#5 Ethiopia, Feb. 6, 2011

Dear Everybody,

My last day in Lalibela was lovely, starting with visiting the four churches that I hadn’t seen the day before. I had agreed to meet my ‘guide’ at 9:00 AM, and there he was. He was so kind to me, helping me scramble over rocky surfaces and steep, slanty steps. He practically had to haul me up one set of gigantically high, but small steps. Anyway, the churches were magnificent. In one there were old murals of the Three Wise Men (whom Ethiopians claim were all from Ethiopia) and the Apostles, which I could barely see. In another each pillar had a carving on each corner of ‘angel eyes.’ In between the four churches we had to navigate two pitch black tunnels; my cellphone has a flashlight, which I used, but it didn’t throw much light.





After the churches, my guide led me through some residential areas where I could get a closer look at their living conditions. And then he put me on the road to the internet where I would try to send my #4 Ethiopia pdf file. I was successful, but each uploading took 32 minutes. Not a problem if one really believes that it will eventually finish and will be sendable, but it’s so suspenseful while waiting. In the meantime, too, these internets often cut out which is another problem if it happens during uploading. Luckily, it worked.

While at the internet, waiting for the uploading, I had a nice chat with two young men. One, a student, lived with his grandmother while he attended school, and invited me to come to his house. I did, and met his very gracious grandmother, whose house was one room with a dirt floor.




Three people live in that house—the grandmother, the boy, and another daughter, the boy’s aunt. Oh, how lucky we are! He said his grandmother allowed him free lodging, but he had to provide his own food, which he did by shining shoes. When he bought provisions for himself, his grandmother would prepare the food for him.

The next morning I had a ‘taxi’ scheduled to come at 6:00 AM to take me to the airport for an 8:30 flight to Addis Ababa. Of course it didn’t come until 6:30 which made me very nervous as the Ethiopian Airlines man had told me about ten times to check in at 6:30. Well, we finally got to the airport at 7:05 and there was nobody ready to check us in! Don’t I ever learn?

My new friend, Allem, was going to pick me up at the airport, but when I called him, he couldn’t drive into the airport because the Nigerian president was arriving. Actually, we passengers had to wait a while, too, until that had all cleared. I understand there is an all-Africa planning meeting going on, which is going to have Bill and Melinda Gates as honored speakers, because of their charity work in Africa. I got a cab to the hotel, which is the same hotel I stayed in before, but this time I’m in the historic part, built in 1898.

Later Allem arrived to take me to lunch. I had really spicy chicken with injera, and tej, the honey wine, at the Addis Ababa restaurant.

The next morning I braved the task of getting my visa renewed. I had heard horror stories of the process, but it went very smoothly. In fact, a woman of whom I asked directions told me that she worked at the Post Office and it was very near the Immigration Office, so she walked me there! After some process, they told me to come back to pick up my passport and new visa the next morning, which happened as promised!

When I got back to my hotel I had a scare. My cosmetic bag, which I had left on the dresser (glasses, contacts, hairbrush—everything) was gone. It turned out that the maid thought I had checked out because I had neatly put all my stuff in my pack and put it in the closet, along with my jacket. Let that be a lesson—not so neat!! Luckily I got it back.

I visited the Ethnological Museum, which was in the former palace of Haille Selassie. They have preserved his bedroom, bathroom and ‘changing room;’ then there was an art gallery, along with a lot of displays on the different ethnic tribes and their customs. The Hamar tribe apparently has a dramatic ‘coming of age’ ceremony when the young boys run across the backs of 15 to 30 cattle. It is imperative that they not fall off.

I had someone check my phone to see how much money I had left, as I have used it quite a bit. I wrote down the instructions (how do people know all this??) and stopped in a shop to buy another 50 birr ($3) credit. I asked the young woman to put it on my phone, which she did, cheerfully and efficiently.





The National Museum was also interesting. It is here that the bones of ‘Lucy’ (found in Ethiopia) are kept; on display are plaster casts of the bones (brown color) filled in with inferred ones to make a complete skeleton (white). My, she was short!










Allem picked me up and we drove to Debre Zeyit, a resort area about an hour out of Addis that has seven volcanic lakes. Allem’s daughter, son-in-law and grandsons who live in London, were visiting other relatives here. Allem is building a house in this area. We had lunch at a beautiful restaurant overlooking one of the lakes.

The next day Allem drove me into Addis Ababa because I hadn’t realized that I would be leaving for the south from Debre Zeyit, and I hadn’t gotten a supply of money. There are virtually no ATMs in the hinterland that one can count on. Allem spent the day working on a project, and I visited the ATM, had a lovely lunch and then went to a movie, “The Dilemma.”



We drove back out to Debre Zeyit late in the afternoon, and drove over to see Allem’s new house (in process) and also spent some time at the one that he rents. His caretaker woman made coffee the traditional way, which Allem augmented with some home-brewed cognac—very good!!








Then he sent her out to get us soup for our supper meal, which hit the spot. Earlier he stopped at the bus station to find out exactly which bus I would take the next day, and what time it went.

The next morning my motel had NO water! Nary a drop! I used my drinking water to wash my hands and that was about it! Allem came at 9:00 to put me on the bus for Ziway. Actually it turned out that I had to take three minibuses. On the way I saw a field of 50 to 100 camels just standing together—what a beautiful sight!

Ziway is a rural town on Lake Ziway, which is one of the Rift Valley chain of lakes. In a couple of million years, the continent of Africa will split in two along the Rift Valley, my guidebook says. At the moment it is home to many birds, which I photographed and will identify with my book when I get home. There was an awfully ugly stork and another pretty blue bird—a starling, I think. All together, I think I ‘got’ about 15 new birds. Then when I was walking back to town (I had taken a tuk-tuk out) I got a little lost and finally hired a horse and cart to transport me back to my hotel.

I am moving south towards the Omo Valley where there are many tribes of people of what we would call primative cultures. In the meantime, I’m enjoying lakes, birds and these rural towns. I wonder if I can send my emails tomorrow—I’ll try!


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