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Published: February 23rd 2014
On Friday, February 17th
we began our adventure and before I had even left Gothenburg, the first hiccup of the trip had manifested. My itinerary would had me flying from Gothenburg to Stockholm with Norwegian Air and then meeting Phil at the airport in Stockholm and connecting to an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis Ababa and subsequently Johannesburg. However, on the morning of our departure, an Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa to Rome was hijacked by the flight’s co-pilot, who locked the pilot out of the cockpit when he left to go to the bathroom and then took the plane to Geneva where he climbed out of the cockpit window and surrendered himself to authorities in hopes of claiming asylum. This sequence of events meant that there were disrupted Ethiopian Airlines passengers to accommodate and so our initial flight made an unscheduled landing in Milan to pickup some of inconvenienced passengers. This however led us to miss our connecting flight from Addis Ababa to Johanessburg, and with only one flight per day (it seems Ethiopian Airlines was the only carrier at the airport), we were stuck in Ethiopia for the next 24 hours. The airline put us up in the majestic Churchill
Hotel and we were given some basic meals to carry us through our 24 hour stay. Although an old building with a decrepit lobby and airport transportation that saw about 25 people crammed into a van (during which time Phil and I were buried under our own luggage) had set our expectations for the hotel very low, the rooms were surprisingly clean and comfortable.
Exhausted and knowing we were only half way to our final destination, our ambitions for the day (especially since we will pass back through Ethiopia for a week on our way out of Africa) consisted of nothing more than a brief 30 minute jaunt around the immediately surrounding area of our hotel. The poverty was very in your face, more than I recall it being in any of the cities I experienced in South America, but all of the few people I spoke with were both friendly and happy. I wound up chatting with a local named Brook who walked with us for nearly 30 minutes and talked about how a lot of the roads, buildings and traffic lights were new and built with Chinese money pouring into Africa. I know this is a controversial
Phil, Nicky Oppenheimer and I
He was kind enough to talk to us about our thesis!
issue and one I don’t really know much about but it seemed to me that Brook didn’t think it was helping the country at all. Back at our hotel, the bellhop who was probably 18 years old or so politely asked me if I had any old clothes I could give him, so I gave him a t-shirt and he was so immensely grateful.
Looking out my hotel window from the 6th
floor, neighborhoods of makeshift homes of corrugated iron and a hodgepodge of other materials surrounded the occasional building sprouting from these areas. As the sun went down, these areas went black making for large swaths of darkness sprinkled with light from the occasional rising building.
It was nice to get a taste of Addis and I look forward to exploring it more when I’m back in about 6 weeks.
The next 48 hours would be an unrepresentative stint in Johannesburg staying in a hostel amongst fancy estates and meeting one of the biggest living names in diamonds and one of the richest men in Africa, Nicky Oppenheimer, to consult us regarding our thesis. His net worth alone represents 15%!o(MISSING)f the entire GDP of Ethiopia
which is inhabited by some 90 million. So from one extreme to another, here we were, and we got some great info for our thesis from the experience. This same day was also my birthday and though it was a mellow day it was unique as it’s not every day you meet a billionaire... and it’s the one and only time in my life I will turn 31.
The next day our journey continued with a full day of traveling from Johanessburg to Gaborone, Botswana by bus, putting us into our new accommodation just before sundown. It's from here that I sit writing you and so I’ll leave it at that for now. After several long days of international traveling with hardly a break in between, finally somewhere we can stand still for a while. We will be stationed in Gaborone for the next week meeting the hierarchy of the Botswana diamond production machine.
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