Top Ten Reasons You Know You’re Firenji (light-skinned foreigner) in Ethiopia

10. Someone is your group always carries Pedialyte

9.   You paid top dollar for a Lifestraw, and although you haven’t taken it out of its packaging, you manage to reference it at least once a day.

8. You brought your BuckID 7,412 miles, only to be told at a tourist attraction that it’s not internationally recognized, so you end up paying the crippling full price of $10.

7,214 miles from Columbus!

7,214 miles from Columbus!

7. You likened Eskista to ‘inverse twerking.’

6. You are crestfallen each time the baboons don’t wave back. You were sure you’d made a connection.

5. You were pleased you got a deal, paying 100 Birr for a 70-second Bajaj ride.

An enticing Bajaj - supposed to cost less than a taxi!

An enticing Bajaj – supposed to cost less than a taxi!

4. You brag about using the bathroom outside.

3. Where is Javed?

2. As soon as you enter a wifi zone, all conversation ends.

1. You can’t tell a sheep from a goat 

Niraj and Danny in between meetings with the client.

Niraj and Danny in between meetings with the client.

I overpacked…

Sooooo it’s been 16 days since we’ve arrived in Ethiopia and I’ve taken close to 1300 pictures (almost 15 gigs worth) and not one is of the rock where Simba was first introduced to the kingdom… still not happy about that one. Yes, we’re the team that hit the goat (at least we think it’s a goat) during a 14.5 hour drive. Yes, we’re the team, I can happily say, that has experienced an ailment (mostly stomach) of some sort. Yes, we’re the team that “trekked” the “Roof of Africa” aka The Simien Mountains. Yes, we’re the team that “pays” roughly $15 total for 5-star quality dinners (HA!). Yes, we’re the team that’s seen one too many naked men roaming the streets. And yes, I am the man who has harnessed his inner Steve Irwin (too soon?) and Austin Stevens to capture it all on film… well almost all of it. I decided to use roughly 2.6% of the pictures I’ve taken to show the beauty of Ethiopia… remember, T.I.A! (“This is Africa” for all of you farnajis)

Be forwarned… the blog system forces me to compress my beautiful 5MB+ pics to less than 1MB, so I apologize for the quality or lack thereof:

First Picture in Ethiopia... view from the hotel

First Picture in Ethiopia… view from the hotel of Addis Ababa

 

mmmmmmm

mmmmmmm

the countryside

the countryside

don't go chasin waterfalls...

“don’t go chasin waterfalls…”

looks friendly up until he bites your face off!

looks friendly up until he bites your face off!

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Danielle said this is a hibiscus, I told her it's a red flower.

Danielle said this is a hibiscus, I told her it’s a red flower.

10 people + 14 person van + ALLLLL the luggage + potentially a goat/sheep = too close for comfort

10 people + 14 person van + ALLLLL the luggage + potentially a goat/sheep as the 15th passenger = too close for comfort

O-H-I-O: Rift Valley style

O-H-I-O: Rift Valley style

a yellow flower

a yellow flower

Walia Ibex; an endangered species. These are 3 of the roughly 500 remaining.

Walia Ibex; an endangered species. These are 3 of the roughly 500 remaining.

a pink flower

a pink flower

O-H-I-O: Fasil Castle style

O-H-I-O: Fasil Castle style

Simien Mountains... up in the clouds

Simien Mountains… up in the clouds

"Dangerous for your life"... that edge leads to death

“Dangerous for your life”… this edge leads to death

IMG_1101

Remembering my elementary education that the Nile flows south to North. Here's where it starts, along with some hippos or crocodiles or something.

I remembered my elementary education. The Nile flows south to north and this is where it  starts. There are some hippos or crocodiles or something in the water.

Simien Mountains take 2

Simien Mountains take 2

almost 14000 feet above sea level

almost 14000 feet above sea level

you're welcome...

you’re welcome…

We, as humans, can learn from this picture. Baboons, goat, sheep, bovine, horses, etc all graze together in the fields. There are no feuds, no hate, no anger, just togetherness.

We, as humans, can learn from this picture. Baboons, goat, sheep, bovine, horses, etc all graze together in the fields. There are no feuds, no hate, no anger, just togetherness… not sure what happened when we left, but still a learning moment!

African Sunrise... from the hotel room

African Sunrise

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every time we stopped in what seemed to be a deserted area, a group of kids would come out of nowhere and run to our van. We gave them some pens and they naturally formed an O-H-I-O without instruction.

every time we stopped in what seemed to be a deserted area, a group of kids would come out of nowhere and run to our van. We gave them some pens and they naturally formed an O-H-I-O without instruction.

soaking it in.

soaking ALL of it in.

This concludes my post, however as the title indicates, I overpacked. One bag is (was) full of food (thanks mom!), anti-digestive issue meds, other various meds, a router which Danny and I just killed, toilet paper that is still packed, sugar-free lemon drops whose main ingredient  induces laxative effects (the worst), lysol wipes, toiletries, oatmeal, protein powder, peanut butter, tortillas, raw nuts, granola bars, soy nuts, bug spray, tissue packs, vitamins, ponchos, power strips and power converters. The other bag contains clothing. I’m sure I missed something, but needless to say, I overpacked.

Drive from Addis to Gondar

Screeeech! Thump.

I braced myself against the back seat of the van and waited to see what had happened. Our driver for the day pulled over to the right side of the road. A goat herder in a white turban carrying a walking stick approached us. To our left, the goat we had apparently just hit ran to the grass for safety. Kids started slowly collecting to our van like filaments to a magnet. Our driver and guide got out, while the guide’s beautiful young wife stayed with the rest of us. The seven of us looked at each other in shock and confusion. “Close the doors,” Ale said, as the crowd gathered. Javed and Niraj got out and stood at either side.

The goat herders, our guide and driver walked to the grassy area on the left, where the goat stood, its face bloody. They were talking in Amharic, arguing from the looks of their dramatic arm gestures. Our guide picked up the goat several times, perhaps weighing him, or indicating that he wasn’t badly injured. On our right, children from around ages 4-14 gathered. They had varying hues of dark skin and eyes, with closely cropped hair, a few shaved in geometric patterns. Big bright eyes, open and looking, mouths smiling when we smiled. By then, we had determined the temperature of the situation and had opened the door. To entertain the kids, Alejandra recited the few words in Amharic she had written down: “Hello,” “Nice to meet you,” “What is your name?”

Kids

Kids

On our left, the men were still arguing, lifting the goat.

Back on the right, Alejandra asked, “Should we count to ten and impress them?” So she did. One of the kids told us her name in perfect English. We looked at each other in awe. “Pencil?” another one asked. But we didn’t have any pencils available; everything was packed in our luggage and loaded in the back.

The driver came back to the van and got money out of the glove compartment. He brought it to the goat herders; later we found out he paid 500 Ethiopian birr, or the equivalent of $25. Our guide walked back to the van carrying the goat upside down by his legs. Some of us started clearing room for him, but others loudly refused. We had three more hours til Gondar, and barely enough space for the 10 of us and our luggage as is.

* * *

Banana stand in Addis

Banana stand in Addis

The day had started about 10 hours earlier, when we left Addis Ababa bright and early 6:30 Sunday morning. Plenty of people were walking to church wearing thin white shrouds, sheer fabric wrapped around their hair and bodies like a toga.

We were surprised to notice many runners up the steep hilled streets around Addis. Lots of men running, stretching, doing push-ups on the side of the street.

Banana, people at church, Rift Valley

Banana, people at church, Rift Valley

As we drove further from Addis, crowded city streets gave way to houses and shacks further apart. The soil was red. We passed a cement factory, horses, donkeys, people herding cattle, oxen and goats. After a few hours the elevation grew higher, the air grew colder and thinner as we approached the Rift Valley. We stopped for gas, some kids approached us and we gave them some marbles.

The Rift Valley was extremely winding and extremely beautiful, mountains full of clouds and trees. A baboon ran across the road, then another and another, and we saw about seven or eight in one small curve of the road, including a mom holding her tiny baby. Near the top, women and children were selling plates of fruit, and Alejandra bought two full plates from a woman with intricate tattoos (either a pattern or script writing) covering her neck. It cost 60 cents for all the bananas and limes we then ate.

Rift Valley

Rift Valley

It got warmer as we descended, and then cooler again once the elevation once again rose.

We stopped for lunch in the afternoon, during a rain storm. Out of the restaurant window we saw at least two wedding processions around the street’s roundabout, including several donkeys wearing woven blankets, songs pouring out of cars, bajajs (small three-wheeled rickshaws), guys dancing in the back of a pick-up truck and dump truck, and the wedding parties wearing flowing outfits. By the end of our weekend, we’d counted over 10 weddings (asseh in Amharic).

Niraj stays classy with bottled water

Niraj stays classy with bottled water

We bought some cake for the road. Some of us were carsick and took more medication. Further along the route we encountered the beautiful light of the setting sun, people of varying skin tones and clothing styles carrying wood down the side of the street, and eventually, the goat.

* * *

After the guide heeded his wife’s quick response to our unease with the goat’s accommodations, and piled the goat onto a bus that had just stopped, we continued in the deepening dusk to Gondar. The roads were very winding and trucks were using their high beams in the dark. Our driver was exceptional, however, at navigating the potholes, sharp turns, people and (almost all) animals with grace and precision. We arrived in Gondar just before 9pm, grateful to have made it to our destination, to no longer be crunched in the van, bouncing around with luggage, and thankfully no goat.