another request from ethiopia

wow, the guy from ethiopia who i mentioned in my previous post will not let up. yesterday i got yet another email from him. now he wants a dictionary. when will he ever stop?


How are you? I am fine with my college of Addis Ababa. I am take your email letter is nice but you are not Reply to me all of them.
Would you like to help me school materially? If you want to help me send this Dictionary to me?
1. Ox ford Advanced learner’s Dictionary Fifth edition, EditorbyJonathan Crowther. Sand to me by the following address
To Basure Debebe
Addis Ababa College of
Technology and commerce
P.O. Box 180501
Addis – Ababa
Please accept my letter. Reply to me on this week?

Yours Basure

The Scam

When traveling in poor countries, you are constantly bombarded by people who ask you for money. there’s all sorts of ways to con people out of their money and one of ways we often saw in Ethiopia was a textbook scam. the poor kid would tell you that he doesn’t want your money, he just wants you to buy him a book so he can study english. who can say no to that? i mean, he’s not using the money for drugs, moonshine, or even toys… it’s books! it’s educational! you can’t say no to this kid’s education, right? well, of course the whoe thing is a scam. if you buy them the book, they will just go back to the shop later and sell it back for money.

In a town called Yabello, one very persistant guy showed up on my doorstep after finding out which hotel i was staying at. could i buy him some textbooks? No. maybe when i got back to the US, could i send him money for textbooks? No. Could my family buy him textbooks? No. Maybe i could just ask one of the many rich people i knew in america to send him money? No. i kept telling him over and over again that i wouldnt give him money. man, this guy was so persistant. after fending off his requests for almost half an hour, he finally gave up.

or so i though. it turns out, this guy will never give up! i was totally shocked to find out that he waited till i got home, and is now *emailing* me asking for money. $100 actually. Now, a hundred bucks goes a looooong way in ethiopia. i wonder how many suckers he finds that actually end up sending him the money? hell, even if he finds like 10-15 people per year, he can live quite comfortably over there.

here’s the email:

To Dear my brotherVlad
Thank you for the replying email letter tome. How are your? I am with my college. I want to ask something you? Would you like it? If you like it I am learn in this college through foster mother of Germany called mayr. She is pay to me thee fee of subject, food and boarding – school to me .you are live in good life of U.S.A so that I want to buy same book about my subject for this I want $ 100 dollar from you? If you want send to me by bank address.
Name of bank; -commercial bank of Ethiopia western union main branch
Name of receiver; – Basure Debebe
Address; – Addis Ababa – Ethiopia
My Account N0 28710
My telephone No 251 112 137 317
My full bank Address is this one please please sends to me same money? I am in problem, student with out book meaning lass. If you send to me write by email money transfer control No the is put in bank the money from U.S.A. to Ethiopia. Last time when I am in yabello I give to you one my past address that is wrong my new post address is this one
To Basure Debebe
Addis Ababa College of
Technology and commerce
P.o. Box 180501
Addis Ababa
This is my post address for 3 years. Until next time good-bye! And reply to my
From your brother student Basure.

africa in review…

all in all I ended up spending about one and a half months in Africa. initially I had planned on seeing Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, but in the end I never got to Uganda, although I did add Ethiopia in there. I had great expectations for Africa. for me, in so many ways, it seemed like it would be the final frontier. I though it would be the most hardcore part of the journey and that I would see things there like I had never seen before. in some ways that is true, the safaris I went on were absolutely incredible and I saw an unbelievable amount of animals etc. this was definitely the highlight of east Africa.

I’ll have to admit though, that other than the safaris that I went on, I was a bit disappointed in Africa. I mean, yeah, I still had a good time of course, it did have a lot to offer, but I cant say that I felt as excited or passionate about it as I had Asia, India, or the middle east. it definitely wasn’t as crazy of an adventure as I hoped it would be. Africa was good… but it wasn’t spectacular. for one thing, I think maybe part of the problem was that it was expensive. it wasn’t nearly as expensive as Europe or Japan, but it was much more expensive than Asia, and I don’t really think that this high cost was warranted. honestly, the hotels, restaurants, etc were not any better than Asia (if not actually worse) yet they were often 4 or 5 times the cost. because of this high expense, I wasn’t able to do quite as much stuff here as I hoped. safaris were crazy expensive, climbing Kilimanjaro was crazy expensive, diving was crazy expensive. in the end, I had to avoid all these activities because of the price tag, whereas in Asia I did as much as I pleased. plus, in Asia I often felt like I could get a lot out of it without even doing any activities, whereas here I felt like unless I was on safari or whatnot, I wasn’t sure what to do.

I don’t know why this is so. how can Africa get away with charging so much for everything? Africa is less developed than say Thailand, yet they charge way more. I think maybe part of the problem is that Africa is far. it’s far to travel to, and flights to get there are expensive. this keeps a lot of budget travelers away. most of the people that come here are probably rather well off if they can afford the expensive tickets and can afford the expensive safaris, so the hotels feel like they can easily charge huge prices since their customers can afford it.

and in other ways… often I got the feeling like these places just didn’t care about business. I’m not sure why. waiters at restaurants would do a crappy job, or mess up your order w/ no apology. hotels would screw you over, and when you tell them you’re leaving and wouldn’t give them business, they just shrug. it really seemed like they didn’t care whether you came or went. the prices would be huge, the hotel would be empty, but they would still rather you just walk away than give you a discount. it’s very bizarre.

plus, the food there was not very good. in some ways, food might not be the most important part of visiting a place, but still, I love good food and I love trying new kinds of food as I travel. when you spend day after day of eating stuff that’s boring, it gets to you after a while.

the exception to my Africa experience was Ethiopia. Ethiopia was like it’s own world, and completely different than east Africa. I had decided to add Ethiopia in at the last minute, and I’m so glad I did. out of the 3 African countries, this is where I felt like I was really living an adventure. here I was really traveling off the beaten path and seeing things that were really uncommon. seeing all the different tribes and how they lived was incredibly fascinating.

through my trip, I’ve seen a lot of villages. most countries have tours where they take you to a village to see “village life”, but unfortunately often you kind of feel like this little village was practically set up just to be shown to tourists. it was hard to see if this was how the people really lived. not in Ethiopia. there I *really* felt like I was out in the middle of nowhere. people out there really lived a completely different life, and it was hardly influenced or even touched by the outside world. these people still followed traditions that have been handed down for centuries, still lived in their tribal ways, and were still often surprised to see foreigners.

the people of Ethiopia were really friendly and interesting, and I really enjoyed interacting with them. all the children that would come running out while screaming “you!you!you!” were so cute and funny. yeah, almost everyone we met asked us for money… but I really never got the feeling like this was all they wanted. I think they just figured they may as well ask since lots of foreigners might give them a handout. but once they asked, and we said no, they would still continue to talk with us and were genuinely interested in interacting.

Ethiopia was definitely difficult travel. the hardest so far I’d say. horrible roads, dirty hotels, no running water, etc etc… but all these adversities actually made it all that more interesting. I don’t like taking the easy route. it´s always the difficult path that is most rewarding.

so that’s it for Africa. too bad I only saw 3 countries. I still really want to go to Uganda, and see the gorillas. I would love to go to Zimbabwe and Sudan, two countries that, the more I hear about them, the more interesting they sound. I guess there’s always a next time.

now let’s see what South America has in store for me…


a long way to kenya (continued)

8/12/05 continued

we arrived in yabello fairly early on in the day. it seemed like we should totally be able to catch a ride to the next town, and thus get to Moyale on the Kenyan border by nightfall. after eating lunch (spaghetti again!), we caught a minivan taxi to the main road outside of town. the taxi was absolutely packed w/ people, and everyone was totally squished. an old lady sitting next to me kept staring at me. eventually she started touching my hair and the hair on my arms as well. they don’t see very many white people around here…

there is a main highway (if you can call it a highway) running next to yabello, and lots of cargo trucks take it to get down to Kenya. we were hoping to get a lift from one of these, so we waited patiently by the side of the road. while we waited, random kids would come up to us and play or ask us for money. it shocks me just how often we get asked for money here. it seems like every kid in the country feels that they have the right to yell “gimme money!!!” at us. it definitely gets frustrating at times. of course, the reason it happens is that wealthy tourists come through town and think “oh, these poor children!! they have nothing” and start dishing out cash left and right. after this happens for a while, the kids start expecting cash from anyone who looks like a foreigner. it’s a sad situation, cause I’m sure the wealthy people are just trying to help, and want to be kind, but really it just encourages kids to beg… kids who should be in school or out playing, end up spending their time following foreigners around asking for handouts. most of these kids are really nice and friendly and are actually really fun to interact with, so it’s sad that their view of foreigners can be so skewed at times. even the guides who live in Ethiopia tell foreigners time and time again “don’t just randomly hand out money/gifts to any kid you see!!”

the place we were waiting at was right in front of a fancy hotel. one of the staff kept coming outside to check on us and see if we were ok, and kept saying tat we could totally wait inside the hotel if we wanted to… to keep away from the local kids and other people. it was pretty sad… this guy really looked down on the locals, and had no clue why any foreigner would want to interact with them. we kept saying that we were ok and that we were actually enjoying talking to people, but he really didn’t believe us. I guess most people that stay at his hotel probably just avoid interacting w/ anyone, only being driven around in their landcruiser and talking only to hotel and restaurant staff as they go. sad.

after waiting for hours, there was still not a single truck. we had to give up and try again the next day. *sigh*. by this point we were eager to just get things over w/ and finally get to Kenya, and the prospect of staying in town another day wasn’t great. oh well. we got a room in town, and as we were walking around the hotel, a large group of girls called us over and talked to us for a while. it turned out that they were all from different cities in Ethiopia. so I asked them what they were all doing here in yabello. no one answered, and it seemed like they just started talking amongst themselves. huh? so I asked again, and once again, no one answered. was this that confusing of a question? they all seemed to speak good English. did I need to word it in a different way, so they would understand. and then it finally dawned on me. they were all hookers. whoops!! now wonder they didn’t want to answer!

we went back to our room, and minutes later, there was a knock on our door. huh? I opened it to find this guy that ad been talking to earlier at the bus stop. I had made the mistake of telling him where we would stay and he had followed us here! so, he starts talking to me for a long time, and finally gets to the point. he allegedly is a student, and says that text books in Ethiopia are expensive. f he sends me 50% of a textbook cost, will I pay the rest and buy him text books? *Sigh* it really just never stops. people will always ask us for $$. I cant believe this guy actually came to or hotel!! when I told him I had no job, and when I was done traveling I would have no money, he then said that maybe back in the US I could find some rich person to send him money? surely everyone in the USA was rich? perhaps my family might send him money?? arrggghhh. eventually I got him to leave me alone.

these kinds of situations are so hard. on one hand, I feel so bad for these people. most of them probably really are very poor and really could use some money. but I cant just give money to everyone. I just cant! plus, I really wonder if giving them money will really help, or just encourage more begging etc. the thing is… the more poor countries I travel in, the more opposed to giving money I become. I see sooo many people struggling here. people working their asses off, people hauling carts, people driving buses at 4am, people washing dishes, people doing all sorts of shit jobs for next to no money. all these people are working so hard to do anything they can to actually earn a living. and then, next to them, are the beggars.. the guys who do nothing all day except for come up to tourists and give them sob stories and ask for cash. and the sad thing is… I really bet that the beggars earn more money than the maids, drivers, sweepers, etc. they just walk around and ask, and I think a lot of tourists just give. even a few bucks a day and they already earned more than someone who has struggled all day just to get by. on the flip side though… these beggars still do have rough lives I’m sure.. who am I to judge the methods they use to get money. *sigh*


due to a miscommunication, we were told that the bus this morning leaves at 5am. we woke up at 4:30am, only to find out at the bus stop that it leaves at 6am. great. over the last 12 or so days, we’ve woken up before dawn probably about 10 of them. sheez. so damn tired. the bus slowly drove towards Moyale, and it was hard to sleep on it cause there was a rooster on the bus that kept crowing the whole time. just cant escape from the roosters. ugh. on the bus we met these two guys Bruno and Alex who were working as volunteers in Uganda. we ended up spending the rest of the painful next few days w/ them.

after a few hours, we arrived in Moyale, a town on the border of Ethiopia and Kenya. finally!! but our ordeal was far from over. there were all sorts of formalities to deal with now. we had to go through customs, and get our passports stamped on both the Ethiopian side and the Kenyan side. it’s funny, apparently bribery is a really big problem in Kenya. such a big issue, that they have to have signs, complete with happy clipart, asking people not to pay bribes. we also had to try and exchange money. we spent forever walking back and forth along the dusty main road, hauling our packs in the blazing sun. finally we arranged everything, and the bought bus tickets to Nairobi for the following day. we were exhausted, and only then did we finally check into a hotel.

at night, we dragged ourselves to go get some dinner. it was actually really good, one of the first really good meals we’ve had in days. they actually had a large assortment of different Ethiopian sauces etc and we got to try them all. it was quite an impressive spread! afterwards, the 4 of us went to a bar and had a few beers. at the bar, they were playing Teddy Afro really loud. I swear, *everywhere* we go in Ethiopia, they play Teddy Afro. EVERYWHERE. I think we’ve heard every single song he has at least a million times. he gets played in every bus, restaurant, bar, club, hotel, car, everywhere! each day we’ll hear him played in a t least 5 or 6 different places. actually, his stuff is pretty damn good. really fun music. but still… I don’t know how the people here, who have listened to his 2 albums over and over for probably years now can handle it!!


in the morning we woke up early again, crossed the border and then went to get on our bus. the bus people told us that the bus would be leaving in 2 hours. as we walked around though, other people kept coming up to us and trying to sell other bus tickets. we kept saying that we already had tickets, and they would respond that the bus we had tickets for was probably not going to go. huh? was this a trick? we kept saying no, we were taking a bus in 2 hours, and then they said, fine, just come see us in 2 hours when your bus doesn’t go. 2 hours later, sure enough, turns out our bus isn’t going. we had to switch buses.

we had for several days been very nervous about this bus ride. for one thing it was a 24 hour straight bus ride over bumpy horrible unpaved roads. but that wasn’t our biggest worry. we had heard that this particular stretch of road often gets attacked by bandits. it’s allegedly a very dangerous and lawless part of the country. cars and buses often get stopped and mugged. then, to add even more fear, we heard that just a few weeks back, there was a huge massacre in this area where 90 people were killed. holy crap!! of course, the massacre was due to tribal conflicts, and had nothing to do w/ tourists, but t was still really unnerving. of course, due to the lack of atms I mentioned earlier, we didn’t have enough $$ to fly to Nairobi, so this road was our only choice. all traffic on this road is supposed to have an armed escort just in case… our bus had none.

to say the ride was hellish would be an understatement. the road was the worst road I have ever experienced. the bus rattled uncontrollably, and it was impossible to sleep, plus our backs were in constant pain. it was really unbearable.. and I’ve taken soooo many bus journeys in the last year. TONS.. but this was by far the worst. so painful. of course, as usual, the Ethiopians refused to open their windows.

due to all the security issues here, we kept passing through military checkpoints where an armed soldier would get on the bus and look at everyone’s passports. I noticed several times that some people quietly slipped the guard some money. what were they bribing him for? eventually we stopped to eat… right in the town where the massacre happened. nice. the lunch was goat meat in sauce. I really have a bit of an issue with goat meat (which I’ve eaten a lot by now).. it’s so damn chewy and always gets stuck in my teeth. ick. well, at least it was a change from what we’ve been eating over and over!

the two guys Bruno and Alex had bought some chaat, and I finally got to try it. it’s actually quite a complicated procedure. you have a large leafy twig, and only certain leaves (the young tender ones) are to be eaten./ so you spend ages picking through the leaves and finding the right ones. you are supposed to chew them and not swallow. after a while, you have a large mass of chaat in your cheek. well.. I didn’t really eat too much, but I never really got an effect from it. actually, dealing with it was too much of a pain, so I stopped, but Alex and Bruno kept chewing and chewing for hours. man, they got WIRED! it really seemed like they were high on something.. guess this stuff is stronger than I thought!

let’s see.. other notable happenings on the bus trip: we had not one, but 2 flat tires throughout the trip. one of the windows on the bus busted out, so we were actually able to breathe for a while! at sundown, the bus stopped so all the Muslims could get off and pray.. it was a really cool sight to see this row of men on the side of the road, all praying. such dedication to their religion!

the hellish ride continued on and on. the bus was sooo disgustingly dusty and dirty, and dust kept pouring in through the broken window. the bumps were SO awful. finally when we got to Isiolo, 6 hours from the end, the road was paved. from then on, it was a bit better. we drove on and on through the dark… and then… caryn had to pee. *urgently*. well, normally, I would have just asked the bus driver to pull over, but this was a weird bus, kinda shaped like a truck, so the driver was separated in a cab, while all the passengers were in a another section. so there was no way to get to the driver. crap. I looked around. it was pitch black and all the passengers were asleep. I tried to wake one of them up to ask what to do, but he spoke no English. caryn was getting desperate. we had no idea what to do, and how we would alert the driver…

at this point, caryn opened our guidebook, looked up the word for “stop” in Swahili, and then proceeded to stand up and bang a pole loudly with her flashlight while yelling stop over and over. what an insane situation!! everyone was startled awake and totally confused what the crazy girl was yelling about. finally, it turned pout that someone who worked on the bus was in the back row, and he walked up to the front and signaled using a button for the bus to stop. phew! a few hours later, caryn had to pee again, but this time we just found that same guy, and had him stop the bus again… no banging or screaming necessary. heh.

finally, in the morning around 8:30am, we arrived in Nairobi. holy crap… what a journey. we were so tired, so dirty, so exhausted. we barely made it off the bus, caught a cab, got a hotel, and instantly fell asleep. by this point, from the time we left Turmi which was the last village we actually wanted to see, we had been taking random buses nonstop for about 5 days now. it’s been quite a journey.


a long way to kenya…


when i woke up the next morning, i knew something was wrong. not horribly wrong, but my stomach definitely felt not well. i was hoping to avoid the filthy disgusting toilet at the hotel, but in the end, couldn’t. what a horrible horrible experience. I’ve never been a fan of the squat toilets, but here it smelled a million times worse than usual, and using these toilets when you are ill…. ugh.

after that unpleasantness, we packed all of our stuff, and walked down the road to the local restaurant. on the way, a bunch of local kids ran up as usual, some of them grabbing on to our hands to walk with us. it never gets old having this happen to us. makes us so glad to be in Ethiopia!!

we got to the restaurant, and we had to wait there for several hours till the next cargo truck would arrive so we could catch a lift to Konso. as the minutes dragged on, i began to feel worse and worse. i started feeling nauseous and my stomach was aching. i had to lay down in the restaurant. i was beginning to fear that i would be unable to get in the truck. but, i *definitely* didn’t want to keep staying here if i was still ill.. our hotel had sucked, and it was the last place i wanted to be sick for a few days. but my stomach kept feeling worse and not better.

eventually, the truck pulled up. i had a decision to make. would i be able to endure the long bumpy ride in my condition? i decided that i just wanted to get out of turmi anyway, no matter what, so i pulled myself up, and walked to the truck. i was able to convince the driver to let me sit up front instead of in the cargo area. unfortunately, there were already 4 people in there. with me, that makes 5.. and it was so insanely cramped.

the ride was hellish. i was in total pain, and worried that i would have to throw up. I’ve never been so miserable. i kept trying to configure myself to be comfortable, but w/ so many people, that wasn’t possible. after several hours, i felt well enough to be able to take tiny sips of water. the nausea was subsiding a bit, but i still felt terrible. every few minutes, my stomach would cramp up and i would get a dull pain so bad that it made me cringe until it subsided. finally, we arrived in weito (the “truck stop” I’ve mentioned before). it seems like no matter where you go, you always have to stop there. i climbed out of the truck, and almost fell over. i felt very faint, my head was spinning, and it seemed like breathing was difficult.

i sat around for 20 minutes waiting for the truck to go again. finally, it was time to leave and i climbed in. so cramped!! eventually, after a couple of hours, i started feeling somewhat better. still weak, but my stomach wasn’t in agony anymore. i decided it might be better to get out of the cab and get in the back of the truck where there was more room. well… i picked the wrong time to do it. when i got in back, a bunch of Ethiopians got on at the same time. like 20 of them! so, now the back of the truck was totally cramped too. there was tons of people, luggage, bags of honey etc, and a bunch of sheep as well. ugh. utter chaos. would have been funny on any other day, but since i was sick, chaos was not what i was in the mood for.

finally we arrived in Konso, our destination. we staggered out and got a hotel room. our friends borut and eva were supposed to continue on to a different town, but the driver decided he was going no further, so they were stuck. as luck would have it, there were no more hotel rooms in town, so they had no place to stay!! luckily, our hotel agreed to put an extra mattress on our floor and allow them to stay with us. phew! i was feeling well enough to eat a little food, so we ate, and hung out w/ the Slovenians a bit, and then went to sleep.


i got up feeling a lot better. not 100%, but better. we went to a restaurant to see what we could eat. same as usual. ugh. over the last week, we’ve gotten so sick of the food here. i have nothing against Ethiopian food, but it’s just frustrating to have no variety. it’s been fasting time, so they can only serve vegetarian options, and in most restaurants that means just 2 different choices. other than those 2, you can order spaghetti or scrambled eggs. so, that’s how it’s been for soooo many days now: spaghetti, mush, eggs, eggs, spaghetti, mush, mush, spaghetti… etc etc etc. on and on. i so badly just wanted something else. ANYTHING ELSE!!! oh well.. i guess, eggs it is.

it was market day in Konso, and i felt kinda decent, so we went to go check it out. over the last few weeks, we had often seen kids happily munching on sugar cane. i decided to buy some and try it. everyone got really excited… the foreigner was going to try the local snack!! everyone crowded around to see how we handled it. it was kinda difficult. we weren’t used to it, and chewing the hard sugar can stalk was tricky. luckily, the kids grabbed a huge knife and shopped the cane into smaller more manageable pieces. the sugar cane was really good! nice and sweet, but not too sweet. the kids were really excited that we liked it.

as we walked around the market, we ended up causing quite a stir. people had noticed our tongue piercings, and now there was a crowd around us that wanted to see. people kept asking us to stick out our tongues again and again. everyone made horrified and shocked faces when they saw the piercings. they just couldn’t believe it! people kept calling their friends over and the crowd grew and grew. eventually, even after we left the crowd, people would recognize us on the street and run up to us and ask us to stick out our tongues. too funny! one little girl even dragged us into her home to show her relatives!!

look at the people’s expressions…

after the market, we went back to the hotel. we started getting worried about stuff. first off, we had very little money.. and Ethiopia has no atms. if the small amount of money that we had didn’t last us till Kenya, we would be totally screwed, and there was still a bunch of days left. also, we needed to catch a bus or truck out of Konso the next day, bit no one seemed to know what time we could do that. finally, we talked to the guard who said that he thought that his friend was driving a truck to yabello at 5am, and he offered to knock on our door when it was time. also, we got our laundry delivered… all wet. DAMN!!! the laundry hadn’t time to dry, and now e were stuck w/ wet laundry. what could we do?! we had to hang it in the room, but it probably wouldn’t dry over night. in the morning, we’d have to wake up at 5am *hoping* there was actually a truck going, and then pack wet laundry. sheez. i totally felt like we were at the countries mercy now. what would become of us?? would we leave this town? would we have dry clothes? would we run out of money and literally be stranded with no atm, no western union, no email, no ANYTHING. what would we do?!! feeling nervous, we fell asleep…


we woke up at 5am, and waited for the night watchman to knock about the truck. no knock. eventually i went to look for him in the dark… he was nowhere to be found. we sat in the room, and heard random trucks start their engines… any one of them could be ours and we would never know. all of a sudden… i urgently had to use the toilet. i did what i ad to do, and then remembered.. the toilet doesn’t flush. the hotel had left us a bucket of water to flush the toilet with… but now it was empty, and there was no running water. uh-oh. so i just lowered the lid and walked out.

i went downstairs and eventually find a sleeping guard to ask for water. there was none anywhere. great.. the toilet would not be flushed. looks like the maid will have a very unpleasant surprise. i walked out into the street and after asking around, found out there was a bus to yabello at9am. 9AM!!! and we had woken up at 5am for nothing!!! i was so PISSED at the night watchman!!! grrr. so, we waited around in the room for a bit. eventually there was a problem. caryn was feeling unwell, and had to have an emergency bathroom visit too. doh!! but the toilet was already.. full. well, disgusting as it may be, she had to do what she had to do. now the toilet was double full… the maid would definitely not be pleased. but that’s what they get for not having water for us!!!

at 9am, we went out to the bus, where the guys tried to charge us 4 times the amount that the bus should have cost!! luckily, we knew what the correct price should be so we refused to pay extra. the bus ride was long as usual. it was also very winding, and soon everyone on the bus was puking. most people were able to puke out the window, but not everyone. of course, it being Ethiopia, everyone tried to keep the windows shut, despite the fact that people needed to throw up. unbelievable. and the whole way there, the bus blasted music as loud as they possibly could. nice.

as the bus drove on, we passed many many of these huge termite mounds. i cant believe that tiny termites can build these huge things! also, we kept passing by random tribal women walking down the road. i don’t know why, but it seems like here it’s the women who do all the heavy lifting. you’ll see a group of people, and the 3 women will have HUGE bundles on their back so that they are straining to walk, but the men will be carrying nothing at all!! also, we passed by tons of flocks of sheep, goats, and cows that were being herded by little kids who frantically tried to get the livestock off the road before the bus got to them!!!

finally, we arrived in Yabello… be continued…



8/8/05 continued…

after the pleasant nighttime drive, we arrived in Turmi late at night, a bit past midnight. the town was pitch black (there is no electricity), and it turned out that all the hotels were full. DOH! luckily, our friend’s guide pulled some strings and one of the hotel owners let us sleep on this small mattress outside. it wasn’t the nicest accommodations, but it was the only thing we could get at that time!


Turmi is a really small town. even smaller than Jinka. this is where the Hamer tribe lives. they seem very friendly, and the women of the tribe wear their hair in a distinctive style with this reddish brownish clay mixture in it, accentuating their braids. we had missed the town’s market day (it was the day before), but there was supposed to be a village market in a nearby village called Dimanka. the problem was, how do we get there? there wasn’t any buses or trucks going that way, so we would have to try some other creative options.

in this region of Ethiopia, there are two types of travelers. there are the budget travelers like us who try to organize everything on their own, take buses and cargo trucks between towns, and basically just wing everything. then there are the rest of the people who usually just book a tour. they get picked up in the capital by a landcruiser, and then get driven around between all the villages by their guide. of course, this is the more expensive option (car rental is almost 100$ per day). there are pros and cons to each option. on one hand, of course, the landcruiser option is nice and easy, more hassle-free, and quicker. on the flip side, the non- landcruiser option, is cheaper, and it also has the benefit of letting you interact with people more. you talk to locals on buses. you talk to locals on trucks. you travel like the locals do, and get a better taste of their life. you’re not wrapped in this little bubble of your own vehicle, with only your guide (who does all talking to anyone). I definitely think that doing it budget-style is more of an experience!

but, sometimes, traveling like this, there’s just no way to get to a certain village. that’s when you do your best to mooch a ride, heh. so, putting any dignity aside, I went to go ask random landcruiser types if they were going to the market I the nearby village, and had any room in their car to take us. luckily, I was able to find people pretty much right away. these 2 Spanish guys kindly agreed to give me a lift. but my luck was even better… not only would they take me to the market later in the afternoon, but they were heading to this tiny village called Omorante, which was a few hours away, and said they’d take me there as well before we headed to the market. Perfect!!

caryn didn’t feel like going, so I jumped in the landcruiser w/ the two Spaniards and their driver, and we were off! oh man… it was so nice being in the landcruiser! traveling was so fast! plus, it was really cool to just be able to take off and go where we pleased. normally, by traveling on buses or trucks, there would be no way to just decide to swing by some village for a couple hours an come back. so, I guess traveling his way definitely has its own advantages!

after a short one hour drive past drier and drier vegetation, huge 8 foot high termite mounds, and lots of reddish dust, we got close to Omorante. the village is across a river, so we had to hire a guy to take us a cross in a dugout canoe. a few of the village kids jumped into he water and swam across after us which seemed like quite a feat.

we walked to the village, and finally saw it. the tribe that lives here, the Caleb (sp?) tribe, lives in these small dome-like huts, that look like something out of a star wars movie. these huts are made of tin, canvas, rope, sticks, cardboard boxes from food aid, etc etc. once we walked into town, as usual, we were surrounded by people asking to have their photos taken for money. they were definitely less persistent and pushy than the Mursi, but it was still a bit tiring after a while. we only stayed for about half an hour and then left. it was still cool to at least see how they live.

after Omorante, we headed back to Turmi to get some food. while at our hotel, we ended up hearing about this “bull jumping” ceremony tat was supposed to happen. this is a ceremony that takes place when a young man from the Hamer tribe comes of age. it’s supposedly quite an impressive ceremony, so we decided to go check it out instead of going to the market as planned. a local kid told us that he knew where the ceremony would take place, so he jumped in the landcruiser w/ us and we took off to go find this ceremony that was supposed to take place in the middle of nowhere.

after an hour of driving, we arrived at one of the smaller Hamer villages, and then there was a long one hour walk in the blazing sun. it was an exhausting walk, and I kept getting pebbles in my sandals and also there were all these crazy thorn trees that would snag your clothes and you’d have to stop to try to break free.

one of the Spaniards and our young guide

we finally arrived. before the actual ceremony begins, there are a lot of elaborate rituals that take place. first of all, the women of the tribe com out and dance for a long time. they’ll march around in a circle, and then come together in a large group and jump up and down repeatedly while singing, blowing whistles, etc. this goes on for quite a while, probably almost an hour and is all happening in the blazing sun. at one point, one of the women, totally exhausted and sweating, came over and asked me for some water. so I gave her a sip from my bottle. bad mistake. the second this happened, I was instantly swarmed by a ton of others, all of them wanting water. by the time 5 of them had a “sip” (which really were huge gulps), my bottle was almost empty. I had to tell the rest “no”. for the rest of m time there, people kept randomly coming u to me asking for water. it’s one thing to refuse to dish out money, but when someone walks up to you totally exhausted in the blazing sun and asks for a sip of water, you feel like a total asshole saying no. but what could I do? I had hardly any water left, and I knew that if I gave one person some water, I would instantly be mobbed. of course, I couldn’t explain this to the tribespeople (who spoke no English) so I only shook my head, and I’m sure they thought I really was a bastard.

the craziest part of the ceremony came next. all of the women who were dancing around were holding these long reeds. the women then prove their loyalty to the tribe by having the men of the tribe whip them with these reeds. this part was just absolutely insane. a woman would run up to a guy and hand him her reed, an then beg him to whip her. sometimes he would just throw her reed down and walk away, in which case she’d pick it up and run after him, shoving it in his hand and not leaving him till she got whipped. often, even after getting whipped, the women would just grab the reed and then beg for more! women in the tribe would literally push each other and shove each other out of the way in order to be whipped first. it was so nuts!! and I’m not talking light whipping. these women were being whipped HARD. most of the women around had blood dripping down their backs from huge slash marks. these open wounds were on top of tons and tons of tiny other scars… obviously they have been doing this their whole life.

the whole thing was *extremely* disturbing. I really just couldn’t believe it. but, I guess that initiation rites are common in pretty much every society. fraternities have hazings. martial arts groups kick their members in the stomach when they get a new belt. gangs jump their members in. etc etc. in so many different ways, people need to prove to their peers that thy are willing to sacrifice and endure pain in order o be part of the group. in a way, I guess that maybe this ritual that I saw isn’t so bizarre after all, but it definitely made me cringe to be watching it!

finally, it was time for the actual bull jumping. they brought in all these bulls. tons of them. for a long time, the women started jumping and dancing a5roundn the bulls. finally, the men in the tribe grabbed the bulls and lined them up side to side. there was a line of about 15 bulls. the boy who is coming of age, has to jump from back to back across all of these bulls, back and forth 3 times. it’s not easy, seeing as the bulls tend to move about, but the kid made it! apparently, if he doesn’t make it, the he “isn’t a man” and is scorned by everyone.

then that was it. if there was more to the ceremony, I’m not sure, but everyone left at that time, so I had to go. the hike back was so tiring, as it was close to a billion degrees by then, ugh. I was so exhausted, especially after spending pretty much the whole day in the sun. finally, we got back to town. we went to the hotel to sleep, and walked through the pitch-black (no electricity in town). the town also had no running water. the only way to shower was when the hotel would bring huge vats of water and put them on the roof so you could shower under them. our hotel hadn’t bothered, so no shower for us. I’d gotten used to not getting *hot* showers… but no shower at all? after sweating all day? the hotel of course also didn’t have toilets either. just a filthy whole in the ground with a wooden hut over it so people cant watch you. so gross. so yeah, the wonderful and exciting day, ended up with being in fairly unpleasant surroundings. but what can you expect in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere?!


in between villages

the next village we wanted to visit after Jinka was Turmi. unfortunately, now that we were out in the Omo Valley now, transport between villages wasn’t all that straightforward. regular buses only connect certain towns. if you want to get to certain villages, you have to find creative options for getting there. our guide came up with a battle plan for us though. we would take the morning bus to Weito (the “truck stop” i wrote about earlier) and then try to find a vehicle heading to Turmi. of course, taking a bus meant we had to get up before dawn, as usual. it’s getting more and more painful each time we do it. i cant believe that on my “vacation”, i have to spend almost every day waking up so early! ouch.

after a 3 hour bus ride, we were i Weito. we ate some food and waited. and waited. and waited. then, after a while… we waited some more. eventually, our guide heard that there would be a truck passing through here going to Turmi… but it wouldn’t be here for about 9 hours!! so we spent 9 hours chilling and laying down i the restaurant. we were stuck, but i actually enjoyed it. i took a nap. it was really nice and relaxing to just spend a day sitting and doing absolutely nothing except for reading, eating, and resting after all these crazy hectic days.

eventually, 7 PM rolled around, and a large cargo truck pulled up. this is actually a very common method of transport for Ethiopians. people just sit on the side of the road, and when they see a truck, they flag it down and jump in the back. these aren’t just tiny pick up trucks mind you. these are full sized huge cargo trucks full of.. well, whatever they are hauling: livestock, metal pipes, cement, produce, whatever. so, we waited for the truck to be filled up, this one with huge long metal pipes and gigantic sacks of coffee husks. after the cargo was aboard, a bunch of Ethiopians, and the 5 of us piled on. it definitely wasn’t going to be the most comfortable 5 hour ride, but hey, what can ya do?

the truck pulled out into the dusty road, and as we drove, it quickly became dark. sitting there on the truck, i had another one of those moments that i seem to have so frequently on this trip…. a moment where i think to myself: can this *really* be my life and not a movie?? here i am sitting on top of an Ethiopian cargo truck going through the darkness in between tiny tribal villages. it’s dark, and other than the stars in the sky, all i can see is the shadows of trees that we pass and tiny little flickers of light which are tribal campfires dotting the landscape. the truck headlights illuminate the road, shining on the occasional rabbit, and once in a while on small groups of tribes people walking down the road all decked out in their outfits, carrying hunting guns, spears, and sometimes sacks of stuff. all of this to the tune of an Ethiopian woman next to us singing in amheric. what an amazing night…



the lower omo valley consists of a small handful of villages separated by long dusty bumpy roads. most of these villages are inhabited by just one tribe, with part of the population living in the village and the rest of the people scattered throughout the never-ending bush. one of the largest villages in this area (and that’s not saying much) is Jinka. Jinka is a tiny town. there’s no electricity in town, and the few hotels and/or restaurants that actually have power, are run off generators which usually are only on between 7pm and midnight. after midnight, everything goes pitch-black. there is very limited phone access in town, and even then most of the connections are spotty. only one of the hotels in town has hot water and even then, it is only on for a few hours per day. goats wander lazily and freely through the streets here and there.

the thing that makes this town “major” compared to the rest of the villages nearby is that it has an “airport”. and by airport, I mean that there is a green field in the middle of the town’s main road. this field is used for cattle grazing and is also where people play soccer. every other day, a plane will fly in, and people have to clear off the cattle and/or soccer players for the plane to land on this tiny little grass patch. that is all there is to the airport.

the various tribes in this area trade with each other, so every day there is a village market in one of the villages. people come from most of the other nearby villages and set up stalls, buy and trade goods, etc. the markets are colorful and interesting and are one of the highlights of checking out the villages. we happened to arrive in Jinka right at the perfect time, the day before their weekly market.

in the morning we got up and ate a the restaurant next door to the hotel. the people there are incredibly nice, and were very proud of the fact that they charged everybody the same (most restaurants charge foreigners more than locals). yesterday was the start of the fasting period here in Ethiopia, a holiday somehow related to st. mary though I’m not sure how. this means that no one eats meet for 2 weeks, which will definitely put a damper on our eating. oh well. this restaurant makes excellent scrambled eggs mixed w/ either avocado or beans which makes a good break from the standard Ethiopian food.

o our way to go check out the local market, we got harassed continually by little kids who want to be our guides. well, they actually say that they are not guides, that they just want to help us out by showing us around the market, but it’s obvious that in the end they will want money from us. sometimes they say that they don’t want money, but only want to study English, so if you want you can help them by buying them a dictionary. who could resist helping a poor Ethiopian kid out by buying him a dictionary for his studies? well, of course it’s a scam. if you buy them a dictionary, they’ll just go back later and sell it and make money anyways. it’s really a tough situation. you do feel really bad for these kids. and you don’t want to be a dick and just tell them to go away when they keep saying “I just want to talk to you! I like talking and speaking English!”. but really, unfortunately, you just have to be firm or they’ll follow you forever and then guilt trip you into paying them. or, sometimes these kids offer to “help translate” for you when you go to buy stuff in the market. another clever ploy. they, in amheric, tell the shopkeeper to charge you more, and then come back later and collect a kickback from the guy. arggghhh!

well, after fending off these little brats, we finally got to the market. this market was actually rally large. the main square was swarming w/ people squatting on the ground next to huge piles of potatoes, onions, peppers, and other random vegetables. there is another section of the market nearby where people sell clothes. huge piles of sandals are strewn about, people are inspecting random pieces of cloth and trying on scarves, and others are yelling trying to attract customers. nearby is the butter market, where fragrant kinds of butter are sitting in huge gourds, ready to be bought. we walked around for a while, and then caryn got tired of it, but I stayed on for a few more hours. I just love exploring these kinds of markets. it’s so fascinating to me, so used to relying on supermarkets etc, to see how others buy their goods.

walking around there, i was pretty much the only white person there. i got lots of looks. some people seriously looked totally in shock when they saw me, like i was some mysterious creature from another planet. a lot of these people live out in the bush, and hardly ever even venture into any of the larger villages… for them foreigners are something they rarely, if ever, see. some people would just look at me, totally dumbstruck, and when i would wave at them, they would feebly wave back, still looking confused and surprised. others would slowly approach me and shake my hand and then walk off. still others would instantly excitedly call out to all of their friends and point at me. the most excited of all though, are the very little children. the word for foreigner in amheric is “faranji”. everywhere we walked, we would hear little shrill voices yelling “faranji! faranji!!” or “you! you!! you!!!”. it’s so funny and adorable the way the little kids do this. as you walk by houses, you would see kids come racing out to the front gate as quickly as they can yelling “faranji” excitedly and loudly while waving and laughing! at one point, we heard these three kids singing “faran.. JI! faran… JI! faran…JI!” over and over and over and over for the whole time while we walked near their house. sometimes these kids would even race out and either shake your hand, or latch on to your hand and walk with you a little way before racing back to their homes. these funny little moments interacting w/ the overexcited children would definitely become one of our fondest memories of Ethiopia.

walking around there, it was really interesting to see what different clothing the different tribes would wear. i think that there must be some local company that sells ringer tees or maybe some foundation that donated a ton of them, cause it seemed like a quarter of these people wore either red or blue tee-shirts with stripes on the sleeves and around the collar. one of the most fascinating tribes here, and the one we were most excited to see, are the Mursi. this tribe is famous because the women of the tribe, have their lower lips cut, and then they put large plates in the slit to stretch out their lower lip. they keep stretching it and stretching it until some of them have huge discs in their lip that are like 5 or 6 inches across!! apparently this tribe also has a reputation for being really fierce, although I’m not sure if that is really true. i had heard from some of the annoying kid “guides” that there were some Mursi in the village today, but hadn’t seen them for most of the day.

finally, just as i was about to leave the market, i saw some Mursi. they were unmistakable distinct. much darker than any of the other people in the market, and the one woman with them had the huge hanging lower lip. one of the guys carried a large machete in his hand. wow! i knew i had to get a photo of them. the problem is that most of the remote tribes people in the omo valley, want money for having their picture taken. they very quickly realized that these white tourists coming around don’t want to buy their handicrafts, they don’t want to buy their potatoes… the one thing that tourists want from these people is photos. so if the tourists get what they want, why shouldn’t the tribes people get what they need as well? so, most of these people, and *especially* the Mursi make you give them 2 Birr (25 cents) for taking their photo. at this moment, one of the annoying child guides” ran up, and offered to translate for me, and desperate for the photo, i said yes. soon enough, i had a couple photos. check out the lower lip of the woman on the right…

the rest of the day, was spent arranging a land cruiser for the next day. we wanted to go see the village where the Mursi live, and it is deep in the bush, only accessible by 4WD. these things are a bit expensive to rent, but luckily, we met up with a Slovenian couple named Borut and Eva, who not only were really fun to hang out with, but also were looking to have someone split the costs of renting a 4WD. they, and their guide Anthony would go with us the next day. right before going to sleep, we ended up having a British couple join up with us as well. nice! the next day should be fun!

one thing that was a bit unsettling, was that the guy arranging our car was wearing watch… with osama bin laden on it. the first time i saw it, i was in total shock. i just couldn’t believe it. later on, in the market, i actually saw a large pile of these watches for sale, and other days later in Ethiopia, i saw others wearing them as well, sometimes even very little kids. I’m really not sure what this means. there really doesn’t seem to be any anti-American sentiment here as far as i can tell, so on one hand, i don’t even know if these people knew what the watches might mean. plus, Ethiopia is a mainly Christian country, and not Muslim, so that makes it even more puzzling.


woke up damn early before dawn again. having no power, made it a bit difficult to get ready in the dark. we staggered sleepily out of the hotel, had breakfast w/ or new group, and then set off. the road was bumpy and rough and a bit painful, even in a 4WD land cruiser. every jolt and bump would send a jarring shock through your spine. eventually, we picked up a scout who would be going with us as well. the scouts job? he carries a gun with him to keep the Mursi at bay and to be used if the Mursi get out of hand. yikes!

we drove and drove down the road. from tie to time, little children would race out of the bush or out of their homes and run after the car while squeaking loudly . after driving for what seemed like ages, we arrived at the Mursi village.

(unfortunately, a lot of these photos aren’t so great. photographing a darkly colored subject under the blazing bright sun is difficult)

pretty much from the moment we arrived, we were surrounded by Mursi. all of them were asking repeatedly to have their photos taken. a lot of them pretty much wouldn’t take no for an answer. they would just ask over and over and over. if i tried to walk away, they would literally grab at my arms and try to not let me leave. they would step in my path to block it. after a while, i started feeling really bad for them. in a way, it was almost like a beauty contest. the ones who were more photogenic or who had more interesting lip plates or whatever would get photographed and thus paid the 2 birr, while others who didn’t look as interesting would not.

it was definitely a weird scene. i could see how some people would liken it almost to a human zoo on one hand, or say that the whole thing was just so commercial. but if you look at it in a different way, it’s really not too bad i guess. tourists get what they want: photos of the tribal people. the tribal people on the other, obviously should get some kind of compensation for the foreigners infringement on their time and land. this small extra income actually helps the tribe get by, so they can continue living in their traditional ways unlike other tribes who in search of other income have been forced to modernize and move to the cities. in a way it is a win-win situation, even if a bit strange.

eventually, we left the village. i was glad to have seen what i had seen. where else would i see people like this? the whole lip piercing thing was so crazy. it’s amazing how far people will go for body decoration. what i find funny though, is that these people, with their lips stretched out so far it hangs almost past their chins, recoiled in horror and pain when they saw caryn and my tongue piercings. the tongue piercings seemed totally crazy and painful to them! anyways, we got back in our truck, and gave a few Mursi a lift back to the main road. by that point, it was a bit of a relief to get away from the pressure of taking photographs!!

on the way back, we stopped to take a photo of some Mursi boys climbing a tree, and also of our crew in the land cruiser.

as we drove back, our car kept sputtering. uh-oh. we were running out of gas! yikes! eventually, right when we were crossing this rather deep river, the car just died and wouldn’t start. we were stuck right in the middle of the river with the water reaching up practically to the doors of the jeep. the locals near the river seemed to find this very amusing, and people gathered around watching and laughing. the driver kept trying unsuccessfully to start the car. we sat there worried. we definitely didn’t want to get out and wade through the dirty river. what would become of us?!

look how deep it is

we’re stuck!!

eventually, another jeep passed by and they crossed the river successfully. a rope was tied to that jeep and our guide dutifully plunged into the river to tie the other end of the rope to our jeep. the rope was small, and we thought there was no way it would be strong enough… but miraculously enough t was. we were pulled out!! the car then remarkably started, and we made it back to Jinka without incident, but exhausted!!



we had an insanely difficult time trying to decide where to go in Ethiopia. it’s a pretty big country, and we only had about 2 weeks here before we were going to meet Joey in Nairobi. to make matters worse, bus travel here is insanely slow due to crappy roads, so anywhere we wanted to go, we had to factor in a ton of travel time to get there. for instance, the “northern circuit” which takes in all the really cool historical sights, ancient cities, churches, and castles takes about 15 days or so to complete… and out of those 15 days, 10 of them are spent on bus travel! ouch! so, after agonizing about it for several days, we decided that we would limit ourselves to checking out the south. there is this area called the southern omo valley and it is the home of 13 distinct and very colorful tribes.

bus travel in Ethiopia isn’t as straightforward as it is in other countries. in other countries, if you want to do a long distance bus trip, usually the bus will set out in the evening and drive all night. but here, there is a law where all buses are required to be off the roads by nightfall, 6:30pm. if the bus wants to get a good 12 hours of driving in for the day (which most of them do), that means the bus needs to set off at 6:30 am. so, in order for the bus to set off that early, you have to arrive at the bus station by 5am. yes 5am. ugh. I definitely wasn’t looking forward to spending the next few weeks getting up *before* dawn. but what can you do? another weird thing about Ethiopia is the way they tell time. for them, the clock starts at dawn, and then ends at sunset. so, what would be 7am according to international time, for them is 1 in the day. 5PM would be 11 in the day. 8pm would be 1 at night. etc etc. in a way i guess it makes sense. the 12 daylight hours are numbered 1 through 12, instead of our time where AM stretches over both night and day. but it definitely takes some getting used to.

in the morning, we woke up in the pitch black, and went out into the rain. caryn had lost our umbrella the night before, so when we arrived at the bus station, we ran as fast as we could through the downpour. the bus station was a see of people all holding umbrellas and frantically screaming at the top of their lungs in amheric. i’m assuming they were screaming the names of cities that the buses were going to. it was utter chaos running through the dark and wet while dodging screaming Ethiopians. eventually we made it onto the bus though. once on the bus, we had to wait for ages as more people filed in, traded seats, got up, walked about, traded seats again, got off the bus, got back on the bus, etc etc.

finally everyone was seated and it looked like we were about to finally get going. then a man with a HUGE cross got on, and while muttering prayers, walked through the bus. people would contribute a few coins, and then kiss the top and bottom of the cross. hrm. was the bus journey so dangerous that people needed to pray beforehand? eventually, the priest got off. the bus started, and we were off. within 2 minutes of the bus starting to move, the lady sitting across the aisle from me, pulled down her babies pants, and had it pee all over the floor of the bus. disgusting! it made me *really* glad that we hadn’t left our backpacks on the floor under our seats. our bags are already dirty as hell, but I’d rather not have piss on them.

we drove for several hours, while caryn and i did our best to sleep as the bus bumped and jolted over the road. eventually, we stopped for food. after eating, i went to go buy some oranges, and this guy came up to me and gleefully handed me a twig of chaat. chaat is this kind of plant that people here use as a sort of stimulant. it keeps you awake and alert and also makes you talkative etc. sounds like it’s somewhere in between coffee and cocaine. people here *love* the stuff though. they eat it for hours and hours. they use it to stay awake on long bus rides. they use it to stay up at night and study for exams. and they use it to just pass the time. when i got back on the bus, holding some chaat, a bunch of people near me got all excited. everyone loves it when foreigners try out the local intoxicants. unfortunately though, i tried to take a nap, and when i woke up, my chaat looked rather wilted, so i didn’t end up trying chaat till much later in my trip…

the bus drove on and on, and i gazed out the window at the Ethiopian landscape of shrubs and dried out trees. the horn of the bus blared almost constantly to get the cows/sheep/people that were on the highway to make way. we’d pass by small villages, some of them having crumbling corrugated tin structures, while others had wooden huts. it’s funny, whenever i see the corrugated tin buildings, my mind always instantly thinks “poor” and i think how sad for the people living there. but when i see a wooden hut, i think “traditional” and think how nice it is that people still live in their traditional ways. but in reality, isn’t a tin house a step up from a wooden hut?

eventually, we stopped in a town called shashamene for repairs. there was something wrong w/ one of the wheels. during our break, i chatted a bit w/ some of the mechanics. when they saw me taking a photo of a goat, they got really excited and pulled me over to the other side of the yard to show me a “huge animal”. it ended up being this gigantic tortoise, and i took some photos of the mechanics with it. walking through town, i got tons of stares. there weren’t any other white people anywhere to be seen. I’ve heard that people in this town can be hostile to outsiders, and i definitely didn’t get any friendly vibes while walking around. i went back to the mechanics shop, where a large group of guys gathered around me. while one guy talked to me (with almost incomprehensible English), the rest of the people just stared at me, and i felt hella awkward. it’s weird when traveling.. you definitely want to interact w/ locals.. but sometimes you get a little too much attention.

finally, the repairs were done, and we were off. it’s the rainy season up in northern Ethiopia, but down here in the south, it’s hot as hell. being in the sweltering bus was extremely unpleasant. to make matter worse, Ethiopians don’t believe in opening windows on buses. apparently, they believe that the breeze will give them a cold. so with the temperature in the bus being unbearable, not a single window was open. once, someone had the window open during a stop, and once the bus started rolling, a riot practically broke out as people started screaming for the window to be shut. when caryn opened our window just a crack… literally it was open less than an inch, a guy reached up and shut it. actually, for the whole trip, he kept nervously checking the windows over and over to be absolutely sure that they were 100% shut.

after the nightmare of a ride, we finally arrived at arba minch, where we would be spending the night before the second half of our bus trip. in most other countries, the 16 hour bus ride would just have been done in one trip, but like i said, buses don’t drive at night here, so we had to stop and continue the rest of the drive the next day. in arba minch, each hotel we tried was full, and only after 3 or 4 tries, we finally found a place to stay.

the next day we got up at 4:45 again. ugh. back on the bus, and lots of driving. today was hotter than yesterday. i looked around and people were starting to sweat. finally, the guy in front of us, with sweat literally streaming and pouring down his face, gave in and opened his window. we did the same. a few others did too, and promptly got yelled at. but we and the guy in front of us somehow managed to keep our windows open the rest of the way.

we eventually reached weito, a tiny village that was basically the Ethiopian equivalent of a truck stop. we ate some food, and relaxed in the shade. and this is where we saw some of our first tribal people. there are 13 different tribes that live in this region, and each of them have unique styles of dress and customs. most of them still live in the same way that their ancestors lived. they still have the same clothing (or lack thereof) that is customary for their peoples. the whole point of coming here down south was to see the tribal peoples and see how they lived, and it was exciting to finally catch our first glimpse!

after a few more hours on the bus, we arrived in Jinka, the first village wanted to see. from the second we arrived, we were instantly harassed by an insane amount of touts. everyone wanted to be our guide, have us stay at their hotel, or whatnot. it was nuts. so annoying, but we managed to avoid them all, get a hotel room, and get some sleep.