|Location:||addis abeba, ethiopia (2447 m)|
|Text:||52 167 kilometres on the road
the taxi driver who was supposed to take me to the sudanese embassy drove down town and continued down bole road, towards the airport.
"do you know where you're driving?" i asked him, as i was quite sure that the sudanese embassy was in a completely different direction. "no," he admitted with a shy smile, "i don't know where i am going…"
i showed him my map and we turned around. back in the centre we drove past an obelisk that carried the crimson communist star on its top. at the monument's foot was a statue and, even though it wasn't jose marti in his famous thinking position, with the grey soviet blocks in the background and cuban salsa music blaring form the taxi's radio, i was reminded of the 'plaza de la revolucion' in havana.
i thought of all my friends there, noa and elaine, the painter and his wife; the people from the national theatre and so many more. i realized that i missed them.
then i thought of my friends in switzerland. evenings of playing mah yongg in detlef's apartment, overlooking the lights of zurich; weekends of skiing and drinking grappa in christof's historic house in the mountains; my mother, my brothers. i thought of zurich with its cafes, the bridges over the river which is lined with historic buildings; the lake with distant snow capped mountains in the backdrop.
the taxi came to a halt. the driver had found the embassy. two dozen people were waiting in front of the iron gate. they were all from southern sudan, hoping to get a visa to the north.
"they are refusing to give us a visa," one of them complained to me. "we're all sudanese we should not even have to apply for a visa. it's not right!" he had the typical resigned and slightly cynical smile on his face. the smile that you see so often in africa: the smile of the cheated, abused and hopeless. what can you do if all effort ends in nothing? eat, sleep, smile and go on, day by day.
they had been waiting since the early morning he explained and while we were talking i couldn't help but stare at his scarred forehead. these were not battle scars but ritual scars: parallel lines that were running horizontally from temple to temple. i observed that many of the others here were marked the same way.
these people, who were refused entry into the embassy, had nothing to do with the war. they were the victims, bombed by the north, raided and abused by the rebels in the south, where they came from. they had no political ambitions and all they wanted was peace – an end to the fighting and violence; security.
"sir, please come in!" the guard at the gate had spotted me and waved me over. "please come, you are welcome!" with an unfounded feeling of guilt i made my way past the crowd that had been waiting for hours and entered the compound.
my visa was ready, handed to me with a smile: "you will love our country! it's more important than egypt. the whole egyptian culture originates from sudan. you are welcome!"
i drove back home, past italian trucks, italian restaurants, a fast food place called 'big mak', tiny make shift shops that sold everything from bananas to razor blades, soap, pens, cigarettes, water, condoms, brushes, spaghetti, batteries and just about everything else you'd find in a shoprite supermarket.
two kids herded a couple of donkeys down the road and goats slept in the middle of an intersection, forcing the traffic to drive around them. i don't believe that the goat is the equivalent of the indian cow, but everybody seemed to respect their sleep and left them in peace.