Yoga Journal Pose of the Day

Saturday, January 24, 2009

last day traffic

Strange bird noises woke me again on my last day in Ethiopia, like they had when we were in Bahar Dar. Awasa is a lovely city by another lake, south of Addis. All sorts of birdlife are attracted to the waters of Lake Awasa, kingfishers, storks, crakes, darters, plovers, and herons. In the tops of the thorny acacia trees, the marabou storks ignore the traffic below.

We drove to Lake Langano, but it was not possible to swim today because the waters were quite green with algae. The traffic of livestock being brought to the water to drink and bathe may have had something to do with it. Such traffic can only have a huge inpact on the amount of nitrogen in the water!

Back in Addis, here's another interesting sight we saw, not one, but two trucks, precariously loaded like this:

dressed to run

Yesterday, even though my muscles were reminding me rather crossly that I had taxed them just a little by lifting weights at the gym on Thursday, I was pretty pleased with myself. You see, it's an exhilarating thing to set yourself a scary goal. And that's what has me jazzed up.

I finally committed myself to attempting my first marathon in May (details to follow). It is an event here in Canada, so you may be wondering why I'm blogging about it on a site that is supposed to be about running in Ethiopia. I'm so glad you asked!! It may make no sense at all to say this to you, but to me, it's all about Ethiopia. Maybe not November 2009, but I plan to return to do the Great Ethiopian Run again soon. And in the meantime, I have to keep running. And without a kinda scary goal, it's way too easy for me to lose "the juice".

So, recently somebody asked me what does one wear to run in the fluctuating winter temperatures of Canada. What indeed!

Winter running is challenging because running generates a lot of heat and being overdressed and then sweating a lot can cause you to get chilled and quite cold as your clothing gets wet. Therefore, it's a bit of a guessing game at first, to figure out how to dress, to imagine how heated up you actually get once you are well into a nice long run! The worst part of a long winter run is standing about freezing in your running gear (I hate this part!!), which you must do, because you know once you start to run, you get warmed up pretty quickly!

I usually wear:

1. coolmax/dryline underwear (technical material that wicks moisture away from the skin.)

2. smart wool socks (love those!!)

3. a base layer, especially on top, form-fitting with long sleeves, like long underwear, but also of technical material that wicks moisture away. I wear the same on bottom if the temperatures start to dip below -15 degrees C.

4. thermal/breathable long-sleeved running shirt and pants, also of a material that wicks moisture away from the skin.

5. an outer shell/jacket that is wind proof and also breathable. Rarely, I add a shell on the bottom when it's very windy and very cold, eg. -25 degrees C.

6. something on my head that ranges from a headband that covers my ears, to a thin, breathable hat, to a fleecy ski hat and/or balaclava as the temperatures drop and/or the wind rises.

7. fleece/breathable gloves or mitts (my hands are always the last part of my body to warm up!)

8. my Garmin

9. my running shoes

10. my belt with pockets for ID/money/power gels and water bottle (against my body heat, the water bottle hasn't frozen yet!)

Even then, after a run, it's important to get out of the wet gear quickly and into dry stuff because even on the hottest day in the summer, I start to chill and the body needs some time to recover. A warm drink always helps.

Thinking about all that reminded me of how I used to dress for long walks in the winter time. Here is a story I wrote for my granddaughter about that, with pictures! Maybe I should follow that up with pictures of how I dress now to run, eh? I could call it "Gramma Goes for a Winter Run".

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


November 2008:

When I revisited this photo the other day, it made me laugh at my naive enthusiasm. You see, I can see the road in the photo that leads from the top of Entoto, northward. There is a boundary at the top of Entoto, a boundary that marks the beginning of Oromo territory to the north of Addis. And that road, in the photo above, is already in Oromo Territory.

Where the road crosses into Oromo Territory, there is a check point. But I, on one of the occasions we had to cross here, didn't really notice the armed guards (yeah, I know: again!). I was thinking simply, "a boundary", like state lines, or crossing into another province in Canada. Sometimes we even have a colourful billboard at the border: "Rah Rah, and all that." But farthest from my mind was that it might be a hostile border!

However, as soon as my companions mildly suggested that taking photos of the border might not be a good idea, I noticed the armed guards! One of my friends teased me saying, he made it a habit not to photograph people carrying guns!

I remembered other "border crossings" in other parts of Ethiopia. The shared histories of the Amharas, Oromo people and other ethnic groups in Ethiopia does not mean that things are all that friendly between them. They may be a united front to outsiders, but there are hostilities within the nation. Of the many political groups who represent the interests of the Oromo people, some are in direct opposition to the current Tigray-led government and human rights groups have condemned the government's persecution of the Oromo people on many occasions.

So, even though the guards looked rather relaxed, even sleepy, I put my camera away!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

more gardens

November 24-25/08:

In my daydream strolls through some of Addis' finest gardens, I'm astounded as well as disappointed by the gardens of the Sheraton. They are beautiful, indeed, but I am surprised that the grounds are not larger. Everything also smacks of being very new, unlike some of the other older properties of Addis' embassies and hotels. There, the trees are quite impressive. However, I'm much more relaxed here and there is no obvious armed guard as in so much of the rest of Addis! In fact, several of the staff on the grounds take the time to chat with me as if I could afford to be a guest of the hotel -- a lovely idea, that!!

As I'm leaving I am momentarily confused. Doesn't this seem like an anacronism? Christmas decorations in the middle of sunny Africa? No, it's not an anacronism! I realize, it is November, and many of the hotel's guests are indeed in the mood to celebrate Christmas. I think what is jarring are the European/North American references in the choice of decoration: evergreen garlands and red bows!


November 24-25/08:

After the race, I finally had the opportunity to relax a little and daydream my way through some gardens. The first garden I visited was the garden on the grounds of the Ghion Hotel. Hardly anybody else was walking in the gardens. I ran into one white lady, binoculars in hand, who was bird-watching. The gardens are a lovely oasis in the middle of Addis.

There is one thing, however, that I cannot get use to. Armed guards stroll casually through the grounds. And after my trauma after the race, I can't help wondering. Are the guards keeping rabble out of the gardens, are they protecting me, or are they watching me...???

It is a concept I am not used to at all. I tend to go through my life not really thinking much about people who have less than I do. I tend to look around me and assume people are pretty much like me. I have no concept of what it is like to be surrounded by desperation so profound that it might push people to steal or worse. A comment an Ethiopian friend made has stuck with me. He commented on how nice it must be to live in a house that is not surrounded by walls topped with razor wire or shards of glass, to be able to look out your windows and see an unobstructed view of the countryside.

Sometimes, I think when we travel, we forget how others look at us. For example, Europeans and North Americans are viewed as incredibly wealthy by many in Africa. We may be enjoying what is strange, different, quaint and unique about their costume and customs, but is the way of life for them. Our reactions are completely filtered through our prior experience and rarely prepare us to just see, without the added layers of our judgments.

Friday, January 16, 2009

forests of Entoto

The forests on the Entoto Mountains are important in many ways to Addis. Besides being the primary source of wood for fuel and building, they are an enclave of quiet. Ethiopia's famous runners challenge themselves here, running up and down the steep mountain side as part of their training. Residents of Addis often come up to Entoto to sit and picnic or to chew chat.
The Entoto Natural Park can also be found here, and although quite undeveloped as yet, it is hoped that it will be a conservation area in which it will be possible to spot some of Ethiopia's wildlife.

Kitfo and Tej

November 21-22/08: My friends took me north of the city, on the other side of Entoto, into Oromia, to sample some of the finest tej and kitfo in the area.

Tej is a honey-wine. It can be quite wonderful. The first bottle arrived and was rather fiery stuff. Cooled a little with a milder bottle, it went down pretty smoothly and it could have been far too easy for me to lose track of how many birilles I had consumed!

I had tasted tej before in Lalibela, where it tasted somewhat muddy and had a pronounced after-taste of minerals. This time the tej was far superior and justifiably deserving of its reputation as the traditional drink of Ethiopian kings.

The appetizer, tibs, most probably sliced up lamb, pan fried in butter with onion and mild chili peppers, served with berbere on the side. Injera, the bread/pancake-like staple of the Ethiopian diet is made from an endemic grain called tef. A roll of it is often placed at the side and one breaks off a piece of it to use as an eating utensil. Food is usually eaten by everyone off a shared plate.

The kitfo arrives. Kitfo is a specialty made from the leanest beef, minced and warmed in a pan with a little berbere and thyme. Traditionally, it is served only just warmed, much like steak tartare, but I didn't think I would be able to do that! So for me it was served betam leb leb, ie 'very well warmed' or well cooked.

Kitfo is also often served with kotcho, false-banana bread, made from enset. It looks something like two squares of bread smashed together with a whitish substance something like cheese in the middle. I have to admit, it must be an acquired taste that I have not acquired! Kotcho is visible in the photo above as the square piece at the edge of the plate in the foreground at 6 o'clock and as the brown square at 11:00 o'clock.
The photo below shows enset growing in a friend's garden.
Kitfo is often served with aib and gomen (something like cottage cheese and minced spinach). I just missed showing you how attractively the food was presented, the aib and gomen arriving in a small bowl in which the two were swirled in a pattern something like a flower. You'll just have to use your imagination.

Okay, as we're leaving the restaurant compound, I know I had a lot of tej to drink, but isn't there something wrong with that sign?