Hardship of Hardships

Ethiopia is designated as a “hardship” post, and while I’m not entirely sure what that means, I can attest that life is less convenient here than in many other places I’ve lived. At the same time, I have been surprised by how much I like it here. The air quality is somewhat poor, but it’s not nearly as polluted as Mexico City and there is probably a lower chance of exposure to TB here than in Pretoria. The traffic is crazy and commutes are long, but not much worse than commuting in Chicago or DC, and the pace is slow enough that it’s not too terrifying. The one major downside of living here (especially with young kids) is the low-quality medical care. I’m not really sure how bad it is, but I hope I don’t have to find out.

One thing expats complain about a lot is what you can’t get on the local market. When I was a kid, all I wanted were Ramen noodles, but we couldn’t get them. (Seriously? I lived in the Middle East with all kinds of delicious food, and I longed for Ramen? What was wrong with me?) In our last post, Pretoria, I missed chocolate chips and Mexican food. I wrote a very popular blog post (I think it had 5 hits) about going all the way to the “expat grocery store” (Monument Park Spar) in the fancy neighborhood on the hill, only to be disappointed. It was full of imported candy and cereal, but the produce was uninspiring. After that one trip, I never returned. Every big city overseas has a supermarket just like it. On my first shopping trip here, I went to Bambis because it was the only store I’d heard of. (There are Western supermarkets in every neighborhood, but Bambis is the most popular with expats.) Disappointed once again, I browsed the aisles and tsked, tsked at the candy and cereal. I did not think I’d be back, until last week when I had a serious craving for homemade ice cream. My neighborhood supermarket doesn’t carry cream, so I ventured to Bambis once more. This time was different. I was there on a specific errand and I didn’t expect to find much more. But when I approached the dairy display, one familiar and beloved brand stood out. Superyogurt! Oh wait, the rest of you call it Fage Greek yogurt. In our house it is Superyogurt and we adore it. We couldn’t get it in South Africa. We couldn’t get it on home leave in Saugatuck either. My favorite variety is the low fat with honey, which we couldn’t even get in Rome. But here in Addis Ababa, I can get my favorite yogurt with honey for the outrageous price of $4.50 per serving. Of course I bought one. I love Bambis now.


My expensive yogurt taste was evened out by the rest of my shopping trip. Wondessen took me to the local shops so I could buy new sunglasses. $5 bought me a pair that was actually more attractive than my old Target ones that broke–the victims of a recent playdate–which had lasted about 6 months (a record for me). Another $7 bought four large grocery bags full of gorgeous tropical fruits. We’ve been eating enormous fruit salads all week. So, in terms of “getting stuff,” I think Addis is hard to beat.

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