Oct 28, 2008

Fifteen Minutes of Love (I'm back!)




It's me! I'm back from Ethiopia and doing great. Mom and I had a blast in Ethiopia (mom is actually still there for a couple more days). Blast is such a poor word! It was out of this world! And yes, the boys and I are loving our reunion and man did it make the heart grow fonder. Wow, it's like honeymoon these days. Thank you Jerry's mom for your mega helping hands! And thanks papa for whipping those boys into really good behavior (not literally, of course!). Nothing like scary dad power while scary mom's away.

I hate writing so much so I made a whopper of a travel montage for your viewing and listening pleasure. So very sparingly will I quickly jot down here a few travel tidbits and perhaps a tip or two. But then darn it, please watch my video, all 15 minutes of it . Yes, pull up a chair, it's a doozy! You'll love it.

Village Ethiopia, the Ethiopia-based travel agency we used, is phenomenal. I mean really truly amazing. They stole my heart.

Bilen Lodge near Awash National Park, in the heart of Afari tribe and camel country, was our favorite part. Bring your binoculars and Eastern African bird books. During our last trip to Ethiopia (the Bale Mountains) Jerry and I saw wart hogs, dik dik, vervet monkeys, & olive baboons; during this trip add all that plus oryx, gazelle, gernuk and a whole lot of bird species (carmine bee eaters, corey and little brown bustards, and ground hornbills, among my favorites . . . as well as flamingoes en route to Harar). No lions, no lion roars, and no crocs sadly enough, although I searched and stayed awake in the hopes of one itty bitty lion roar (just the sad aahh-wooo of hyenas instead). A bit of warning, though; this part of the country is hot, dry, still, quiet, volcanic, and minimal. Not for the city-only lovers. It was perfect.

Harar was insane. Crowded, busy, and over-stimulated. One lady threw chat at me when she thought I was taking her picture, but she did so with a pretty smile and a pretty gold tooth shining at me. Chat, chat, chat, even the goats are enjoying it off the streets. Men use mortar and pestle after teeth have rotted out to grind their morsels of chat where their teeth cannot (it's bad for teeth). I tried it, but didn't really feel anything. I think I needed more . . . judge if you must, the people seemed happy and it is widely exported and bringing home cash. Muslims consume it as well as Christians.

Harari people are Muslim like the Afari, and populate behind the walls of Harar. Indeed, there are some 82 mosques. Christians and Oromo largely populate outside the walls. Despite the global hatred between these two religions, Harar won the 2004 UNESCO Cities for Peace Award. I also think it's funny that at heart, it's a party town of sorts and they have a thriving brewery (which we toured). I recommend Harar Beer during your trip to Ethiopia.

Harar was nutso, yet I think it was Harar and the journey east in which we felt most immersed into the culture and sustained mega doses of culture shock. It was amazing and after my sting of shock, I look back now and am so glad we experienced the ancient city. It wouldn't have been complete without the sensations and color of Harar. We stayed inside the old walls in a traditional Harari (Adari) house of which I have pictures of in my Ethiopia books at home. I remember our last morning there the prayers started at 4 a.m. and went on for four more hours. Oh, and yes, I fed hyenas!

Lalibela was miraculous. Eleven rock-hewn churches built in the 12th century by who knows who, not to mention the even older Yemrehanna Kristos cave church. A wonder historical place indeed, heavily Christian. Amhara country. Unofficial 8th wonder of the world, no doubt needs to be official. You won't believe your eyes. Surrounded by the Lasta Mountains, I didn't know Lalibela would be so beautiful. Did you know Bill and Chelsea Clinton were just there? Our guide had the pleasure of leading them around. Old mom had a hell of a time walking the rocky paved churches, but what a trooper. (I was fine in flip flops.) If you are desiring a quick jaunt up north during your time in Ethiopia, you can fly early from Addis and get to Lalibela in the morning. This is enough time to see all the churches in one day. We very smartly flew out at 4:30 late afternoon the next day which left us enough time to get to and tour Yemrehanna Kristos (a must see). But remember to bring plenty of spare birr on your hike to the cave. Blind beggars line the way and it would be a sin to deny them money.

Addis Ababa, well, still crazy and hectic, but entertainment abounds. Don't miss Entoto mountain and visit the woman's former wood carrier's weaving shop at the base of the hill for a lovely hand woven scarf or basket. Of course there is the Mercado, largest open-air African Market (not really for the weak like me, but you must at least drive through). Also, stop by a city book store if you can. I found a few good children's books in English with Ethiopian characters and a child's Amharic music CD. Not a lot, but inexpensive.

The Hilton is fun with a nice large compound, swanky people, good food, and a pool. But staying there behind the compound walls you would never know you are actually in Ethiopia and I felt uncomfortable leaving on foot outside the gate (I mean, where am I?). I recommend whole heartily the Damu Hotel near the airport. There is a great cozy quality about the place and surrounded by bars and restaurants including one of each within the hotel. The bell boy even remembered me (and I him) from our last visit 2 years ago! Incidentally, after scratching my head about it, it finally dawned on me that our airport shuttler was the same man Jerry and I hired on our first day in Addis two years ago. He was thrilled to remember us and I him.

Did I tell you we visited the hospital where my sons were born? I am going to leave it at that, but I will say that it is nice to know that the birth date on my sons' adoption paperwork is indeed accurate. Now I know birth weights and times of baby #1-3.

Didn't I say something about not writing so much? Gads, I can't go on. Watch the video.

21 comments:

Dani said...

Wow, love it! Wish I could go back right now.

Julie said...

Fantastic!!

paige said...

Haven't watched the video yet, but I am just so happy you are back. You've been sorely missed, and not just by the menfolk you live with!

Stacy said...

oh I just want to go ... I think that when she is mature Lucy will be an awesome travel mate, just the right amount of spunk, energy, open mindedness and love of other people.

Tarah said...

Welcome home! I love the pictures. Like all the others, it really does make one wish they were back there. :)
What a neat experience to have people remember you.

Tarah said...
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Josh, Amy, Olivia, Josiah said...

Yay! I'm so glad you're back (and, judging by your pictures, it seems that several other people are, too:). Thank you for sharing so much of your beautiful trip. Josh and I didn't travel in Ethiopia this time, but we hope to someday. Your post is inspiring!

Kerry and Tom said...

WELCOME HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
thank you so much for this video.

Kerry and Tom said...
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Ricki said...

I am so glad to see you finally post! Loved the video....so many beautiful pictures. The end where the you had the video of the hyenas had me a little freaked out when they were "growling"...that is one scary sound!
I can't wait to hear from your mom...to see if she got to meet my baby boy:) Sounds like she is having a great time!
Your 4 boys must be so happy to have you home!
Ricki

MotherMotherOcean said...

Glad you are home safely. It sounds like a wonderful trip!

jayme said...

Welcome home mama, I've missed you!

Your trip looks & sounds incredible (how could it not be?). I've gotta admit I'm a little jealous.

Thanks once again for sharing your experiences with us!

M and M said...

What a great 'movie' - I needed popcorn! Yeah Village Ethiopia, and what a wonderful mosaic of memories you crafted with your mom. Wow...I'm ready to return myself - sooner rather than later!

Deirdre said...

You make me want to call my travel agent. What a beautiful slideshow! I'm so, so happy the trip was fruitful (even if you didn't hear the lion's roar).

FrogMom said...

I finally got a chance to sit down and watch the whole thing with my crew. What a great video! Seriously it looks like the trip of a lifetime.

Thanks especially for letting us know that the Hyena man is hot ;)

Nancy said...

I think the hyenas are my favorite part. I don't know why I love them.

Well lady, that is quite the trip - a lot of great moments. How does it feel to be back? I bet it was quite the reunion to be back with your boys.

Can you email me please? I have a question about your cousin.

urdvine@hotmail.com

Cindy said...

That was wonderful! I want to go back too!!!

Kelly said...

Absolutely spectacular! Oh the views, the mountains, the trees! So beautiful! Those hyenas are just crazy, I'm glad one didn't eat you! hee hee! Thank you sooo much for sharing, I feel so privileged to have gotten to see that.

Jen and Dan said...

Wonderful Cindy! Thank you for putting together such a fantastic video! I loved all of it and loved hearing the prayers in the background of the hyena video!

ethiograndma said...
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ethiograndma said...

Yes, old mom (AKA GOOD old mom) and Cindy had a marvelous time. Getting out of Addis Ababa and into some of the historical and scenic areas gave us a much better understanding of the beauty and wonder of Ethiopia. Our guides were awesome...Seleshie Gebre from Village Ethiopia is not only a superb guide, but a wonderful person. V. E. also arranged for us to have Fikru Georgis in Lalibela. Fikru was also very kind and very knowledgeable. Cindy, your montage is amazing!