Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thanksgiving Potluck Lunch

It’s usually around the holidays that I start to get home sick for my family and friends and this year, since spending thanksgiving with our families in the states was just not going to happen, Ileah and I wanted to spend it with the people in kalalaa who in many ways have become our family too.  We planned for a Thanksgiving lunch, pot luck style and brought chickpea patties, lentil soup, and pumpkin soup (our most thanksgiving food). Tsigue (the compound cook) made lots of Ethiopian food for our lunch. We invited many people to our pot luck lunch however many couldn’t come. As I stood in front of the table full of food and as it got closer and closer to noon, I began to worry that there wouldn’t be enough people to eat it all. So I went around the compound inviting whoever I saw to our lunch (the school librarian, clinic nurse, teachers, hired help, etc.) Nurse Aduenya came with two other ladies and she also contributed to the already enormous amount of food by bring more food which was great and we all did Thanksgiving justice by gorging ourselves with food. People arrived in shifts, when one group was finished, another would arrive and it was like this until 3pm when it was time for us to leave and teach class.
Since Thanksgiving is not a holiday celebrated in Ethiopia, Ileah and I had to explain to everyone what it was all about. I began to think of all the many blessings I was thankful for like: being able to come to Ethiopia and serve the needs of the people, the friendship people here have shown me, the support from my friends and family back home, and above all a God who loves me and takes care of my every need. This was a very special Thanksgiving that I’ll not forget.   

The Great Ethiopian Run (late entry)

             Several months ago toward the beginning of our arrival here to Kalalaa, Ileah had expressed her love of running to a few of the locals at the compound. It was then brought to her attention that there was an upcoming race on the 27th of November called “The Great Ethiopian Run” which is the largest road running race in all of Africa. Ileah was instantly interested in participating and I later decided I would participate too. The distance was 10 kilometers (a little over 6 miles I think) and there would be thousands of participates from all over the world (mostly other parts of Africa) running. I knew I couldn’t run 10 kilometers straight but I decided that walking it would be just as fun.
           When the day finally came for the run, Ileah and I were joined by two other people from the village Eyobe (the village gardener) and Sammi (at high school student, one of the villagers). We all took a taxi to the location which was somewhere in the middle of Addis Ababa and lined up. It was quite a scene as people were warming up for the run and everybody was hipped up with excitement. The others wanted to line up in the front and I joined them hoping my efforts would keep me from getting lost in the crowd (it did little to help). Instead I was crammed in between so many people I couldn’t even see my own two feet.  Eyobe and I were planning on walking the distance together however when the race started, we were instantly separated.
           For the next 20 minutes I kept running from fear that if I stopped, I would get trampled on  by the 35,000 other participates there that day. Eventually I tired out and walked the rest of the way. All the while, people were cheering and singing in groups of runners. As far as I could see in either direction front or behind, there were runners in red T-shirts. I finished the race in 2 hours and 35 seconds which placed me in the third place group. Not to confuse you, I did not win third place. Everyone who participates gets a metal when they finish and depending on your time, you either get a first (purple), second (green), or third (Yellow) place metal. I tried to get my metal when I finished but they ran out of them so Sammi graciously gave me his metal which was a second place green metal (although I felt completely unworthy of wearing it, I did). Turned out that Ileah, Sammi, and Eyobe all received second place metals. Non-the-less, I was happy to have participated. After the run, the four of us went out for lunch and coffee/tea before heading back to kalala. It was a lovely way to spend a lazy Sunday.      

Mountain Climbing Adventures in Tigrai (a very late post)

Ileah and I wanted to explore other regions of Ethiopia and so we sought out a well recommended tour guide named Luigi, Who runs his own tour company here in Addis Ababa and he recommended for us a trip to the region of Tigrai to visit the Gheralta Mountains and other surrounding mountains. Aside from the unique shapes, formation, and look of these mountains, another interesting aspect about them is that most of the mountains have a rock church on its peak that dates back to the 4th century. Most of these churches are a part of the mountain and have been carved out from a single rock or chunk of the mountain like caves. They sit on the tops of most peaks gleaming in the sunlight like precious jewels.
                We left Kalalaa, early in the morning on November 3rd, for the airport and boarded a 1 hour flight into Mekele, Tigrai (located in the northern region of Ethiopia). From Mekele, it was another 2 hours drive to our camp site. A couple from Norway (Carmen and Arvey) and their friend (Walter) were also doing the same trip as us so we became five in total (not including our driver or local guide).
This was going to be a camping style trip and we were told that there would be a tent really for us, a hired cook to make our meals, a guide to show us the attraction sites, and to just enjoy ourselves because we would be well cared for. In my mind, when people mention camping, I tend to think of my camp meeting days in Wisconsin where me and a few of my friends (usually about 4 or 5 of us total) were crammed into a tent that claims fits 6 people but in actuality more like 3 comfortable and 4-5 if you wanted to feel like sardines in a can. I was thinking that our meals would be cooked over a camp fire. To my amazement when I arrived at the camp site, I could stand fully upright in my tent. Ileah and I decided to share a tent together but that tent could probably have fit a family of 6 comfortable. There were very comfy cots for us to sleep on, shelves for our belongings, a table and 2 chairs all nicely set up in our tent. They even put 2 pairs of slippers near the entrance! This was quality service! We had our own outhouse and toilet (although it was more like a hole in the ground with a toilet seat above it but still it beats going in the brushes).  Our meals were served in a large size tent (well decorated the Ethiopian style) by a profession chef (food was always delicious) decently set tables. It felt more like I was staying at a hotel rather than going camping. There was even an area set up so we could take showers. This was Luigi’s idea of luxury camping and he was the one who came up with the set up.

When we arrived close to our destination, it was already mid-day. We decided to visit one of the oldest churches in the region. For this first church, we did not have to climb any mountains to visit just a set of stairs. The entire church was carved out from the mountain and when I entered it, I just had this odd feeling looking at the ancientness of it all from the paintings on the walls, the tall pillars in the room, to the carved designs on the ceiling. I can quite explain this feeling but it was just so interesting looking at an artifact that’s so old but has been preserved throughout the ages.
That evening, we talked along a dirt road just sight-seeing. the mountains were so beautiful in the evening sunlight and we even saw a herd of camels passing by. The second day there, we climb the first mountain which took 2 hours to get up with the help of local guides, but the view was magnificient and that evening we took a walk through the quiet country side. The area was just so remote and far from the business of the city that it seemed a world away. The mountain we climbed on the 3rd morning was the most challenging. There was on section of the mountain that was a vertical 90 degree slop straight up (like climbing a wall)! And we had to do it bare foot cause the monks viewed that area as holy ground. That same day, after lunch we climbed another mountain but thankfully this one wasn’t as steep. Two mountains in one day was pushing the limits of my ability slightly…
 (I really wish I could upload more pictures of the trip but my internet is just too slow.)