Saturday, July 14, 2007

Southern Ethiopia Continued....

So I left off arriving in Yabello and somehow scrambling on the bus to
the town. We originally thought Yabello and Konso were very near,
walking distance. In fact, it was over 150km away. We thought we
could get to Konso that day, but we quickly learned the only transport
was by cargo trucks that people pile onto the back of. So we figured
we'd stay the night, I've been following the travel philosophy told to
me by someone I met in Thailand that any town is worth spending a day

It turned out that the day we arrived in Yabello (saturday) was a
market day. They set up a market on the one side of town and
villagers and tribespeople travel from miles away to come and
trade/barter at the market. We were able to walk around with our new
friendMelkius (i wrote his name wrong in the last entry). Of course,
we made it very clear to him in the beginning that we had no money to
give him, surprisingly he didn't care and just walked around with us
practicing his english and explaining some of the strange looking
things they were selling in the market (like mud and salt from the
salt lake 60km away). As were were leaving the market, we got a new
tag-a-along, a supposed student who wanted to be our guide (we have
now learned this is more than common in Ethiopia, there are at least 5
of these people meeting us in every town we've been in). He spoke
much better english than Melkius, and we made it very clear that it
would be great if he could show us around, but we had no money to pay
him (we had already started counting pennies not knowing when we'd be
near a bank). He had a pretty good sense of humor and said it was no

The town was really picturesque, it is in a valley surrounded by
mountains, so we hiked up to the top of one of the nearby mountains
with our two guides and were followed by children chanting "You You
You", "1 birr", "give me money", etc most of the way until our guides
finally shook them off. The view was very nice, then we took a path
the long way down through some villages who were all extremely
friendly and seemed very surprised to see us walking around the area.
We went back to our hotel, agreeing to meet up with our new guides for
dinner that night. Also important, the guide who spoke good english
had a ethiopian guidebook someone gave him as a tip...since we had
very little money, we paid him $5 for it...looking back it was a
pretty fair price since it's $20 new and it was 6yrs old (he
originally wanted $15). The book's been invaluable since...

After we got back, I go into the bar area for a coke and some drunk
guy named Abraham called me over and bought me a beer. Abraham spoke
very little english, but he was very clear that he loved white people.
Some Norwegian missionaries gave him his first job, and since then he
feels it his duty to help any white people who come along. He forced
me to drink 2 more beers and some snacks, and he showed us the 30
pictures in his phone of his family 3 -4 four times (forgetting that
he just showed us the same pictures 10 minutes before). The
conversation went pretty much like "I love white people, here this is
Abraham wife Mulu, Abraham house, Abraham daughter Melke, Abraham and
Abraham wife, etc." And us saying "o wow, beautiful wife, such a nice
house, aww so cute" He was incredibly sweet, and no doubt genuine.
Finally our one guide came into the bar and Abraham started buying him
drinks too and the guide was translated for us. He then had to go
home to eat but invited us for breakfast the next day.

We took our two guides out to dinner, woke up the next day and met
Abraham who somehow remembered to come pick us up. We met the one
guide who could translate and we went to Abraham's house and met his
family which we had seen so many pictures of. His house was very
nice, he was relatively well off in Ethiopia, and we sat down and he
showed us all his photo albums of the Norwegian missionaries, his
wedding, and his family. Was all very nice, a little awkward, but we
really appreciated him, he said if we ever come back we must stay at
his house, he will definitely be getting a holiday card, along with
Dennis in Tanzania...we left there about 9am then went back to find a
truck to hitch onto and take to Konso.

Stacey went to look for a truck, and I played our guide in ping
pong...of course the white guy playing ping pong attracted a lot of
attention around the town...within 10 minutes a crowd of 30 people
were watching us. He was no match for my skills and i beat him by
8-10 points 3 games in a row. Our "guide" had told us no truck leaves
till noon, but this was probably just a ploy to get us stuck there
another day or to get us on a truck that will pay him a commission
because stacey found one leaving at 10am and we somehow got the real
ethiopian price of $2/person with a little help from some other
passengers. We gathered our stuff and jumped in the back. This being
africa, 10am meant they pull out of the parking spot, then slowly go
through town stopping roughly every 10 meters for about an hour
picking up more passengers before really leaving.

The truck ride was a trip in itself. Everyone stared at us for most
of the ride talking about us (i counted about 22 people piled in the
back, with all sorts of luggage), then a couple people who spoke
english started talking to us. There was mix of tribespeople and
townspeople...everyone thought we were husband and wife and it took a
lot of convincing till they believed we were brother and sister. It
was a nice, scenic ride and relatively uneventful until we get near a
stream...suddenly, one of the guys jumps off the truck while it's
still moving and he runs into the stream strips down and starts
swimming. Before we knew it the truck pulls into the stream and all
the guys jump out, strip down to their underwear (one of them naked)
running around in the water like 5 year olds in a swimming pool
splashing and wrestling. Then someone produces soap and they all take
a bath. It was very surreal...i kept thinking "where the hell am I."
This lasted over an hour.

After 5 hours on the road/bathing, we arrive in Konso. Suddenly, a
huge argument erupts between two of the passengers. Everyone had been
sitting on everyone elses' bags the whole time and the one guy who
wouldn't let anyone even touch his bag was sitting on a woman's
plastic container the whole ride and had cracked the top. The woman
started screaming at him, on the verge of tears, and picked up his bag
threatening to throw it off the truck in the dirt. It's time for the
goofy looking foreigner to come in to save the day...I produce God's
holy instrument of repair, my mini roll of duct tape, patch up her
container and calmed the situation down...a few more words were
exchanged but she had a huge smile on her face and the crowd
dispersed. Stacey got a great picture of me introducing duct tape to
the locals and we went off to find some food and a hotel...

Enough excited blogging today...I'll try to finish our story
tomorrow...more hitchiking, skirting the law, and naked tribeswomen to


Anonymous said...

Interesting posting. I am from Ethiopia, but have never been to the area you described here.

One observation, you name as a Cohanim, carries a lot of burden and responsibility. I am surprised to read that you were travelling and shopping on a Saturday. Is it not a day to reflect your past week?

July 14, 2007 8:33 PM  

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