NISIR couriers furiously fast in alleycat race Addis

Posted on September 17, 2009

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bike courier 2Shoulder to shoulder biking couriers Teddy and Kelali hurry down Bole Road in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Busy fighting for the lead in today’s alleycat race (biking couriers race), they pass their goal – assignment ten: the Garden Court – without knowing.

When Kelali realizes he missed something, he hits the breaks and turns. Teddy follows swift, but is so surprised by Kelali’s sudden move that he loses control of his bike and goes down…

In no time he’s up again and runs up the stairs to forfill his assignment: getting his picture taken by ferenji photographer Daphne Kuilman.

Test
This is the second alleycat race Addis has ever seen, organised by new courier service NISIR (eagle in Amharic). The couriers have to complete nine out of ten assignments and report back as fast as possible at NISIR headquarters, up from Churchill Road, near the ministry of Immigration.

‘This alleycat is to improve their knowledge of the city and to test them physically,’ says project leader Daria Zebrowska. ‘But also to interact with the inhabitants of Addis and introduce NISIR to the city.’

The biking couriers are passionate about their new job. It’s only a mather of weeks before they will be doing this daily, delivering messages and packets of all kind for different companies in Addis. The ten boys and one girl – all young, all unemployed, all from lower income families – will be running NISIR themselves.

Shitty bikes
In may this year they have been selected by Live Ethiopia from Lideta and Kirkoso, two city parts of Addis where the Polish funded NGO is active. Teddy, Kelali and the others got workshops on rehabilitation, map reading, security, safety and the cooperative structure of their new company. The next two months they will get a language course to improve their English. They have mobile phones, jackets, backpacks and (shitty Chinese) bikes. They are ready to go!

But first there’s an alleycat race to be won. Besides the Garden Court, the bikers go as far as the cinema in the Edna Mall near Medane Alem Church, to see what foreign and Amharic movies they play. And from there all the way to the Old Airport area to visit the International Communication School (ICS) and report on the colour of the main gate.

Cheating?
This last assignment turns out to be problematic as the couriers come up with four different colours. ‘The gate is definitely yellow,’ says Teddy. ‘No, it’s grey!’ interrupts Abdul. Others paint it red or blue with white stripes. Cheating? Nah. The correct answer is complicated: there are different entrances to ICS and the main gate is multicolored.

Somewhere in the early evening the couriers report back at Daria’s office. Most of them are soaking wet of one of the last showers in the rainy season. Some of the bikes didn’t survive. Although Abdul’s fasting because of Ramadan (and also a bit because of, ’cause that’s why he got the best bike), he comes in first. Leaving Bitsuamlaj and Kelali just behind him.

Now Abdul wins a cap and a book donated by the Polish embassy. Up next: his own salary.

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