The one I wrote Monday morning

I wrote this early Monday morning.


Except for the fact that I still have no luggage and I’m getting reallllllly tired of these pants, today was a great day.

Isn’t that what I wrote yesterday?  Well, same thing today.

Sunday started off slowly.  You don’t really need an alarm clock in a city where the muezzin begins the first call to prayer at 5:00 am. Although Ethiopia has been a Christian country since 325 AD, the Moslem presence is strong; huge sound systems have supplanted the need for excessively strong lungs, and the still of the early morning is broken by a recorded (I think) Allah is great, Allah is good, come to prayer! Not a lot of sleeping in goes on here.

Eventually, we tumbled into the van with yet another new driver.  This one says sure if you ask him if he knows any particular school or orphanage.  I think he’d claim to know where Lunardi’s grocery store in Walnut Creek is.  Since there are few named streets, this depth of knowledge is critical, and I have my doubts that he has it.

First stop, a pottery to buy more clay.  Kechene Womens Potters is a collective pottery here in Addis which is the source of pretty much all the good ceramic work you can buy in the upscale hotel gift shops, fancy boutiques, etc.  We bought another 12 kilos of clay, which isn’t weighed out—they just pull out what feels like a 1 kilo ball, then another, then another, until they have 12.  Close enough for government work.

I then got dropped off at the Hilton, the town’s second best hotel, to luxuriate in a couple of hours of high-speed broadband internet.  Hence the three posts in a row.  Cleared up the 67 emails that had passed through 2 different spam filters.  Still a lot of spam.  I treated myself to a Baileys from the bar.  The young lady carefully measured out precisely one shot, hand pumped the water out of a 5 gallon bottle to give me glass, then charged me $5.00, tip included.

We had a meeting at 1:30 at the Hilton with Samson Tesfaye to discuss possible future Rotary Club involvement with the foundation.  Sam is perhaps the only Rotarian in Addis; he’s one of those guys who knows everyone, is involved in many things, jet sets around to “do deals”.  He is a real asset for us to know.

Then we went back to AHOPE for another workshop. Today we did animation, making things out of clay, photographing them, moving them a fraction and doing it again.  We have no fancy equipment, but just taking 40 or 60 photos and playing them back quickly on our cameras shows the basics of animation and the kids love it.  We could have car crashes and monsters eating each other and turning into new monsters.  The kids got to do all of the clay work.  One of our volunteers, Shauna, is an animation major in art school so it went really well.

The other volunteer, Shannon, a sculptor and one of Eric’s helpers, turned 26 on Sunday, so for a birthday dinner we went out to Yod Abyssinian, a truly tourist oriented restaurant where we enjoyed  authentic music and dance while digging into an enormous platter of local food.  Eric and I ordered kifte, which is marinated minced goat, served cooked or raw.  We went the manly raw way, of course.  The waiter looked aghast, saying that the tourists never like the raw version, but we were adamant.  Heck, I eat steak tartare and carpacio, why not this?

It was fine.  I had a problem with how spicy it was, not the raw meat part.  I loved the entire meal.  Since Shannon is vegetarian, we needed an extra dish.  What else? Shiro. But this was different than the others; it was pureed and tasted like an entrée pudding, just fabulous. We drank kef, which is some kind of fermented honey wine.  Not pretentious, with little nose but excellent body.  Hints of orange and pineapple, short legs, no tannins.  Wine spectator would give it a 38, but it was just the sort of thing I like.

The tab for this feast, beer, wine, Pepsi, extra shiro, music and dance was 628 birr. There are 13.5 birr to the dollar, so we blew $42 for the five of us.  The doorman sprang to attention and saluted as we left.

Religion:  I mentioned above that this has been a Christian nation since some Emperor was converted in 325 AD. The countryside is very heavily Christian, the cities have a significant Muslim population but they seem to get along fairly well.  This is because Ethiopian Muslims are not of the fanatical fundamentalist streak.  I see many women with the hair covered, but no veils or burquas.   The Christianity here is of the Orthodox variety, and part of it is “fasting” two days a week.  Fasting mean no meat or dairy products.  A couple of days a week of vegan food would probably do us all a bit of good.

Things I’ve Missed

Modernity has yet to come to agriculture here.  There are vast flower farms, which are a major export for the country.  Buy flowers in Europe, and most likely they came from here or Kenya.  Yet the subsistence farming is all hand work, no tractors, nor even steel plows.  Coming down the volcano Saturday, we saw a group of young men threshing wheat the old fashioned way—throwing it on the ground while the cattle walk in a circle over it, then throwing it all high in the air to sort the wheat from the chaff.

The countryside is spotless.  Not, I think, because the people are all so tidy, but rather because every last thing has to be used and re-used until there is only enough left to burn.  The city is filthy.  Such is progress.

Every school teaches English.  Amharic is the official language, and the one spoken in Addis, but there are 80 or so other languages spoken in the country and English ties them all together.  All the kids leading the horses and hanging around hoping for a tip as we made our way down the volcano spoke good English.

Ethiopia is a huge international adoption center.  Eric and Charlotte adopted their son Noah here 7 years ago, but then Angelina Jolie adopted one of her kids here and things just exploded.  At the restaurant around the pool at the Hilton yesterday I saw at least 6 white families with a tiny black baby, all just glowing with joy.  The whole subject of international/interracial adoption is fraught with controversy, but living in Wisconsin with loving parents just has to better than begging in the streets of Addis.

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