Sunday, June 02, 2013


Thanks to Sonum for the questions

1.Living: So how is your place?
I'm still in a hotel. Looking to move out in a week to fill-in in the shared house of a colleague who'll be back in the US through end of June. I've looked at a couple options after that point -- both involve taking a room in an existing set-up of development professionals. One was a quite pleasant house, the other an apartment somewhat more convenient to work. (The commute vs. quality of housing trade-off has followed me to Addis.) Both are in a price-range inaccessible to all but the most well-off Ethiopians, and comparable to what you could pay in less popular US cities.

2. Work: How are the people? Is the office space nice?
Everybody's nice so far. Obviously I still don't quite feel like I know what I'm doing. Both the locals and the foreign hires generally seem welcoming and qualified.

The office itself is perhaps surprisingly "normal." Same laptop docks, monitors, etc. as at my old job and potentially better furniture. We're on the eighth floor, have lots of light, free tea and coffee and people who clear the cups from your desk (which means no more Coke Zero can pyramids--although this is triply true here since soda comes in glass bottles and basically all the Coke is Classic).

3. Addis: What do you think of the city?
At this point I've made a few forays:

Tuesday was a holiday and I went out for a brief walk, but cut it short and ended up seeing the Great Gatsby. Saturday I took a much more extensive walk -- west toward the city's central artery and then north toward the older part of the city. (Context: the artery is Churchill Avenue -- presumably named to celebrate liberation by the Allies from the Italians; the "older part" is relative here as the city was founded as a new capital in 1886.) Both Friday and Saturday night I went out with coworkers to nightlife destinations at the high-end of what's on offer (but appeared to serve mainly Ethiopians).

Southern Addis where expats seem to congregate consists of a scattering of broad paved roads, no functioning traffic lights, few sidewalks. Interspersed in this setting are numerous fully intact "Developing World Modern" style buildings of 8-10 stories which house hotels, shops, bars, and offices in both the public and private sectors. Filling up the space in between (and often alongside) these boulevards and developments are a hodge-podge tin-roofed buildings where local commerce and living take place.

Northern Addis includes "Piazza", a more intimate neighborhood of shops and cafes which seemed to be where the middle class congregates. It's supposed to have an Italian feel to it, though in my mind that could be a bit of a stretch. I like the energy, though, and the feeling that (unlike parts of South Addis), its current development seems less defined by catering the desires of the foreign aid worker contingent (though I don't want to fully discount the role the desires of the local upper class could have in this as well). St. George's Cathedral, historic center of the Ethiopian Orthodox church is up here.

The area in between includes Churchill Avenue, with functioning traffic lights, twenty-story high-rises and more under construction (likely through contract with Chinese firms, who are also building a light rail across the city). There's also Meliek II Avenue -- a road divided by green parkland that border's the former emperor's palace and eventually leads to the current presidential compound.

4. More work: Do you like the work they do?
Perhaps too soon to tell. I already know a lot more about maize specifically and impediments to agricultural productivity more generally after proofing a 50-page report/proposal for my team. (This was also likely more reading than I did in my entire time at APT). I think some of the stuff we're doing may end up being both interesting and impactful. I'm under a (not unusual) confidentiality clause, so I may end up with a limited amount I can say beyond pointing to public sources. There's also reason to be somewhat circumspect in online communication here.

5. For the presumably APT person who asked me about mobile banking:
I now have a SIM for my iPhone but have not yet had reason to avail myself of the banking system, mobile or otherwise. In terms of the coverage, there's basic coverage and newer, faster, reasonably-price (by my standards 3G). There's also fast wireless data coverage called EVDO that I'll get a hook-up for at some point via work.

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