Returning to Mekelle near 9pm we stopped to collect our bags. As we took a moment to ground ourselves after what had been a tumultuous 5 days I received a call. Aberash, the recently hired in-country representative, wanted to meet with me. I mentioned a hotel that I was considering staying at and told her that after I had checked in I would meet her in an hour. 5 minutes later I received a call from Aberash informing me that she was at the hotel waiting for me. Ooops, it would be the first of many communication breakdowns. Normally I am none too picky about my appearance. Typically I don’t smell bad (though not particularly good either) and although some might disagree (shhhh) I’m not to prissy about my appearance. Shirt. Check. Drawers. Check. Shoes. Check. Maybe some pants for good measure.

However, having spent the last 5 days wandering around one of the hottest places on earth, being blasted by acidic and sulfurous geysers, and living with camels and their falafel, I was a singularly filthy human being. Taking a quick rinse from a mixture of sink and overhead pipe I gave the ears a good scrub and put on my cleanest dirty clothes.

Erik of course had no incentive to gussy himself up and so remained begrimed. A quick introduction with Aberash and then we met up with Christo and Christina to swap photos. The Russian, although invited was nowhere to be found. Hmmm. (a few days later Erik received an email from Mark informing us that he no longer wanted to be our friends and that furthermore he never wanted to see us ever again. He asked us, somewhat unpolitely, to forget his email address). Erik and I celebrated a successful trip with a few of the local wobbly pops and slumbered nearer to dawn than was wise with an 8am meeting with the regional investment office looming only slightly above the horizon.

Awaking at 6am with more than a few groans I packed my bags once again. Meeting Jim and Joerg was a sudden submersion into the real world once more. Together, they formed the exploratory arm of MCI’s investment team. Jim worked with KPMG as a management consultant and had been provided by KPMG in a pro bono effort to fulfill the MCI mission. Joerg was remarkably friendly East German who had pursued (been sent? Wandered into?) graduate education in the Soviet Union and at some point in the last several decades become heavily involved in investment promotion in developing countries. With experience in over a hundred countries his knowledge and ability to navigate the confusing arena socialist turned democratic capitalist governments was invaluable.

4 days of meetings and countless handshakes and macchiatos later I had gained intimate knowledge about every major industry in Mekelle and grinned toothily at the region’s president, the city’s mayor, several thousand goat and sheep skins, and a slew of doctors, directors, and executives.