Chapter 7 - Addis Window


Car wheels on the wet tar recreate the sound of rain. Muslim prayers from a nearby Mosque compete with Chris Brown and Jordan Sparks’ old hit “No Air”. A strange symphony. Breaks screech. Hooters toot incessantly. Then thunder. So loud, the glass vibrates in the window frame, and the broken door rattles. Hurried shouts climb the twirling staircase.

I get up to look outside. A corrugated sea of tin roofs, green, grey and rusted. The rain has puddled a slush-puppy of muddied rubbish in the gutters. Umbrellas are out. People scurry from covering to covering. The standard half white, half blue taxis dominate the road, each with a different sticker on the back: a religious icon, or football club badge.

The rain gets harder. It’s pattering on the tin drowns out everything except my Arabic backing track. And a rude bus horn, which twice disturbs my solitude.

Across the road there begins a vast shanty town, an entire jagged desert of tin roofs that continues way up into the hills and disappears into the grey mist. The houses begin to give off long plumes of wood-smoke. They look like punctured cans of baked beans skewered on a damp fire. This is the centre of Addis, Marketo Sub City. A slum where life is hard and stops for nothing. I watch the smoke curling into the air, and on into nothingness. My view of the distant Mosque fades.

In the pall, I notice splashes of intensity. A light blue shack selling bottled water. A red and yellow striped tavern branded by the local ‘St. Georges’ beer. A fruit stand. A hardware store selling bright pink and green doors. Occasionally a person hurries across my window, adding a fragment of moving colour to the muted kaleidoscope.

Marketo Sub City, is a true slum of Africa. Life is relentless. Yet still, the difficulties of day-to-day living have not stolen the joy that is evident in the brief interactions between its rain dodging inhabitants. Even from my elevated view I can see the smiles and cheerful eyes.

A matter of time before the sun returns, and the noise. Shouts will flood my quiet window. The streets will once again be seized by bustling trade.