Trekking in North Wollo

Time is flying! It really feels like that here as we passed the half way mark and have so quickly come upon 4 months left here in Ethiopia (ok, soon it will be four months). At school we finished the end of semester finals and I got to take some time off! Had most of a week to relax and catch up on some things and Nolana took half of that week off so we had a chance to just hang out together and take a break from our busy schedules… it was sweet! And then last week we headed off for five days of trekking in the north of Ethiopia .

We hooked up with a company called Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives (TESFA) which has taken some small communities and worked with them to build a sort of tourism infrastructure so that they do not have to rely as much on their subsistence agriculture. We stayed in tukuls (local huts) built by the communities, had locals cook food for us, had local guides, got invited into community tukuls to have injera and coffee made for us, and spent our days moving like a real Ethiopian (walking) in the mountains and the farmland, in places where the only foreigners are the ones TESFA brings and the occasional NGO worker.

All of the TESFA sites are ideally situated in the cliffs, looking out at the beautiful mountains, mesas and valleys.

So you wake up each morning, open the window and see the sun rising over the mountains. You wake up and have a leisurely breakfast in the morning sun.

Most mornings we were on the trail by 9am for our daily trek. We had a donkey to carry our packs and a couple local guides supplied by the town we stayed in that night, as well as our guide for the whole trip. Most days we trekked about 5 hours, some uphill but mostly flatland along the edges of the mesas where the communities were.

We would stop for a picnic lunch somewhere along the way and usually arrived at the next community around 2pm, had a snack and time to just relax and have some fun.

It really was a great way to see how the majority of Ethiopians live and do it in a way that aids them. The majority of people in Ethiopia live outside of cities and a recent UN report said that around 70% of Ethiopians live on less that 2$ a day. In the country I am sure that number is something like 97%. And yet they were quite friendly for the most part. They invited us in and cooked for us.

The kids tending the cattle and goats in the fields all ran when they saw us to have a picture taken. The communities we stayed in were grateful and we had one evening where we stood around with some of the men and some children, they gave us some local brew beer, served to us in a re-used tin can (recycling on a new level!), one man pulled out his prized battery-operated tape player, turned on some music and we danced a bit with them until it got too dark to see.

I don’t want to romanticize life in the country (which is what we Westerners tend to do). It’s hard and dark. Women bear the brunt of the work, cooking, taking care of kids, hauling water, etc…

Life is good if you own a cow, some goats, some chickens and a dark little tukul that keeps the rain out when it comes.

Most kids don’t go to school. TESFA has been working with Save the Children out in this area and still no more than 50% of kids are in primary school and most will never go to high school. There’s no money to do it, no school nearby and even if they did, no opportunities to use the learning. Kids stay in the same village, grow up there, marry there, work there and die there. When we arrived back in Addis it all of a sudden felt pretty luxurious, imagine being able to take an automobile to go get a pizza! Can’t say I ever thought of life in Addis as easy before but that’s exactly what it is compared to the country. Guess it is all a matter of perspective.

We had a great break and are happy to be back in the city, back into the routine and starting to think of all the things that have to be done before we arrive back in Canada . Hope to see you all there


Nolana’s Random Chaotic Bits of Ethiopia

Every time we get water, when we turn our water on for the first time, it comes out of the tap brown for the first 5 seconds.

The grossest thing I have seen is a dog chewing on a goat head (same as chewing on a bone, I guess???)!

In the hospital I have learned how to be creative in order to work with the limited things we have available to us. I have recreated a few things we use back home.

Because our water usually doesn’t come on (usually 1-2x a week) til 10pm or later, and goes off by 6:30 am (a good way to keep people from using water is to have it on only during the sleeping hours) and because it takes 1-2 hours for the water heater to heat the water once the water turns on and we have plugged in the water heater, this has resulted in infrequent running water showers. This means we resort to boiling water from our barrel and showering with a bucket of boiled water! The last time we had a hot running water shower at our house was in early Nov. The longest we have gone without getting running water to refill our barrels is 8 days.

Fruit and veggies are cheap here! Papaya and mango 60¢/kg, limes and grapefruits 50¢/kg, oranges 40¢/kg, bananas and tomatoes 35¢/kg, carrots 30¢/kg, potatoes 25¢/kg… just to name a few.

I sunburn easier here because of the high elevation.

I also have a brutal farmers tan because of always wearing t-shirts during the day.

I have never seen hydrocephalus (water on the brain) before. This is because back home people either abort or if they have the baby the baby receives treatment. But here I have seen so many cases of hydrocephalus in 2 year olds that haven’t been treated. Their heads are huge! Once it gets to this point, it is too late for treatment to be that effective.
All the drains in our house (sinks, bathroom floor, + shower floor) are at the highest point. So we have a line of brick at the bathroom entrance to keep the water contained. And after we shower, we have a squeegee to bring the water on the floor to the drain.

The scaffolding here looks so sketchy. Just eucalyptus sticks! Apparently there are lots of injuries resulting from the scaffolding here.

I love the food here. It is fun to eat with your hands, well actually with your hand. You use you right hand for eating and shaking people’s hands and your left hand is supposed to be used for other things that are dirtier such as bathroom things!

I think beauty is children in school uniforms on their way to school. That is a privilege here.

I find it sad to see so many children working on the streets during the day, running change for taxi’s, cleaning and polishing shoes, selling lottery tickets, or begging!

There are a lot of beggars in Addis. First of all, everyone asks for money from us even if they aren’t beggars because we have white skin. Second, the most interesting place I have been when asked for money was in the bakery. I was buying bread and after paying, the bakery lady, asked for more money, so I thought I hadn’t given her enough for the bread. After attempting to communicate with my limited Amharic, I realized she was begging while working a job!!!

It is very common to see boys or men riding on top of a massive load of what ever on the back of a large truck while flying down the highway.

It is also very common to see boys and men peeing on the side of the road, or where ever they please, including facing the street!

I have been pick-pocketed once. It happened right outside our apartment complex at 6 in the morning as I left for work. It happened to quick. I felt a hand in my front jean pocket and it took me a second to process what was happening. Then I realized the 12 yr. old boy who had just passed me had tried to pick-pocket me, but when I turned around to chase him I realized he wasn’t running??? That is because my money wasn’t in that pocket, it was in my inside jacket pocket! Too bad for him and lucky for me!

Occasionally on the side of the street you will pass a pile of goat skins, beside a pile of goat hooves (feet), beside a pile of goat heads.

When I go home from work during rush hour, our place is a very busy place to get to with not enough minibuses for all the people. This results in some bruise-making pushing to get on the minibus. So when in Rome do as the Romans do! So I push. And not to brag but I can push like any good Ethiopian can. I love the feeling of pushing my way on to the minibus, looking around at who got on and seeing that I am the only female that pushed their way on. And the people on the bus always look at me surprised that I, a ferenji (foreigner) managed to get on!

I want to adopt so many children here!