Jackson Biko, is a lover of whisky and people watching. He likes to walk the shadows of the city at dusk, picking conversations of a people spurred by the night and by their drink
There was this time I got bored of sitting in my hotel room in Addis Ababa. The trip had a bunch of stiffs who didn’t want to catch a pint in the evening after the conference and prefered to lock themselves up in their rooms and watch National Geographic. So I wore my shoes, rode the elevator down and walked out of the hotel. It was 10:00pm. I didn’t know my bearings so on my way out, I asked the bellhop which places I should avoid. He pointed East and said, “Don’t go further in that direction…no street lights and you never know.” So I walked West, through a rough road, past those ugly blue taxis that Russians lent the Ethiopians and refused to take back, past the cranes hanging over dark unfinished buildings now looking like the set of a low budget horror movie, and into the bustling main road, where I turned right and walked around aimlessly, followed by a tattered beggar with a sad looking toddler strapped on her back. She kept saying something in Amharic which I wanted to believe meant, “take this child off my back for two cigarettes.” I ignored her for three blocks because I didn’t have any cigarettes to spare, but eventually handed her 40 Birr.
Of course I ended up in this dark bar (most bars in Ethiopia are seemingly so dark) where I sunk in an unoccupied leather seat. A fan whirred overhead. They played their songs. They only had Jack Daniels on their whisky menu. The rest were dreadful whiskies that can turn a man’s tongue blue. Even a black man like me.
I dropped two ice-cubes in my short-glass and sat back. Across were three girls on a girl’s date. They were all very pretty. Most Ethiopian girls are very pretty. It’s unfair. God gave them Haile Selassie, weed and pretty girls. Ugandans have Besigye, a political punching bag that helps with the self esteem of its neighbours. Tanzanians have a national jealousy and paranoia that Kenyans will sneak through their borders and steal their Zebras from Serengeti. South Sudan has boreholes. Sudan has the janjaweed. What did we get apart from Thika Road and lions that roam our highways in broad daylight?
I stared at the girls like a creep. At the table at the corner a man cosied up with his date, another stunning beauty with long hair and eyelashes I could have hung my clothes on. She giggled and he nudged her neck playfully. They disgusted me. The waitress, another waif beauty with broken english asked if I wanted a refill. I didn’t see why not. Because I was miserable, I ordered a chicken pizza and what came looked like a bloated sea animal. I ate one slice, paid my bill and walked back to the hotel where I stripped down to nothing and jumped into bed, but just before I slept, I wondered if the beggar’s child was warm and well fed.