A few random facts: Ethiopia is big (bigger than British Columbia or Texas) and is landlocked in Eastern Africa, bordered by Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya, Djbouti, the Sudan, and South Sudan. The capital city is Addis Ababa (which i will not tire of saying in full, even though it is commonly shortened to "Addis"). Ethiopia has a population of just over 90M, for whom the average life expectancy is about 63. The literacy rates run at a little less than 50%. The main language is Amharic, which looks like this: አልገባኝም (which translates as "I don't understand", a phrase i am sure i'll be using frequently). The currency is called the Birr and for $4.90 US you get 100 Birr. Your dollar goes a long way in Ethiopia, with a coffee costing about 15 cents. The country is nearly 50/50 Muslim/Orthodox Christians, with the Christians slightly in the lead, numbers-wise. Ethiopia is also the rare African country to have never been colonized, although it was occupied by the Italians for a few years in the 1930s, which apparently only enhanced Ethiopia's existing coffee culture. This prevailing independence has, as i understand it, left Ethiopian culture largely intact.
Speaking of culture: Ethiopia has its own means of telling time. They start with sunrise each day as being at 00 and each hour after sunrise (until sunset) is counted from that point. So, one hour after sunrise is 1:00am, two hours after is 2:00am...get it? This goes on until sunset and then the evening/nighttime hours are counted from sunset until the next morning. Apparently this means that one has to be very careful when booking bus tickets etc as to whether it is Ethiopian time or foreign time that is being used. Oh, and Ethiopia has 13 months a year. They have 12 months of 30 days each and then a 13th month of 5-6 days. As a result of this, in Ethiopia it is currently 8 years behind and it is 2007 there. Confused? Well, given that i still haven't mastered 24hr hour time telling and i'm not great at reading analog clocks to begin with, this could prove to be a special challenge.
My first stop is Addis Ababa, via London, where i have a layover long enough to afford me some time in the city, which i am looking forward to, but the real excitement is getting to Ethiopia and exploring.