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Ethiopia by E-mail

Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2004 12:56:54 -0600
From: "James E. Rollin, Ph.D." <rollin@uic.edu>

Hi, This is just another update to my adventure. Pat will be here in 8 days, along with my mother & daughter. Mom & Shannon will stay for 2 weeks; Pat will stay till we go home.

This weekend we went to Awasa for a meeting with the group that is sponsoring me here and the other teachers. Awasa is a vacation spot for Ethiopia, it has a lake with lots of birds all shapes and sizes. We stayed at a government hotel. The rooms were OK but the grounds were fabulous. The meeting was set to coincide with Christmas so the group was together for the holiday. We went to another resort that overlooks one of the rift valley gorges. It was a former getaway for Emperor Haile Selassie that has been converted into a hotel and resort. The name of the place is Wondo Genet. There are hot springs there and a nice pool heated with water from the hot springs. We enjoyed both the hot springs and the pool.

I have been traveling a little bit otherwise as well, going out into the rural areas to meet with NGO people and set up field placements for the students. I have gone to Murketuri 80km north of Addis Ababa and Wollissoo 110km south west of Addis Ababa. The communities are very poor and a major issue is potable water. Other issues for both communities are that children are not allowed to complete school but are put to work on the farm when they get big enough to work. In both communities the NGOs have set up non formal schools that adapt their schedules to the community standards. The government schools will not do that.

Mill in Wanchi I have attached a picture from the crater lake area called Wanchi. It shows a water powered mill. The water powering the mill is hot. It is in the Oromo ethnic region near Wollissoo in the rift valley. We traveled through an area called Shombo or Chombo in the Oromo language and it means broken. That pretty well describes the land, it is broken. There are ridges and gorges to cross, and the remnants of dormant volcanoes. There is still evidence of volcanic activity, the springs in the valley where I descended to are all hot and some are sulfurous. We traveled up the side of the ancient volcano, and then descended part way into the crater in the 4X4. The only way in and out is not much more than an animal trail and most other travelers were walking or riding horses or donkeys. We walked down into the river valley pictured in the attachment and got a horse ride most of the way back up. The horse could not carry me part of the way and we walked. It was a very beautiful valley with the stream, lush vegetation, and hot springs. We came across people bathing in the hot springs. They believe that the spring water would cure diseases including HIV/AIDS.

The program is going well. We are approaching the end of this semester and preparing for the next. The students are doing well. Christmas in Ethiopia is on January 7, but the big celebration will be Epiphany on January 20. One thing nice here is that there is not the commercialism that is everywhere in the U.S. I saw my first Santa signs today. Coca Cola had put up a couple big signs with Santa drinking Coke at the White House (the coffee corner on campus). Other than that, the celebration has been fairly quiet. There are some decorations in the stores around my home where a lot of Europeans and Americans live. The Ethiopians will celebrate Christmas by attending church and having a family meal.

Have a happy New Year, best wishes for the coming year.



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