I got an email from a friend last week who lives in Addis Ababa. “Saw your book at the Hilton,” she wrote, “next to Time magazine’s Africa Edition. Does this mean you’ve finally arrived?”
Nope. But my book has.
After almost three months, Vertical Ethiopia finally landed in Addis for distribution. The first print run happened all at the same time (that’s what makes it a print run) and on February 14th, half of the books were loaded onto a plane from Dubai to Amsterdam to New York to Chicago, where some got on a truck to me in Denver and the rest on to my distributor in Houston. I had them in hand on the 21st. The other half was going to go by sea to Addis. Addis is less than 1600 miles from Dubai. It took the books eighty days to travel that distance, the majority of which time they were hanging out in Djibouti, waiting to be cleared for import and export. It took that long. It should not have. But that’s what happens these days in that part of the world sometimes.
The plan behind this project was to work on a book that would communicate about Ethiopia both to foreigners and to locals. Now the locals can finally see the result. My book is all over Addis, in Bookstores, hotels, and hopefully soon, a few coffee shops. The Ethiopian Birr price on the back is finally coming in handy.
On the other side of the Atlantic, I had a television interview a few weeks ago for NECN in Boston. Over three million people in six states got to see me talk about Ethiopia. And for those who missed it, it was posted online. Check it out HERE. But be warned. You will first have to watch a Porsche Ad.
The clip comes on fast and loud and before you know it the sleek 90K car is zipping into your visual field. And then they cut to Ethiopia. It’s perfect. It’s Porsche’s in Ethiopia—almost.
When I was living in Addis, the arrival of any new car was announced through the community faster than news of a food shortage or political event. Taxi drivers, waiters, government officials and foreigners would all say the same thing.
“Did you see the new BMW? That makes eight.”
“Nine.” Another person would clarify, “The black 750 is number 8.”
“I thought it was the yellow three series…”
And so conversation would continue until all of the BMW’s in Ethiopia were accounted for. And then they would start with the Audis.
In Ethiopia, the government still taxes vehicles at 100%. Before my team came to Ethiopia to climb I told them how much it would be to rent our vehicles. “But that’s expensive,” one teammate said, “Isn’t it supposed to be cheap in Ethiopia?”
No, it isn’t. Not when the system imposes those taxes. Not when it takes 3 months for a book to get from Dubai to Addis—even when the book was produced in Addis in the first place.
In the US, we get everything immediately. I had a television interview and fifteen minutes later it was up on line. My friends recently climbed a big peak in Alaska and it was on another website before they’d even flown out of the mountains. It’s fast and now. So fast and now that maybe the irony of a Porsche ad before a piece on Ethiopia goes unnoticed. I didn’t see it the first time I watched it. But I did see the emails from my friends in Ethiopia when they saw my book. I’m trying to catch more things in my life. Really. But then again, I still didn’t notice the new beemer in Addis last March. It was a five-series, I think.