Thursday, August 02, 2007

Southern Ethiopia part 4

Sorry it has taken so long to complete Ethiopia. I'm about 3 weeks behind in writing.

I left off arriving in Arba Minch, fighting off the plonkers and finally finding a room. It was an ok price, but it was probably the worst room we stayed in in Africa. The toilet was broken, there was a horrible smell of sewage and sweat, and the bar was loud late into the night. We went to sleep worrying if we'd be able to get money from Western Union the next day since we spent almost half of our remaining cash online trying to transfer money to ourselves.

The next morning we go into the bank, show our ID, and they can't find our transaction in the system. Then they tell us there is no way to send money direct from abroad to this town, it has to be sent to Addis. We say there has to be a way and we have to go up and talk to the bank manager. Stacey was on the verge of a breakdown, very worried. We started explaining the story to the bank manager and she started crying. I told her to wait outside and I asked the manager what the options were. He was more than helpful, even took out 100 birr and offered it to me "for my touble" he said...I told him that wasn't neccessary yet, just needed help getting our transfer. He said he will make some calls and find out.

In the meantime I went back online and grabbed the receipt number for the transfer...brought that over to the bank and finally something happened and they found the money. Still took about 45 minutes for it all to clear, but we were free and loaded with cash. Moved to a nice clean room, bought a bus ticket to Addis for the next day, and decided to spend the afternoon hiking in the mountains.

We wanted a nice serene hike, away from all the hassles, but as soon as we started walking a herd of runty children started following us. We hoped online for a short distance (we had walked through their village) and most of them dropped away after about 20 minutes, but a pack of about 6 kids followed us for over 2 hours trying to show us the way. It was a nice hike, bumped into a lot of farmers and people gathering wood in the hills. Everyone was very friendly. We tried to reach the summit of a nearby peak, but couldn't find a trail to the top. On the way back the kids following us (who now knew our names) started chanting "Josh 1 birr" and "Josh money" for a good half hour. I picked up a rock and pretended to throw it at them a couple times, but they kept coming back. Never expect any peaceful moments in ethiopia...lesson learned. There's always a child trying to beg from you, an asshole trying to show you a hotel, and so many times i'm at the edge of screaming dealing with those bastards right when someone extremely nice comes along and just wants to talk to a foreigner and maybe buy you a coffee...a land of extremes.

We bumped into our friend Wanderson who we met in Torme and made plans to meet up in Addis that weekend. Next morning at 5am took the bus from Arba Minch to Addis, rouchly 13 hours on the aforementioned miserable ethiopian bus system.

Got to Addis, checked into a decent hotel, and called Mahala. She is one of my best friends from home's mom who has moved back to Ethiopia. She came and picked us up, took us out to a nice dinner and promised to show us around town. Next day we met up with Wanderson after lunch, and he took us out to chew qat for the afternoon. Had a nice time sitting in a little cramped room chewing qat and eating peanuts with a bunch of wild-eyed qat-crazed ethiopians. That night met up with Mahala again and got to call home to the parents for the first time in a few weeks.

Next day was stacey's birthday and we checked into a decent hotel with a real shower paid for by the parents. Nothing too extravagant, but it was better than we were used to. We found a ticket to lalibella and booked the bus for the next day. It would take 2 full days to get there. Nothing too exciting happened on the 2 days of bus rides, just the usual getting stuck for an hour, tire blowout in the rain, children puking, and horrible bleating goat music.

Finally, got to lalibella and it was beautiful. As you can see from some of the pictures below (some were from the bus window, it was incredibly scenic) northern ethiopia is stunning. The town itself is extremely religious and centered around 2 clusters of rock-hewn churches. they took about 40 years each to carve out of the rock and they are still in use today. In fact, much more interesting to me than the physical churches, arethe pilgrims and various monks/nuns who live in and around the churches giving them a very holy feel and making them seem alive. The walls are covered with pictures from the old and new testament, interestingly usually with black characters instead of white ones...I tried to take a picture of Jesus with an afro, but it was too dark to come out. We took a guide and it was nice to learn more about the symbolism inherent in the design. He also took us into one church with an incense ceremony going on...he never fully explained what the ceremony was about, just that it only happened once a month so we were lucky to see it. There is a video of it in the first picture post.

Getting a little long, will try to finish off ethiopia and start on egypt in the next couple days.


Stacey said...

Hi Josh...Pix are beautiful and your stories are great. Can't wait to read your rendition of the passport story! Love, mom
ps Duck tape rules!

August 2, 2007 2:46 PM  

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