Now that I’ve had a few weeks to reflect on my trip to Central/Eastern Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda) and Ethiopia, I thought I’d share some of the lessons I learned. Here’s my top 10 list of the things that will always stay with me from Africa, indelibly etched in my memory: Don’t like coffee? Sorry, too bad. You will be required to consume at least 2 cups of coffee every day that you’re in Ethiopia at the request of your hosts, friendly strangers, and curious villagers (who invite you into their homes). You will learn to appreciate the intricate ritual of the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, performed carefully and respectfully with fresh cut grass, incense and a jebena. Don’t like being pulled into cultural dances? Sorry, this is also too bad. You will always become part of the exhibit with increasing likelihood the less you want to participate. It’s a combination of the locals laughing with you and at you, and sharing (or trying to share) the culture and tradition that’s steeped in them since birth. Of course the outcome is an utter spectacle. Alcohol helps with the shame. (I became part of this performance too a few minutes later. The more….
I had a nice sleep and woke up at a leisurely pace for one of the first times on the trip. After taking a much needed shower (you have no idea how dusty it was this time of year), I joined Mesele and Mercy in the kitchen for a breakfast of scrambled eggs and a traditional Ethiopian dish of bread bits soaked in spices and oil and lightly fried. We also had Mercy’s special cinnamon tea, made with a masala straight from the Addis spice market….
I caught the 1200 flight back from Lalibela to Addis, getting to sleep in a little later this morning, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and then meet Kassa in the lobby for our final car ride at 1000. It was a semi-tearful goodbye after the long drive to the airport on a hotter than normal. I didn’t realize how said I was to leave until I started to leave! I became emotionally attached to this spiritual city in mind, body, and spirit, and formed a connection with the land and the people. I left my watch (physical watch as well as my metaphorical sense of time) behind, and also my heart….
I woke up around 730 and had breakfast – fried eggs, toast, and papaya juice – in time for my 0830 meeting with Kassa to begin our drive to the Monastery on the Mountain – Asheton Maryam Monastery. It was about an hour car ride crawling up a windy and steep mountain that began right around the Four Olives Hotel in the center of town. Along the way we saw a few interesting things….
This morning I had an 0830 flight to catch from Gondar to Lalibela. I scheduled the hotel shuttle to pick me up at 0700 the night before, and had an early buffet breakfast at the Taye Belay Hotel around 0630. As suspected the hotel shuttle was not there at 0700 (Ethiopian time, after all) – after a few calls to the driver and some urging on my park to the receptionist, the van eventually arrived at 0730. It didn’t matter anyways because the flight was delayed by 30 minutes. This seems to be the norm on Ethiopian Airlines domestic flights….