After the race, I finally had the opportunity to relax a little and daydream my way through some gardens. The first garden I visited was the garden on the grounds of the Ghion Hotel. Hardly anybody else was walking in the gardens. I ran into one white lady, binoculars in hand, who was bird-watching. The gardens are a lovely oasis in the middle of Addis.
There is one thing, however, that I cannot get use to. Armed guards stroll casually through the grounds. And after my trauma after the race, I can't help wondering. Are the guards keeping rabble out of the gardens, are they protecting me, or are they watching me...???
It is a concept I am not used to at all. I tend to go through my life not really thinking much about people who have less than I do. I tend to look around me and assume people are pretty much like me. I have no concept of what it is like to be surrounded by desperation so profound that it might push people to steal or worse. A comment an Ethiopian friend made has stuck with me. He commented on how nice it must be to live in a house that is not surrounded by walls topped with razor wire or shards of glass, to be able to look out your windows and see an unobstructed view of the countryside.
Sometimes, I think when we travel, we forget how others look at us. For example, Europeans and North Americans are viewed as incredibly wealthy by many in Africa. We may be enjoying what is strange, different, quaint and unique about their costume and customs, but is the way of life for them. Our reactions are completely filtered through our prior experience and rarely prepare us to just see, without the added layers of our judgments.