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From Bonteheuwel to Eritrea - Now I've seen it all!

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From Bonteheuwel to Eritrea - Now I've seen it all!

by Desmore Nero
01 Mar 2007

Desmore Nero, a resident of Bonteheuwel and a volunteer assistant to the Athlone Website, wrote this article about her travels to Eritrea (which borders Ethiopia) after her fiance received work from the United Nations Mission in Asmara

I had left South Africa last month with my fiance, who by the way is an Australian, as I wanted to be with him. You might be thinking I would be off to Australia, wrong - we were off to Eritrea, border country with Ethiopia. "Why?" you might be wondering - he is working for the United Nations Mission down in Asmara, Eritrea.

My journey into to the unknown, from a beautiful Cape Town, with magical beaches, shopping malls, great food and lively people to what you are about to be told.

... they check your luggage by opening it up in public ... an experience of a lifetime

As a South African spoilt with luxury, let me start at the beginning of my arrival, we landed in Eritrea at 10h30 the evening and we got home at 01h00. It is not a modern airport like Cape Town or Johannesburg, when checking your luggage it doesn't go through luggage scanning, you have to wait in a queue and they then check your luggage by opening it up (in public), making a mess of your clothing and putting it back, an experience of a lifetime. Oh did I mention the Eritrean airlines was not what I imagined economy class would look like? Not to mention the turbulence, which of course made me throw up. I then quickly changed my clothing ... off to a good start.

Eritrea TaxisThe next day we were out driving, the roads are dusty and there are no traffic signs giving directions or information posters, best of all the speed limit is forty and the bicycles have right of way, so whilst driving, the cyclists just drive in front of you. "Why?" - because they own the roads and if you knock them you are the one to blame as they have the right of way here. The best part is, they drive in the evening as well, you would think they would have lights on their bicycles as a safety precaution ... guess not.

Gone are the days of Kentucky, Steers, Pick n Pay or Woolworths ...

Gone are the days of Kentucky, Steers, Pick n Pay or Woolworths, here we have little shops all over and open markets to buy vegetables and food. If you want to make a stew, you have to go to ten different little stores to get ingredients to make a dish, we are so spoilt in Cape Town to have everything under one roof in a supermarket. You do not realize how lucky you are until you leave your home country.

The Eritrean culture is very community driven and they are very helpful and friendly, they always have a smile on their faces no matter what time of day it may be. What I had found really strange is the operational times here, people would be working from 08h00 the morning to about 12h00 midday, they then go home and rest until 3h00pm and open the doors round about 3h30pm, from 3h30pm they are open till 9h00pm. By 10h30pm everyone is off the streets and home. If this had to be South Africa, you would be told to stay home permanently.

... they always have a smile on their faces no matter what time of day it may be

Before I continue, in a course of one week, I had never been in so much pain, I had a tooth ache, thinking it was air pressure after a few sleepless nights I had gone to the dentist, only to discover my tooth had to be extracted, (ouch!) and it was, One morning I had a shower (you know the shower within the bath?) I turned on the shower stepped in, slipped and knocked my head so hard, I had seen stars, I thought I had a cracked my skull, the doctor said I am fine, I need to rest (my jetlag did not help either) I was a walking medical case. Welcome to Asmara, Eritrea. Leon Schuster would have a field day with my experience.

Intercontinental Hotel in Asmara, EritreaThe oasis in the desert is called the Intercontinental Hotel, it is a beautiful hotel, where the international guests stay. It has a gym, pool and tasteful restaurants and is like heaven on Earth (Asmara) ... so guess where I am everyday.

Leon Shuster would have a field day with my experience

After my tragic experiences, I thought I needed to unwind and relax, so I had went to the hair salon where they do manicures and pedicures - "perfect!" is what I thought, a manicure and pedicure. I walked in asking the lady if they do these treatments she said no, go next door, had gone in next, it was a office dealing with cargo, I then went back, she said next door, once again (the other direction) it was the South African Embassy, I become frustrated, asked the lady at the Embassy, she said next door, she accompanied me, we walked in together, she said they could do it here, the same lady who sent me on a site inspection confirmed that they did it at the salon, I then asked if her manager was there, next thing she comes to me with a cell phone (guess who was on the line) the manager, via telephone, now that's service.

Life is a journey filled with different cultures, people, places and traditions, when we are not accustomed to seeing other places other than your own City / Country, we complain about small insignificant things, when we should be grateful for what we have and do not appreciate on a daily basis. Ps I miss my biltong.

... we should be grateful for what we have and do not appreciate on a daily basis

I would love to share my journey with you, discovering new destinations, experiences and my travels do join me, getting aboard the Discovery Airlines.
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