous support of people just like you!
Please consider a paid subscription to this blog! Paid subscriptions are the best way to ensure I can continue to do my work! One-Time donations are also greatly appreciated.
$25 Per Month Subscription