Friday, January 27, 2012

lakes and mountains, rivers and roads.

Selam y’all,

It marks a week now since I left GR for Ethiopia, and so much has happened that I can hardly believe it’s been just a week. While time is flying here, the full days also make it feel like we’ve been here for weeks on end. I find myself rather overwhelmed at the thought of trying to communicate all we’ve experienced in just 3 days. I’ll try my best to be concise! More stories when I get home :)

The morning after I last wrote, we hopped a quick flight up to Bahir Dar, and upon landing I was instantly in love. The sunshine, the beautiful lake (and the lush green landscapes around it), the bejajes (think: indian rickshaws) puttering along the palm-tree lined boulevards (speaking of the street network, Bahir Dar is one of only 2 planned cities in Ethiopia, so it’s quite refreshing after crazy Addis), and the lovely guava (and mango, and avocado) tree-surrounded home of the loving Bascom family (where we’re staying for our tenure in BD) – I love it all. By no means is Bahir Dar luxurious, but its gritty beauty enamors me.

We hit the ground running in Bahir Dar with 2 days filled with hard work at the University, preparing for our workshop (which starts next week). Much of our time was spent in the lab -- readying the computers, gathering data, and designing maps -- but we also spent considerable time meeting with various professors and administrators, trying to get some details in place before next week. Through this process, I got to observe so much Ethiopian culture – not how one might expect, like out in the traditional villages – but right there in the halls of the university. (With such limited space here, I think I’ll wait on explaining this, and try to write an entry about culture next week sometime.) I finished both Tuesday and Wednesday exhausted at the end of the day, but working hard is why we are here, after all. (One highlight I’ll mention is that we got to experience a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony on Tuesday evening! The Bascoms’ neighbor came over and performed the coffee roasting/brewing/serving ceremony that has been performed for centuries here in Ethiopia, the original home of the coffee plant. Best coffee ever! I have concluded that it’s altogether fitting that I leave my background the same on my blog :))

Thursday brought us a chance to slow down when we flew back up into the mountains to Lalibela, perhaps the most popular tourist spot in Ethiopia (thought it doesn’t yet feel too overrun, thankfully). It is in the middle of nowhere, but owes its fame to the 12 stone-hewn churches constructed under King Lalibela in the 12th century. After landing, we enjoyed the windy ride up into the mountains (or maybe that was just me that enjoyed it), had a delicious lunch and brief rest at our hotel, and headed up to the churches to start exploring. But due to the celebration of an orthodox festival, the churches were closed. All was not lost, however – when we met up for the tour with our new Israeli friend, Moshei, we gained a 5th member to our group, a Spaniard named Jesús (un madrileño) with very little English. Jesús and I were able to settle our differences over fútbol teams (Barça vs. Madrid, claro) by agreeing on our love for la Roja (the Spanish national team) – and also because neither of us yet knew the score to the previous day’s clásico. :) From this point on I became his translator, and the 5 of us enjoyed a relaxing evening up on the mountain among the tropical birds, watching the sunset and drinking Ethiopian beer over good conversation about travels, world history, and current events. After this we came back to the hotel and fell asleep to the joyful sounds of the church celebration: drums beating, men chanting, and women singing (and all of them dancing). Mmm, Africa.

Today was simply marvelous. We woke up early for a quick breakfast (Ethiopian pancakes with local raw honey!) and made our way back to the entrance to the Lalibela churches to meet our guide, Asefa, and our 2 new friends for a morning of touring. Truly, this place was one of those few places where I’ve been that I have had to pinch myself as a reminder that it’s ME walking there, and not just a tour guide on the travel channel special I’m watching. (One of the only other experiences I can think of that’s been like that for me was meandering through the medina of Fès, Morocco, which, if you've heard me rave about Maroc, means a lot!). Exploring churches nestled into dim basalt caves, traipsing through unlit underground tunnels between the churches, standing on ground that has been worshiped on since the 11th century, walking among the ornately dressed priests and worshipers who worship there still today, and getting caught up in the movement of the colorful, noisy, celebration of the traditional timket festival… nothing shy of ‘magical’ could describe the experience.

Pictures will have to continue to tell the story when I have a chance to upload them. But here's one quick one from Jason's blog... that's the roof of a 3 story church dug out of the ground you see there!

When we made it through all the churches and saw the beginning of the celebration of the St. George church, we said adiós to our amigo madrileño, Jesús and proceeded up the hill (catching some sunburn along the way) to the funkiest restaurant (architecturally) I’ve ever been to, with a 360º of the surrounding mountain ranges ( The restaurant is a newly-launched operation by a lovely Scottish woman, and we enjoyed the shade, the breeze, and a leisurely lunch there before heading back down this hill to our hotel, where sat and watched the sun creep down over the mountains as we settled in to our work for the evening.

(at the restaurant. snagged this from Jason's blog -

Thanks so much for your prayers and thoughts. I miss y’all and think of you often as I continue to wish we could share these amazing experiences here in beautiful Ethiopia.

peace, love, and some African sunshine,


1 comment:

  1. ah so wonderful to read this over and over!! you are in my thoughts! you write beautifully Em, I just want to be there with you! Enjoy the guavas and avocados!!