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Ethiopia by E-mail

Subject: Good evening from Addis
Date: Mon, 9 Jul 2007 23:55:23 -0400
From: Pat Rollin parollin9923@hotmail.com

We have just returned from our vacation in Arba Minch last night. The police gave Jim a driver and a car for 4 days as pay for teaching a class. Alemayu was our driver because Jim requested him. He was the man who took us to Harar last year and Jim knew I liked his driving. Arba Minch is in the southwest part of Ethiopia just before the Omo valley. We did not get into the valley because it is the raining season and we did not have enough time to see much there. It would take about a week to go to the Omo Valley. Jim is too busy to take that much time off. Jim brought along theses to read so it was a working vacation. It takes about 10 hours to drive to Arba Minch from Addis. The road is good the first half of the way and then the road gets rough with a lot of pot holes. A couple of place we had water over the road and in one spot it was up to our doors and running swiftly but we had a good driver and he made it through. Arba Minch only has one paved road and the rest are dirt roads and it is the rainy season in Arba Minch so there is mud everywhere. It reminded us of home which the Ethiopians cannot understand because America has good roads. We went to the Police Station first and saw two of the men Jim taught last year. One is the chief of the post there and the other his assistant so Jim had a good visit and then it was decided we would see them the next day after traveling to Dorze and Checha. So we went to our hotel and checked in. Like all of Ethiopia there was a lot of construction of new hotels and resorts for the New Year. They are trying to make Arba Minch a tourist stop with a wild game park. It is on the way to the Omo Valley so a lot of tours go through there. The room looked old from the outside with a Dorze style outside but the inside was very modern and nice. They had themes for each of the rooms and ours was women preparing food. The bed, tables and doors all had women making injera, wat and coffee. We had two beds that were bigger than twin beds but not as big as a double bed with mosquito nets. We went to the restaurant for dinner and settled in for the night. The room overlooked the Lakes and we were on a cliff edge. So Jim enjoyed taking pictures of the birds and Baboons the next morning when the restaurant fed the Baboons.

Our driver Alemayu picked us up at 9 AM and we went to the Dorze and Chencha villages up in the Guge Mountains. The view was really beautiful and reminded me of home in Michigan where our mothers live, lots of two track trails. They have a weaving cooperative and the people there were really Woman & Hut interesting. We had a self appointed guide who took us to the co-op and to a lady's home to see a hut and how they live. We are including a picture of the her and her house. The road was dirt going up but it was a new road they were just building with big trenches on the sides for water to run off in. Although there was a lot of mud and most people were barefoot or with plastic shoes that can be washed easily, some did have rubber boots on. It was Friday and the last day of school so some of the children had their report cards with them to take home. As everywhere in Ethiopia white people are an attraction in themselves. So we got a lot of stares because we were in a Federal Police Car and they could not figure out what we had done or where we were going. A lot of them were trying to sell us bananas, mangoes, lemons, honey, potatoes, tomatoes or wood bundles or just begging for anything they could get. One boy in the Weaver's Co-Op asks me for a birr. By the time we got to the woman's house he wanted 10 birr. They all think we are so rich but you can not hand everyone you meet a birr even if it is only 12 cents. We left the mountain and went back to Arba Minch for lunch and then to the Police Station where they had arranged for us to go to the crocodile farm to see the animals. They have them in pens by age which does not mean they are all the same size. They are raising them for the skins which they sell to the Middle East to make handbags and belts. They are using a resource to make money and are trying to teach the people about crocs. The farm creates a business and employment so the people are not hunting the crocodiles in the wild. They report the crocodile population in the wild is now stable and not endangered. At the farm they also had two rock pythons which they had in a cage. We were told they eat a chicken every 15 days. Although we did not see any other snakes in Arba Minch. We went back to the hotel and rested.

On Saturday we were picked up at 7:45 AM to go to the Police Station where they took us to Nechisar National park. We had another truck with 4 Gazelle officers, one armed with a AK 47 and one other officer with us. The road was a two track trail which we took to the plains and saw Zebra, warthogs, gazelles (I attached a picture, and we are still trying to identify which kind of gazelle it is), baboons and lots of birds. We also stopped at a campsite and saw a traditional boat for the area in which you stand and paddle. We did not go out on it. The drive thru the park took 3 hours and then we went back to Arba Minch for lunch. After lunch the chief took us to the market. It is a small Mercado where they sell almost anything. We bought a gabi, some fruit and coffee. Coffee in Arba Minch is suppose to be the best and Jim said it tasted different from Addis. I was looking for a heavier shawl that the people on the mountain were wearing and we found one. So our day was complete. We went back to the hotel to rest and Jim read two theses and corrected them. We went for a walk to see what was down the road, it had dried up some. They have two new resorts started and the one we stayed at was adding about another 20 rooms. They were also making a new reception and business office. Saturday was graduation day at the Teacher Training College so at the hotel at dinner a couple of graduates were dining and celebrating. We watch them and their families take pictures and video their time together.

Sunday we were picked up at 6:45 to start our trip back to Addis. The countryside was beautiful and the sun was shining. The road was still bad and the cows, sheep and goats were still in the road so traveling was slow. We stopped for breakfast and a little rest. We finally got to the really good road and a little while later had a flat tire. So Alemayu and Jim started to change it and I got out of the car. All of a suddenly we had 2 women, 4 children and 2 men to help us or watch. I told Jim it was really entertainment for them. The 2 little boys laid down on the side of the road while the car was jacked up so they could see really well. I am not sure any of them had seen a tire being changed before. They talked Oromo so we could not talk to them much. At the end I gave them some bananas and a part of a bottle of Highland. They like bottles with handles on them, they were happy. Then we continued our trip stopping for lunch in Lake Ziway and a little while later the horn was not working right so Jim and Alemayu got out to fix it. They both were under the car at different times and ended up wiring it directly. We were on time getting home but it was raining when we got to Addis. Jim had said the sky looked like a storm but it seems we left in the rain and got home to Addis in the rain.

I know I have not written too much this year but we have not been doing much until the last two weeks. The weekend before we went to Weliso to grade exams and they had a meeting. I have 2 1/2 more weeks in Addis and Jim will be home in September after graduation. So I am in the process of getting all the last minute gifts and shopping done and saying goodbye to everyone. They all want to know why I cannot stay for the Millennium the middle of September but my ticket is running out.

I hope this message finds everyone doing well.

Love Pat & Jim


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