The next day we rented a 4X4 to go over an hour out of town to a monastery built into this massive natural cave. It was in the middle of nowhere, somewhere along a winding trail of bumpy roads. The monastery is built in the entrance of the cave and is unique because it is made of granite and wood, alternating in each layer of the church. It was a neat trip and the church was a highlight because it went from eerie to awe inspiring in seconds. The eerie was walking in your socked feet (you can’t wear shoes in any of the churches) in the pitch black to the back of the cave, upon which the guide turns his light on and you realize you are in the middle of a graveyard filled with mummified remains of ancient pilgrims. You’re not really sure what you stepped on to get there and you have to pick your way out, through the bones. The awe inspiring was looking at the ancient pictures in the church and recognizing them as biblical stories such as Christ’s baptism, the triumphal entry or Mary with the Christ child. Realizing that over 1000 years ago Ethiopians were painting these intricate works by the lights of candles in this remote cave was astounding for me.
That afternoon we explored the well known, rock hewn churches in the town. The scope is amazing. Some of the churches are 12 meters high and inside all intricately carved and painted. All of them dug out of the ground but each quite different in design. We wandered through and saw the old burial sites in the churches and in the walls (one set supposedly for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), the old baptismal pools and the ‘fertility pool’, which is still in use today. Phenomenal when you think of how these works were done 1000 years ago with primitive tools.
The next day we hired some mules to get us to the highest peak in the area (around 3500m) where there was another monastery carved into the side. We rode the mules halfway up as we picked our way through the pastoral mountainside and the winding, narrow pathways. We hiked the last half to the peak where you notice a small hole with stairs leading into the mountain. You climb them and enter the courtyard of a monastery built into the mountainside. Supposedly there is an underground tunnel all the way down through the mountain! Super amazing views and the scenic hike up was probably the highlight of my trip.
The afternoon we explored the rest of the rock hewn churches in town (11 all told). This set was neat because there were tunnels connecting them all in haphazard fashion. We walked through a pitch black tunnel, guiding ourselves with our hands on the wall, me joking about how I hoped there were no drop offs! There were none and we made it out.
The last day and a half we spent relaxing in the sun, watching the sunset over the mountain range, having nice dinners and enjoying each other’s company. We flew back Sunday afternoon and were home by dinner. It was a perfect blend of seeing amazing sights and catching up on some much needed relaxation. It was amazing to get out of the city and into the mountains and countryside. No pollution and clear skies to watch the stars.
And now we’re back to the grind… and planning the next trip in February!
At the top of our climb.
A little hut on the way.
Among the massive church complexes carved in the ground.
A partially unfinished church.
The view from the top of the mountain.
So the trip was 6.5 days with 4 full days in Sasiga. During our time there we saw many of the projects that Food for the Hungry (FHI) is working with the local people on. We had meetings with church leaders and community leaders in a variety of the communities within the project to hear about what they are doing and how change has affected their communities. We went to a few schools, 2 of which we had the most amazing welcome ever with singing and flowers and hoards of children. Actually the hoards of children wasn’t unique to the schools, anywhere we, the ferenji (foreigner) went there was a mass of children and adults that appeared out of nowhere. Anyways the welcome we got at the school was especially cool! We also saw a new veterinary post that was recently built. We visited a coffee tree nursery which will soon be giving 50 plants each to over 500 farmers. We saw a few model farmers’ gardens where they were growing papaya, avocado, peppers, onions, + tomatoes. We went to the local market on market day where people come from as far as 25 km (one way) walking to either buy or sell things. You can buy anything there: livestock (we had sheep for dinner that night), clothes, shoes, food… anything the people need, you can buy there! We saw many wells that had been built and springs that were capped. We also saw a few of the adult classes in the afternoons after the kids are done, some of the adults who never got to go to school go to the school and have adult classes to complete grades 1-3 in 2 years. Then at the end of our time in Sasiga, we got to go and meet some of the newly sponsored children that people in Lambrick has sponsored the Sunday we were on our way out to Sasiga. The child sponsored kids were either orphaned by one or both parents or where vulnerable kids. This was especially neat because I got to meet the little boy that my parents sponsored.
Oh, we also got to visit the rural hospital in Nekemt on our way to Sasiga. I took lots of pics there but none of them are among to few chosen ones. It was very similar to the large government hospital here in Addis. I was glad I had seen the one here first cause it took to shock out of it for me. Maybe pics from that another time.
So that is what we did on our trip. I was really glad I went. Before I went, I wasn’t sure why I was going but once I was there I knew why. For one it was so nice to get out of the city and see the country and the way the majority of Ethiopian people live. The people in the country seemed to have so much more hope than the poor people in Addis. Even though they had so little, they were so happy and hopeful and eager to make a difference for their community. It was also really good to see Ethiopians helping Ethiopians! Also the countryside is so beautiful and the air to clean and fresh (except the dust). Second, it was really good for me to connect/reconnect with some people from Lambrick. In the last couple years, I haven’t really felt like we had a church back home because of being gone and such. So it was really good for me to get connect with Lambrick people and feel like I had a church family back home. Third, the trip just confirmed my love of Ethiopia ! I already loved it here but the trip just made it that much more certain in my mind that I was meant to be here!
So that is my trip to Sasiga (Belo), Ethiopia ! I hope you enjoy the pics that made it into the top 18. The rest you will have to wait til we get home in the summer and I can post all I want!
Eric and I are off on a little vacation for 5 days to the north to Lalibela for a little pre-Christmas vacation! So we will tell you about that when we get back! Merry Christmas!
These are some pictures of the crazy traffic that sometimes develops here. The blue and whites are what Nolana and I use to get around. Maybe 12 cents for a ride.
Here are some of the Orthodox worshippers. Some of the churches are beautiful and ornate and some mere walls. At least 50% of people here are orthodox.
From the overpass. You can see the fruit stall as well as the coal seller.
The grandeur of the Sheraton contrasted with the shacks just outside. The Sheraton in Addis is ridiculously opulent compared to its surroundings.
Some of the many many country boys that roam the streets. Most roam or sell lottery tickets or perform odd jobs. Always with the blankets, that's how you know them.
Us and some of the people she works with at the hospital cutting a friendship bread of sorts. The Ethiopian lady in the front had us all over. She is an amazing lady and super friendly. Calls Nolana her daughter and always makes sure she come over and hugs/kisses us.
These are the 2 children she just adopted. She makes about $100 a month but said, I see all the Americans adopting our kids and thought i should help too. Amazing.
So, these are some snapshots of our life here, hope you like them!
Nolana has been doing great at the hospital. She did a major presentation this week on wound care and said she got a great response and some changes made so she feels a lot better knowing that she is making a difference there. School has been up and down for me. Last week we lost the other foreign teacher and soon we are losing our other English teacher (she is Nigerian). So I will be solo for a while. I interviewed a fellow from the UK and he is coming but won’t likely be here for another month. But they love me here and would stand on their heads if I asked. I love the teaching, at least most days! It has been a great growing experience so far.
Nolana also had a great opportunity confirmed this week. The Place (a church in the homeland that we attended) has a partnership with a small town here in Ethiopia and Nolana is going to join with their group when they come in November. I am so jealous that she is getting to go out of the city and see the rural life and help out there. It will be an amazing experience. The downside to all this is that I’m going to be alone here for 1 weeks! WHO’S GOING TO DO MY LAUNDRY!! Just kidding, but it will be really quite odd. And I will miss her like crazy. This summer we were apart for the first time for a couple days and now 1 weeks. And the double bummer… it’s over our anniversary! But I told her there was no way she wasn’t doing it because it will be great. Did I mention I was jealous? It will be exam week here so I will be swallowed up with grading. Triple bummer.
Well, that’s that. We are meeting more great people though we have yet to connect with people our age. They’re just not that common here. But we’re hoping soon. Not that we don’t love all the older people you just need someone to connect with you on that level. We’re thinking of you all back home and send our love.
One of the many donkeys.
A sunrise on Nolana’s way to work.
Two of Nolana’s little patients. One with a cleft lip to be fixed and one already fixed.
Some pretty typical Ethiopian food.
The walkway to the old Emperor’s palace where there is a museum now.