Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ethiopia: Tales from the Bar: Gaminiwari Grocery: Part II

Coming freshly shorn from the barber, I decided to stop in at Gaminiwari Grocery for a pint.

The staff recognized me from the week before, and they were very smiley as I entered. Most of the patrons were different this time, but there were a few familiar faces in the crowd.

I ordered up a beer and took a seat on a bench. This time there was news on the TV instead of music videos, and no one was really watching.

During my first beer, not much happened. The guy sitting next to me was talking to me, but the conversation wasn't terribly interesting. He was explaining how he preferred a drink called red aperitif, which was basically non-alcoholic. The drink consisted of a shot of 4.5% alcohol mixed with tonic, so the entire drink was like 1 or 2% alcohol. He liked the taste, and it allowed him to be social in the bar without fear of intoxication.

After the discussion of red aperitif, we discussed the basics of where I came from and why I was in Addis Ababa.

Then the man's attention was diverted to buying a bootlegged DVD from one of the young men who walked the sidewalks and popped into bars and cafes to sell their wares.

While he was perusing the DVD selections, I ordered my second beer.

Then something fun happened: the electricity went off.

The power goes off frequently in Addis Ababa, but since my home and office both have back-up generators, I'm largely shielded from the inconvenience of black-outs. Well, there was no back-up generator at Gaminiwari Grocery.

When the power went out, the bar went black. And the funny thing to me was that nobody cared. People still came in and out like normal, and drink service was uninterrupted. One chap did have a bit of bad luck when he managed to spill the contents of his pocket out on the floor. As he was crawling around on all fours, using the light from his cell phone screen to collect coins and keys, I was thinking what I'm sure everyone else was too: "Sucks to be you!"

His friends were really razzing him, but he was laughing along.

Only after about five minutes of darkness did the staff produce a single candle. They placed it on a table near the door, and it brightened the room slightly.

About ten minutes after that, a waiter fired up a kerosene lantern. He placed it on one of the tables, but, as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. All the guys started complaining that the lantern was too bright, so the waiter relocated it to the top of a refrigerator. This new location definitely cut down on the glare, but it also rendered the lantern useless for it now cast very little light on the room. It's the thought that counts, I suppose.

I had a feeling that the black-out was going to be highlight of the night, so I finished my beer, fumbled around in the darkness to pay, and headed home - back to my generator-powered cocoon.

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