Monday, October 31, 2011

Another road trip in Ethiopia

We took the mechanic from Ghana, George Ntiamoah, out for dinner one night to have a traditional Ethiopian meal.  While George liked the injera, we asked for bread.  It’s been a lot of trial and error but our favourite Ethiopian dish is lamb cooked in the small hibachis on the table.  We’re also grateful that after the Italian occupation in the mid 1930’s, pizza and pasta remained long after the Italians left.

A traditional Ethiopian restaurant with the meat hanging in the background
I decided to check out the Martyr’s Museum and Monument that beautifully portrayed the long, hard fought revolution led by 10 students that formed the Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front (TPLF).  It is a group that gained support throughout Ethiopia and would eventually over throw the Derg government,  In the beginning, they used homemade wooden rifles in an attempt to show they were armed and it was incredible to see the rudimentary equipment used and how they were able to gain support throughout the country despite the difficult terrain, more than 80 dialects spoken, and the power of the Derg.  It reminded me of the uprisings this year in North Africa and the Middle East – when people had enough of tyrannical rule and fought back. One of the original freedom fighters is Ethiopian's president, Meles Zenawi.

You can see this monument from all over Mek'ele.  Resembles a giant golf ball, but it is part of a very interesting, and moving museum dedicated to the Freedom Fighters.
This room housed many of the old Russian weapons that were seized from the Dergs by the TPLF
I had a personal guide who has a degree in history.   Here he points out pictures of many of those who died during the revolution.  Of the original 10 students, five survived and are still alive today. 
Construction site beside the museum -- you never see men with hard hats, safety boots, etc.
The first drilling project was supposed to finally get started this weekend, so we drove to Shire for the start up.  Roger’s trucks are still clearing customs , and you can’t rent a truck without a driver, so we set off with a driver that turned the 6-1/2 hour trip into a colon clenching journey.  Many of the roads are switchbacks on steep mountains and he hated having anyone in front of him.  It resulted in passing on blind corners and a few close calls.  He also loved to speed up while going through towns but that is where the heaviest concentration of people and animals are that also use the road.  It was a long game of chicken. 

The scenery was spectacular though.  We went through farmland with crops and cattle but with the realization that Ethiopia will never be able to support a population of 85 million people with only manpower to harvest the crops.  To me, important steps that need to be taken in Ethiopia is to provide accessible, clean water, and birth control.

Ethiopia is definitely under a building boom with new road and building construction everywhere.  Much of the work is done manually by men, women and children and it was sad to see children as young as 6 on road crews.  As George said, they’ll be old men by the time they are 20. We've seen in so many countries in Africa and Central/South America that the value of human life seems to be in how they are protected. 

Shire turned out to be a very small, non-descript town (I realized after we left that I hadn't taken any pictures of the place!) but thankfully it had a good hotel.  We had lunch in an outdoor plaza which had some interesting menu selections.  I ordered spinach and cheese spring rolls and asked if they were big or small. The waitress said small, so I said I’d have two.  Oh my goodness.  A huge platter came out, with 2 burrito sized spring rolls and the waitress said the “other one” would be coming soon.  Clearly a breakdown in communication.  Anyway, the spring rolls were filled with a mystery concoction of meat (I think...there was no spinach in sight), and were drizzled with chocolate and served with ketchup on the side.  I could not eat it, but we didn’t want to offend the waitress so asked for it all to be packed up to take away. 
The look on my face says it all.  I'll never have another spring roll without remembering this lunch!
While we were waiting for lunch, little kids starting asking us for money and at one point were ready to throw rocks at us (which I had read happens).  Fortunately the guard at the hotel saw, and shooed them away.  This was different from the little kids along the highway that would call out “faranji, faranji” which means foreigner but they said it with smiles on their faces.

Many of the people we saw walking along the road looked like they came right out of a Bible story.  With their robes, and staffs, and beautifully, etched faces they were fascinating to watch.

We stopped by Axum on the way home to see the famous stelae’s that date back to 300 - 400 AD.  These structures were built from granite as tombstones and monuments to rulers.  Some of the stelae have collapsed or were destroyed, while another one was brought to Rome during the Italian occupation but has since been returned and reconstructed in the last few years.

A wedding celebration was taking place when we were there and it was a treat to hear the music and see them dance
Unfortunately as soon as we stepped out of our jeep, we were bombarded by hawkers and beggars so I just snapped a few pictures and left.  I think it is best seen in a tour group which I hope to do someday as the church where the Arc of the Covenant  is reportedly stored is nearby.

We arrived back in Mek’ele and are in the hotel until we can move to our house this week.  We are in the new tower again with cold water and face the field where the construction garbage is being kept.  The reality is a small shanty town is there as well.

If you look closely, you can see a small hut on stilts with a steep ramp in the forefront.
One thing we are finally getting to understand is the Ethiopian timing.  Yes, their clock and calendar are different than the rest of the world, but it’s more than that.

Invariably Roger will be told something “is coming”, or a taxi driver will be there in “5 minutes”, or the trip that you’ve been told will take 4 hours, in fact, takes 7.   The trip to Shire was so Roger could be there for the start up ---- but, after 3 days of hearing the truck with needed parts “is coming”, we decided to go.  He’ll wait until the rig has drilled its first meter, and then return to Shire.  We’re learning.

“The key to everything is patience.  You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”
Arnold H. Glasgow

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heather, You guys are AMAZING.
Love reading about your very full Adventures...
Some day perhaps a
Be Safe...