Ethiopia was a world full of amazing food, dancing and especially people. As my 14th African country to visit, I can honestly say, I think it was one of my favorites if not my favorite.
What we did:
I’ll first start by giving an overview of all the amazing activities we did and the places we saw. We flew into Addis Ababa from Nairobi early in the morning and went straight to Taitu Hotel, the oldest hotel in the city. It was quaint and we met some other really nice travelers there. From there we took a car about 150km to Wenchi Crater, a beautiful gorge we took horses down into with a lake at the bottom. It was straight out of Lord of The Rings with wild horses roaming around, a rickety water mill and mountain goats fighting each other for the highest points on the rocks. Throughout the bottom there were also local scattered villages where children would come out of their homes and wave to us as we trotted by. We took a canoe across the lake at the bottom and saw a monastery on the island in the middle. Then we took the horses back up the other side. It was truly one of God’s gifts to us, a beautifully serene landscape luckily still untouched by ugly industrialism.
Our next city was Lalibela, home of the historic rock churches still used by the Orthodox Christians. We stayed in the Three Olives Hotel which is famous for its delicious tibs, spicy cuts of beef marinated in some magically delectable sauce. We hired a guide to take us to the churches and again I am at a loss of words at how to describe the beauty in them. We just happened to go on a religious holiday so people had pilgrimage from all over the country to be there. Adorned in white robes, they kissed the walls and prayed on the floors and chanted. I felt so honored to be able to be a part of this. One of the main deacons was there and he was blessing people with his holy cross. The people would take off their shirts and expose their bare skin to the cross believing that they were being healed by its touch. There was nothing but pure faith in the air and it made me wish I could believe in something so much. We were also introduced to tesh in Lalibela, a local honey wine. Christina loved it, but me…one sip and I was done ha!
The last city, but not least, that we visited was Gondor. It reminded me of a city we have here in Kenya called Kisumu. We particularly loved it because it was the first city we got to have a hot shower in. We explored ancient castle ruins and had a photo shoot with almost every Ethiopian visiting the site ha! Everyone wanted to take their picture with us, we almost started charging money. Gondor was also cool because of the night life. We went to a few clubs and, I’ll get into it more later, but we danced our butts off! We were also fortunate in Gondor to be sitting at a restaurant and overhear some people talking and found out that they were Peace Corps! 2 Peace Corps Uganda traveling through and 2 PC Ethiopia volunteers having dinner with us 3 Kenya volunteers. It was awesome! We had an instant bond! It was so fun comparing our countries and experiences. Finally, we took another horse tour through the mountains near Gondor and were able to see how local people live. It was similar to Kenya, but we were able to see how the local food and beer were made which was really cool. I was so scared on my horse cause he kept trying to fight with the other horses and also the terrain was really rocky and steep.
We flew back to Addis for one last day and went to the museum and then back to Kenya.
Ok so I have to dedicate a section just to the food. Oh MY GOD was the food good. We ate traditional Ethiopian cuisine for almost every meal, even breakfast! I must have gained 10kg on this trip. If you haven’t tried Ethiopian food, it consists of njera bread and then a bunch of lentil curries or veggies placed around on top of it. You eat with your hands as a group. I wish Kenya had local food like that. There was so much flavor and it was all so healthy. No wonder Kenyans are so much fatter than Ethiopians.
Of course I have to talk about the dancing as well, being a dancer myself. If you’ve ever read The Witch of Portabello by Paulo Chelo (spelling?), it reminded me of that. In the book they let themselves go with dancing in order to connect with God. Watching and dancing with Ethiopians felt like spiritual awakening for me. They totally let themselves go moving their shoulders every which way, disconnecting from their spines and fearless of seeming foolish. Dance until you sweat through your shirt seemed to be the motto. Also, they didn’t seem to have a problem dancing with the opposite sex as Kenyans do. One night I danced so hard I made 22Bir (about 1US$). As a tradition they stick money on peoples foreheads who they feel are dancing well. The music was so pretty too.
Ethiopians (in my opinion only) are very different than Kenyans. For one, no one ever seemed to be barefoot. Also they didn’t harass us as much as we are use to in Kenya. We are so fearful of getting robbed in Kenya that we were clutching our bags so tight throughout the trip and not trusting even 5 year olds, but as time went on we began to relax and realize that it is not within Ethiopian culture to screw you over. People were so gracious and willing to help us. The only difficult thing was not being able to speak the language. It made us realize how happy we are to know Kiswahili in Kenya. We were lost in translation on too many occasions. But it is all a part of the adventure.
Anyway so now I’m back in Kenya. This last weekend we had a going away party for me and lot of PCV friends came. It was very emotional for me to hear all the nice things everyone had to say. They were saying how much I love my community and how lucky I am to have all these wonderful people in my life. I couldn’t agree with them more. My villagers were saying thank you for all my help and giving me their blessings for America. They said that because my name is Chepkosgei and it’s a name from here, that I have to come back here someday. I know I will. Kenya and especially my village will always be a part of me. It is who I am. They danced for me and gave me really sweet gifts. They are even planning on having another going away on the 27th! I feel so blessed.
I officially COS May 17th and then I’ll be able to come home. I have World Malaria Day coming up next week and then a conference so it’s going to fly by. It’s bitter sweet, but I’m ready to come home and see my family friends and boyfriend. I’ll be home until August before I move to DC so I plan on making the most of it.
Thanks to all of those who have supported me along this journey.