Thursday, January 4
The Forbidden Park
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sheik Al-Moudi for his generous gift to Addis of one city park.
Yesterday while driving through Casanges area, I was suddenly compelled to go and take a look. Aside from the pathetic suggestion of a playground next to the Ambassa Gibee (see previous lion entry) it seems that this park is the only other designated, safe play-area for children in the entire city!
What I don’t understand, is why this park--painted in inviting primary colors and complete with a ‘super-cool’ blue slide—remains locked (gated and enclosed by cement) day after day, week after week…?
Perhaps I am asking the obvious here, but why build a park that no one can use?
So yesterday, feeling particularly curious, I decided to try and enter the compound. I was, of course, prevented from entering the gate by no less than 3 workers (playground guards?) who informed me that the park was closed.
“Under construction?” I asked.
“For repairs?” I wondered.
“Indefinitely?” I pressed.
“It’s for…the Millenium,” one worker proudly explained. “It is, by the way, a government park,” another quietly hinted. (Pictures therefore forbidden.)
I then learned that the park was constructed by the Sheik, to be unveiled in all of it’s plastic splendor during next-year’s Millenium celebrations.
But of course! Who else would ‘donate’ a much-needed service for children, only to keep it under lock and key until he can bask in the applause of the ‘300 0000 visitors’ that will supposedly flock to the capital next September?
Hmm…perhaps he plans to present the park along with a backlog of companies-- “one for every month”--that he has so far failed to deliver, as promised? (Ahem…Excuse me, I cannot even type that with a straight face.)
I can’t help but wonder if by then the beautiful colors will have faded and the site will have lost any attraction it once could have held. Maybe then his EPRDF buddies can lend a helping hand by forcing some of the street children (that will be inevitably be rounded up and detained to create a more “tourist-friendly” atmosphere for celebration) to play in his park while the foreign diplomats and international visitors drive by?
Let’s make one thing clear--should I still have the inclination to visit a park when the Millenium finally rolls around, I would rather build my own!
(By the way, for those of you who wish to do so, I can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org Ciao!)