Yoga Journal Pose of the Day

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

diary, part 8


Fields of tef, the endemic grain used to make injera, the national staple, even more seriously so than bread is to Finns!

At the edge of the escarpments into the Abbay Gorge.

school boys

curious geological formations

a priest, perhaps a holy artifact under the cloth in the shelter; offerings happily accepted

Again, the descent into the Abbay gorge was unnerving.

Fehim and Kassahun meet more former cohorts from their own construction days.

Traffic comes to a standstill as construction work blocks the road.

A priest from a nearby church comes out to take advantage of the traffic. He will open his colourful umbrella for you to toss in a few coins as an offering.

The bridge comes into view.

The new bridge to the left; we must use the old bridge to the right. Only one car at a time is permitted to be on the old bridge, which is hardly reassuring!

The Blue Nile heading south to travel around the Goggam region before it turns west and north to enter Sudan.

looking west at the two bridges in the Abbay Gorge, the older bridge built by the Italians

Ethiopia's variation on traffic is livestock.

The Blue Nile down in the Abbay Gorge.

Some of Ethiopia's interesting flora:

I would have loved to have been able to take more photos of the interesting people along the way, each region with it's own particular style of dress and hairstyle. Some of the men quite dapper, invariably carried walking sticks or a gun across their shoulders, some obviously ex-military.

a village in Oromia

I am exhausted, so shattered that I have no energy to visit this church near the monastery of Debre Libanos. Debre Libanos dates from the 13th century, built by one of Ethiopia's most revered saints, Tekla Haimanot. Situated on the edge of a spectacular gorge, not much of the original buildings remain. This present church was built in 1961 by Heile Selassie. A cross shaped tomb near the car park is dedicated to memory of the monks and deacons of the monastery brutally massacred in 1937 during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia. I wait in the car while Kassahun visits his father's grave nearby.
I was so exhausted that I barely noticed some interesting painted rock carvings on the descent of Entoto into Addis, depicting historically significant things like the stellae of Axum. We also passed some residences and training facilities of Ethiopia's elite runners.
I am dangerous when I tired; I left my camera in Kassahun's car when he dropped me off at my hotel -- worry about that tomorrow. I managed to have some soup and a beer before retiring to my room to drop into the sleep of the dead!

diary, part 7

Taking our leave of the SDA misssion in Debre Tabor

19/11/08: Just before we leave, Megan tells me that there is internet access in Debre Tabor and takes me to the Pastor Adissu's office, where it really is working! I'm nervous and excited and dash off an update to my family and friends, the first email I've been able to send from Ethiopia!

My visit is over and we have to leave, aiming to be out of the mountains before nightfall. I'm quite choked up as Dr. Arvid says goodbye to us and tells me to be good. He's a joker, but then for a moment has regrets, thinking I might take offense. He doesn't mean anything by that of course, and I assure him I won't make promises I can't keep.

We nearly forget to leave behind the clothes I brought from Canada. We had stopped at a house in town to get some honey for Fehim when we remember. Kassahun phones Dr. Arvid at the mission and somebody comes to fetch the clothes.

The drive back to Bahar Dar is just as spectacular in reverse.

Again the descent is a little nerve wracking, warning signs of construction ahead, minimal. I mean really, one man working?? I don't think that is what is intended, but I love the different versions of English one finds around the world. There's a whole book in that subject, I'm sure. English is not as "universal" as one might hope.

(click on the photo above to get a better look at the sign!)

It feels rather like the wild, wild west. Men carrying weapons are quite commonplace.

The strange ambas we saw on the way to Debre Tabor, are now bathed in the last rays of the dying sun. The top of this one, covered like icing in bird droppings, has a name that translates to "eagle mountain".

The dust is almost unbearable, and we spend a lot of time cranking the windows up and down as we pass other vehicles, or the wind stirs it up.

The gun culture again (evident in the photo below, barely visible in front of the white truck); we come upon a small transport truck and up upon the load, two men with guns, semi-automatic weapons.

Down in the valley of the Reb Riber, rice is cultivated.

We arrive back in Bahar Dar at sunset. I'm tired and grimy with dust, but it's nothing that a shower can't fix. Then, I have a beer by the pool of our hotel. Sheer luxury. Later, Kassahun and I meet Fehim and his friend at a quaint little restaurant in town. The food is good and we eat outside in an intimate and rather romantic outdoor patio.
20/11/08: I sleep poorly. The next morning, we are to leave early. It's a long drive back to Addis. But first, I want to photograph a little of Bahar Dar:

The Blue Nile, viewed from a bridge just outside town, about 1 km south from where it exits Lake Tana.

The lovely avenues of Bahar Dar, lined with palms.

The aforementioned "Obama Cafe". Somebody has a sense of humour, doctoring a photo of a traditionally dressed woman to carry a hamburger instead of a basket and to carry a can of pop. (I will see another Obama Cafe in Addis on Churchill Avenue.)

We breakfast at this fruit juice bar and I try the avacado juice drink Fehim suggests, thinking it would at least be very nourishing and filling. It is delicious, sweetened just a touch with something and after a shot of fresh lime juice over it, it is very refreshing. But not drinkable -- it must be eaten with a spoon, like a soft icecream! I also nabbed a bit of Fehim's egg sandwich. A large macchiato is becoming an addiction!
Fehim asks me if I felt my mission was a success. Yes, Debre Tabor was more than I had hoped for. Now, only the race and a visit to an Ethiopia Reads library are left!

Across the street, the clinic is still closed, but small boys busy selling things to passersby, take a break to play with a stray puppy.

Fehim and Kassahun joke, tell stories and argue about politics all the way back to Addis. I'm starting to pick up more and more of the conversation, my meager Amharic stretching its infant muscles!

We stop in a village along the way so that I can buy an agelgil . It is the local version of a lunch box, a goat-skin clad basket with a lid that is fastened down with leather straps. It also has a loop of leather for carrying it. A small boy who knows he is unbearably cute, begs for treats, for money, for "highland". Highland is one brand of bottled water and also refers to the empty bottles as well. When the little boy, so much more audacious than his older sisters, snags himself a coveted bottle, he couldn't be more pleased with himself!
Children in Ethiopia often have their head shaved to get rid of lice. A top knot is left so that should God decide to call them, "God should have a handle with which to lift them unto Heaven."
We had picked up another traveler in a pretty suburb of Bahar Dar. She is on her way to see her son in Addis before he leaves for the U.S. He has apparently won the lottery for the ?DV, ie residency.
We stop again at the Shebel Hotel in Debre Markos for lunch. (Notice, we are using just the right hand for eating, never the left!)

I need my large macchiato!

Kassahun clowning around while I try to show you how the pop bottles' labels look written in the Amharic fidel.

Women are truly beasts of burden in Africa! If not carrying loads of wood or sacks of grain, they have children on their backs. The beautiful leather carrying pouch on the woman in the foreground is actually very practical. Strollers or baby carriages do not make much sense in Ethiopia's rough terrain. The clattering beads on the ends of the fringes are a lulling accompaniment that helps the child on her back go to sleep.

Friday, December 26, 2008

the stars

Here is a lovely story Dr. Arvid sent me.

To end my note I need to tell you a short story that pastor Turneh
Woldeselassie shared in the surmon on Sabbath in Addis Abeba. He just finished 4
weeks of meetings and 23 people were baptized. They have started to translate
the surmons into English because there are so many members from other African
countries that need it. Pastor Turneh felt it a little difficult to av an
'interruptor' as they somethime call a interpreter. So he told the following
story. 'In olden days many missionaries came from abroad to preach the gospel in
Ethiopia. (Now they need missionaries from us in Europe and America, he said)
But one time there was an American missionary. The Ethiopian translator was not
so very well versed in English and struggled some. After a while the missionary
started to preach about stars. And when he mentioned gallaxies and stuff, the
translator got lost. So he said to the congregation: Now the missionary has gone
to heaven, but if you just sit quietly and patiently and wait, I will tell you
what he has said when he returns to earth.' We all had a good laugh.

How lovely it would be if we could, in a matter of fact way, believe that the preacher had really gone to heaven for a while...I'm just thinking.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

diary, part 6

19/11/08: We come at last to the compound I remember from my childhood, but we do not enter from the west, where the gate used to be. We enter from the south, from behind the church and everything looks strange. My perspective as a child would have been from the north, from my home, which was almost exactly in the middle of the compound.

We go first to speak with the director of the hospital that presently occupies the west half of our former compound. (The east half, fenced off from the west half, is now a school of nursing and under a separate administration.) We are invited to look around.

This is what used to be the church once upon a time.

We walk around, coming first upon what used to be my mother's garden and the space where I remember a large fig tree was, from which the school bell used to hang. Dr. Arvid confirms my memory of this piece of the puzzle that is here no longer. We stumble a bit here in recalling exactly where my house used to be, but orientating myself to look towards where the head teacher of the school, our closest neighbour lived, I find myself standing on the mound of dirt where our house used to be.

Standing approximately on the spot where the tower on the west end of our house would have been, the end of the house where my Dad had his office. The black and white stone house in the background on the right is what was the head teacher's house.

looking east at the house, now painted black, where the head teacher and his family lived

The distance to our neighbour's, which in my childhood was such a long, long way, has shrunk somewhat!

Behind where our house would have been we find what used to be the school kitchens. My memories of childhood are filled with the smells of eucalyptus wood, smoke and the delicious aroma of berbere-infused cooking!

Dr. Arvid standing in front of the kitchens.

We peek inside to find that the kitchens are still being used much as they were 50 years ago!

The ladies in the kitchens are shy but allow us to take their picture.

The laundry with what was the mission's clinic on the left.

The front facade of the clinic has been painted this interesting green-blue!

What was the clinic is now used as the surgery for the hospital compound.

One of my earliest memories is of standing here under the front windows of the hospital, quite sad and lonely because my mother was in there, hospitalized on Dr. H's orders. I didn't know my mother was expecting twins and that Dr. H was concerned about toxemia. I only knew that I wasn't allowed to see her and my two-year old world was pretty empty without her!

This small wing with all the windows was Dr. H's surgery. My mother credits him with saving my brother T.'s life. As a newborn, T. suffered from what was perhaps a severe case of infant gastroesophageal reflux.

Dr. H has passed away so I won't have an opportunity to ask him about it, but I am sure Dr. H was pretty reluctant to consider surgery with the limited resources available to him here at that time! I believe, as my mother does, that angels guided Dr. H's hands when he did the surgery.

looking at the front of the clinic, relatively unchanged from 50 years ago; only the presence of new buildings, such as the one on the right, make the scene different

Turning around to look south, almost directly opposite the clinic across what was the drive from the gate into the compound, we look at what was the home of Dr. H and his family:

This is now the pediatric ward of the present-day hospital.

In the pediatric ward, what used to be the living room of Dr. H's home, patients and their families wait.
Just as we are leaving, a gentleman calls out to Dr. Arvid. This youthful gentleman and his father both worked as guards on our compound 50 years ago! Dr. Arvid says my father will this picture is for my Dad:

Dr. Arvid drives us around the south and east perimeter of the former compound and we pass a sports field I remember from my youth. As we're driving along, I'm pointing out the direction of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the direction in which the government school that was administered by our East Indian friends used to be. I'm amazed at how clear my memories are!
Then coming around to the north-west corner, I recall a well here which fascinated us as kids because we were endlessly amused to watch the frogs swimming in its water. My mother was always worried we were trying to get too close to the well, that we might fall in and I remember strict instructions never to come here on our own. In season, the ground was covered in fragrant white lilies.
The well is still there, in the picture above, and I will go to the well, I hope, when I visit Debre Tabor again!