I know, the title makes this sound like a shopping trip. Well, you would be right! We are going to be moving to Addis and one of my jobs is to find us a new home here, but first to survey the land and what better way to do this than with a map of the city to help me get my bearings.
My map shopping expedition started with some trepidation due to the mapping service having no address, simply stated as ‘opposite the Hilton Hotel’. The Hilton Hotel has its own block bounded by four roads. So what I thought might be quite a challenge turned out to be the easiest place I’ve found here to date, and without a map!
It turns out that it is less of a procedure to find the map service then it is to buy one however. After you walk through their front door you ask for directions to be able to buy a map from several ladies standing around in the foyer chatting and relaxing. They direct you to room 502 where you are met by a room, bare with the exception of the maps on the wall and a man sitting self-importantly behind a large desk in the middle of the room. He directs you to enter, which is not the immediately obvious thing to do. You tell him which map you want and if they don’t have that one, then the next best thing please. He write you a receipt on a white piece of paper, hands it to you and sends you on through to room 509.
The clerks in room 509 get the map for you from across the hall and place it on a large desk. Then they direct you to room 504 where you are presented again with a man sitting behind a desk, pen in hand and a receipt book at the ready. He hands you a pink slip of paper that he has attached to the aforementioned white slip, whistles for someone and directs you out the door. The someone he has called (the clerk from room 509) leads you back out the front, up a flight of stairs to the adjacent building, along a long outdoor corridor and in through to another room that states boldly on its door that this is the cashier you stand before. She takes your slips of coloured paper, your money and sense of humour, as she slowly and deliberately writes out yet another slip of paper, the receipt? She hands me the change and my slips of paper back without a word. Do I go back to room 509 now?, I ask her, and am answered by a nod of assent. I head back through the labyrinth to room 509, in the hope that I may now collect my five dollar map, an hour later! This I do, but not without presenting both my newly acquired map and bits of coloured paper at each check point back out to the street.
Ironically, a few hours later I was presented with the same map by a man selling them on the street, for a transaction that might have lasted 2 minutes if I’d bargained with him!