“Adapt or get crazy”, Konso Dec. 24th 2010

Now here comes my story on work and service in Ethiopia. I am in a restaurant for dinner and the waiter stands there, rather close to me. He looks at me and smiles, he is a friendly guy. After a while I ask for the menu. He leaves. About 5 minutes later he comes back with the menu. I show him what I want. He looks confused, wants to be reconfirmed that it is the spaghetti with chicken I want. Yes, that is what I want. He leaves. 5 minutes later he comes back: “what is it that you wanted?” I point at the line again that says Spaghetti with chicken. By the way, that line has both languages on it. He leaves. 5 minutes later (and I mean 5 minutes) he comes saying “no chicken”. I say ok, then with tomato sauce please. And one Pepsi. Ok. He leaves. About 25 minutes later he comes with the Spaghetti. As he puts them on the table he notices that I have no spoon or fork. His face tells me he will get it and yes, 5 minutes later, he brings it. I ask him for salt and remind him of the Pepsi I ordered. Oh yes. 5 minutes later he comes with the salt, my plate is half empty by now. As I already waited for the fork I did not want to wait for the salt before eating. Here I am, with fork and salt, but no Pepsi. A little reminder and guess what, 5 minutes later I get my Pepsi. It’s good to have a Pepsi for dessert. Now I ask for the bill. He looks to the stars, waits, and says “64”. I demand a written bill via sign language. Yes, 5 minutes later he comes with it. Spaghetti and Pepsi add up to 36 Birr. I give 40. Not 5 minutes, but 2 to 3 minutes later he comes with the return, 4 Birr. I give him 2 Birr tip and he is really thankful. Now comes the funny part. This is the restaurant at my hotel. This exact process repeats itself for 5 days, not only for dinner but also for breakfast. Where is the learning curve??? à Frank likes his Pasta with salt and he drinks Pepsi…………. Or, we do not have chicken. I have to admit, in order to confirm this story I ordered Pasta with chicken every evening and sadly enough, each evening the same procedure.

What do I, you take from this? I have a bit advantage in answering as I asked the hotel owner for explanations. Most waiters can not read (that is why he had a hard time remembering my order), the 64 was probably the only number in English he knows (plus it would have given him some extra cash) and to secure a minimum of service and control, the waiters have clear and strict order to do and only do what the customer says. One step at the time. Working in Ethiopia is really divided into those who give orders and those who fulfil them. Therefore it is also normal that you see always people watching other people work. It’s the once giving orders and controlling. Oh well, if you counted correctly you know that I spend a bit over an hour and that is actually quiet normal for a restaurant isn’t it?

The next story is supposed to be true but even if it is not, having travelled here I decided it must be more true than false. The Chinese invest heavy in Ethiopia for two reasons. They want to exploit the resources and they want to sell Chinese products. For both they need roads so they invest into that. The Ethiopian government only thinks short term, let them have it but demands to using local workers. That is good and it takes lot of them to built a street with shuffles. They say 3km get done in one year. Anyway, used to only fulfil orders the workers work hard every time a Chinese both shows up. As soon as he turns away they would lean on their shuffles and talk. After a while the Chinese got upset and cut the shuffles in half, so people could not lean against them. Next time the Chinese came to check they simple took the shuffles to the back, now shorter, they are perfect to sit on …………………….   .

For driving the construction trucks the Chinese were allowed to use Chinese drivers after the local Ethiopian once would again and again drive the trucks to Sudan, sell them there and be happy with the money they made………………………..             .

Supposedly the Chinese have by now adapted a bit, understand that “because of the heat” people need more breaks. The Ethiopians have understood that Chinese are tough bosses and work a bit harder. The relation seems to be good now, maybe they manage 5km in a year, next year, smile.

By the way, this is not an Ethiopian issue but an African one as you will find out in my reports on Kenia and so on…………….             .

The pictures above have nothing to do with the story but during my time in the middle east I collected some “tourist” fotos and I thought you should see them. I also like the Starbucks fake in Ramallah, West Bank. They can do it because who wants to claim charges in Ramallah and more important, how….smile.

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