Within 2 minutes of leaving my hotel this morning on the way to check out another hotel for use by the Camara Volunteers I managed to attracted a FEG. Anyone who has visited Addis and gone for a walk outside their hotel grounds will have come across that distinctive Ethiopian animal, the FEG or Friendly Ethiopian Guide.
The FEGs congregate in groups around budget hotels in Addis and they have a keen sense of smell for recently arrived tourists who stroll the city without sufficient protection. They attach themselves within minutes of spotting a tourist and commence their ritual ‘friendship talk’ from which they derive their name. ‘Where are you from?’, ‘I love Irish people?’, Do you need a hand?’, ‘I am a poor student trying to make ends meet’ are all commonly used phrases. Contact with a FEG can result in the following common symptoms: ending up at a coffee ceremony in their mother’s house, being brought to a brothel for traditional Ethiopian dances or just parting with money to help them with their studies.
There are several proven ways of getting rid of a FEG. Run as fast as you can when they first say hello. However given that they are from a country which produces the greatest long distance runners in the world and that Addis lies at a altitude of over 2,000 meters this technique should only be tried by the fittest of people. Another technique is to remain calm and friendly and ask them if they would like to be saved – pulling out the handy Bible you carry around with you for such eventualities. This method can be effective but is also high risk and has been known to back fire spectacularly particularly if the FEG also happens to be a Jehovah Witness. This particular FEG I met this morning must have read my mood precisely because within 10 seconds of approaching me he decided to cut his losses and move on.
That afternoon I was met by Feyissa (our local partner), his driver and his two children. They presented me with two bouquets of lovely Ethiopian roses and then drove me down to Nazert (or Adama in the Oromic language) about 1 ½ hours south east of Addis. This was more like it.