Monday, January 16, 2017

Ethiopia Last Day

This post chronicles the last day of our trip to Ethiopia.  If you are just catching up on my blog posts my suggestion is to go back to day one of the trip so it all makes sense!  

To my mom:  to do this you scroll down to the bottom of this page and select "older posts".  It will take you to the last post before the one at the bottom of the page.  Continue to scroll down and select older posts until you get to Ethiopia Day 1.  K?   Love you, thanks for always praying for our safety....especially this past week when we were in Ethiopia! 

PS  We do not have good internet tonight so while I have our itinerary typed I can't get the pictures to load.  Hopefully I can remedy that later! : )

We had the morning to relax because our flight back to Addis wasn’t scheduled until the afternoon.  I enjoyed a massage (well enjoy is a strong word because she was rough on me) and then we took a quick dip in the pool (COLD but still enjoyed it) which gave us enough time to pack up and be out of our room by noon. 

President and Sister Collings and the Harlines and Habtu were on our same flight but they were going to stop in Hawassa and deplane.  They were going to Hawassa to have interviews with Priesthood brethren and reorganize the Branch Presidency there.  The plane was scheduled to have a quick drop off there and then fly the rest of the way to Addis, but we discovered that the airline dropped the stop in Hawassa.  That meant that those five had to DRIVE to Hawassa which is a five hour drive from Arba Minch!  I felt so bad for them because we had already spent so much time driving that whole week.  It had to be done though because the Branch REALLY needed a change so they all (with good attitudes) made the trek.  I haven’t heard how things went but hopefully all went well!

We had a six hour layover in Addis so Habtu had arranged a taxi for us to see the sights of the city.  Our driver, named Abraham, was a very cordial man and we had a good time with him.  He took us to the market where I ordered a skirt and two scarfs (that I will use as table runners) from Afework, a tailor in the market.  The other senior sisters told me that he was the best one to go to so that’s what we did.  

After that we drove to Abyssinia Restaurant for a dinner and show.  We had a traditional Ethiopian dinner which was VERY different!  Before dinner a man came to our table with a big silver pitcher so that we could wash our hands with soap and water.  We were served a platter filled with different meats and spices and cheese all piled on top of a round sheet of Njera (a spongy flat bread).  We ate with our hands.  The process is tearing off a piece of Njera then picking up meat and spices with it and plopping it in your mouth.  I don't especially like trying new foods but it wasn't too bad and we made another fun memory. 

 Then we enjoyed watching dancers demonstrate the different dances from different areas of Ethiopia.  We sat in the front with loud speakers so I had to put something in my ears to diminish the soundJ  We had an enjoyable time.  the dancers were all very talented!  

We caught our flight and had to pass three different security gates.  We almost did not make our flight.  Who knew that when we stopped in the little shop to buy some chocolate to get rid of our extra Birr that we would almost NOT make our plane.  We thought we were at the gate but discovered that the gate was further up and there was a HUGE line in front of us to get through yet another security line.  We had only twenty minutes until our plane was to take off!  Luckily Elder Phelps did some sweet talking to an official looking fellow and we went right to the front of the line. Whew!  That was close!  We arrived in Kampala and got picked up by the Protea Hotel shuttle and got to sleep and about 3AM.  Did I mention how WONDERFUL our stay at Protea was/is?  We got upgraded (again) to the suite on the second floor.  Supa Nice!!    So happy to be back in Uganda!

                                Us with the Fords on our way back to Addis.

Ethiopia Day 6

Today we left Jinka early and headed the dirction back to Arba Minch.  We stopped at the Konso Village which was really interesting.  It was one of my favorite villages actually.  The Konso people were all clothed in Western Clothing but still live in huts.  What makes their village unique is that it is enclosed in a rock wall.  Three of them actually.  The oldest being 800 years old.  It was really fun walking through the maze of rock walls getting through the village ending in the middle where the people meet for gatherings.  The people were not too aggressive in demanding money for a picture (the kids maybe a little more so) but we just enjoyed being there and learning about the culture.  The Konso people have terraced gardens all over the mountains.  It is very fascinating and their village is a World History Sight because of their resourcefulness in their crop gardening.

                                 A bathroom stop at a hotel with beautiful bougainvillea!

Men of the Konso Tribe playing a traditional game.

This is our guide lifting a "maturity ball".  When a young man is old enough to lift this big rock and toss it behind his head he is considered mature enough to marry.

                             We found a weaver and we purchased a few things from him:)

     I loved the coziness of this village.... and the rock walls and the wooden door frames.

We also stopped at a neat place that resembled Bryce Canyon.  It was a beautiful red canyon that had gigantic outcroppings of dirt from the base of the canyon.  Pictures can explain better!  

    There was a group of boys trying to earn some money and they did a fun little dance for us.  
                                       Wish I could show the video on this blog.

Terraced mountain.

We had lunch in the car as we drove to Lake Chamo for a boat ride to see some wildlife.  We were able to see a few hippopotamus and some HUGE crocodiles!   They were really spectacular to see!  At one point on our way back to the dock we saw a dying tilapia in the water so we made about ten passes to try to pick it up for our captain to take home for dinner.  With the help of a bucket someone found, Habtu was able to scoop it up!  Afterwards we traveled the few miles the rest of the way to Arba Minch and to our nice facilities there. 

Cute Elder Phelps

Yellow Billed Stork


Habtu and the fish.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Omo Region Day 5

Today we left Turmi and drove 258 kilometers.  A lot of time in the car!  We stopped in Jinka and dropped off our luggage and then we drove the rest of the way (over terrible washboard roads….does it sound like I’m complaining?  It’s just my take on things.  If Rick were writing this EVERYTHING would be roses) to the Mursi Tribe.  We had been warned to be careful with this tribe because they get very aggressive with the tourists, especially in the afternoon when they start their daily drinking of alcohol. 

The Mursi tribe is the mother of all tribes that the tourists want to see.  This is the tribe where the women pierce their bottom lips in their early teenage years and insert a round disk in them.  Gradually they stretch their lips out until a large plate fits.  It is extremely disfiguring but the women think it is a sign of beauty and so the teenagers are encouraged to do the same.  They have to knock out the bottom four teeth before they begin this process.  One problem is that since there is no bottom lip or teeth they drool and spit a lot.  It is absolutely NOT a pretty sight but this is what they do! 

While Elder Phelps was excited to visit this tribe I just couldn’t get my heart into it.  After the experience of the night before I just didn’t want anything more to be do with these “foolish and evil traditions of their fathers.”  I could see as I watched the group from the car that the women were not aggressive but seemed to be quite passive.  I thought, “Maybe I should get out and take one picture.”  Eventually Sister Collings made her way over and let me know that the tribe was quite passive so I mosied on over to where Rick was standing and ended up taking one picture.   It wasn’t long that we were back in the car heading back to Jinka sitting on the patio having an egg sandwich for lunch.

                                A cute shot of the naked boys looking at Sister Collings' iPad.

This boy was standing on the side of the main road as we were driving and started racing us.  He saw Elder Phelps snap a picture and was not happy that we did not stop to give him 5 Birr.

After taking a nap in our room (very rustic again,  but I didn’t see any spiders) Elder Phelps and I had an enjoyable afternoon taking a ride in a Bajaj (a 3-wheeled motorcycle taxi) to see the town of Jinka.  We had a really cute teenage driver who's name is Rafael.  He giggled a lot and was really happy.  Especially when Elder Phelps tried to talk with him.  His English was not great but we were able to communicate....mostly!  We stopped at the market and the hill above town for some photos.  Then we rode to the other side of town and stopped at a (sort of) park.  There was a swing that we enjoyed playing on and then climbed up some huge rocks.  It was just a fun afternoon NOT being in a hot car.  We made a fun memory!  Another memory was made when just before dinner we discovered that there was NO water in our room!  NONE!  Actually NO ONE had water in their rooms!  And it continued throughout the night.  We left the next morning with just a spit bath.  Thank goodness for bottled water!  And Hats!!

Omo Region Day 4

We got up early again and had a quick breakfast and then off we went to see the Karo tribe.  We drove through more desert and then after about an hour we drove into the village and right to the edge of a cliff that looked down over a beautiful scene.  The Omo River with it’s brown water was flowing freely and on the other side of the river in the valley were beautiful green trees and foliage.  I could not believe what I was seeing!  We had seen nothing but desert for many miles and then this!!  I was astounded!  The Karo Tribe is one that likes to body paint.  Most of the women were painted with white and/or yellow paint made from plants around the region.  The women in this tribe also use scarification on their arms and stomach for beauty.  These women also wear colorful beads as well.

One interesting ceremony that the Karo tribe does is when a man wants to wed a woman he must pay a dowry to the woman’s parents of 127 goats and/or sheep.  After that is accepted than he must do a bull jump.  That is when eight or nine bulls are lined up and the male must jump on the backs of all of the bulls without falling to be able to marry the girl.  If he fails then he does not qualify.

                                         The Omo River and Valley in the distance

                                                    Painted girls

                                                    Below is a picture of the village chief.

                                    I love the picture of this woman overlooking the valley.

                                     An example of the men sitting on their chairs.

After visiting the Karo tribe we went back to the lodge to have a little lunch.  Then we went off to see the Dassanech Tribe.  I will not write much about this experience because it was not a good one for me.  While all of the tribes live in filthy circumstances this one to me was the worst and some things I saw made me physically ill.  The people truly had an animalistic look in their eyes!  The women and children kept pressuring to be paid to have their pictures taken and I felt hands touching and begging and I just wanted OUT of there.  Finally I broke away from our group to get out of that place.  Still the people followed and I just held onto Rick so that I could get back to the boat (Did I mention we crossed the river to get there?)  Anyway, it felt good to completely shower that night!  I will post pictures but that’s all I will write about that particular tribe.

Before I went to bed that night I saw yet another spider run across the floor (on my side) and again I was awake much of the night thinking about spiders and the awful experience that I had earlier in the day.  My thoughts turned to Heavenly Father and how I know that he loves each of his children.  I wondered if the people in these tribes volunteered as spirits to come to such a place just to gain a body?  Were they extremely righteous spirits that would automatically be saved?  Did Heavenly Father really have to choose which spirits had to come here to live?  How do you do that to someone?  These people have no idea about Heavenly Father and Truth and Jesus Christ.  Why were they chosen to be born here?  Why was I born into a loving family that has the gospel and into a land of freedom and excess and not in a Godless tribe in Ethiopia?  To be honest with you these questions did not begin with this experience in Ethiopia.  It has been brewing in my mind for many months now as I see the poverty and terrible conditions of so many that I have come to know and love in Uganda.  Why them here?  Why me in my comparative temporal affluence in the US?

As I look back and write about this experience I am grateful for the opportunity that I had to attend church today.  (It is now Sunday and our week in Ethiopia has ended)  Today in the Entebbe Ward in Gospel Essentials class we learned about “Our Heavenly Family.”  One passage stood out to me.  It says, “Our Father in Heaven knows who we are and what we did before we came here.  He has chosen the time and place for each of us to be born so we can learn the lessons we personally need and do the most good with our individual talents and personalities.”  This passage makes it clear to me that Heavenly Father is in control.  He knows each of us individually.  And while I don’t understand why things are done the way they are and what the reasoning is behind what spirits go where, that’s ok because He is in charge.  What is important is that because I have been blessed to have been born with the Gospel as a guide and light in my life, it is my responsibility to share that message of truth.  It is humbling (and even a little overwhelming) that Heavenly Father has placed me in a position to share and teach truth to other people of other lands.  It is clear to me as I think about the setting apart that Rick and I received before we came to Africa, as well as my own personal Patriarchal Blessing, that this will not be our only mission.  Rick and I have been blessed with much through the years and I believe that with those temporal blessings it is expected of us to use our means to show Heavenly Father that we are willing to serve as much as He needs us to.

I will share another thought that I had today as I was sitting in Relief Society.  In this particular branch at the beginning of RS we all stand up and recite the Relief Society Declaration (Is that what it’s called?)  It says, “We are beloved spiritual daughters of our Heavenly Father and our lives have meaning, purpose and direction.”  That one line tells me that these tribal women have meaning and purpose.  They get up in the morning to find and prepare food, to care for their children, and to have relationships and have joy with other women in the tribe.  Since they live in such harsh and primitive circumstances I think to myself, “How could these women ever be happy?”  Today I understand a little more clearly that their lives, however strange and different that they are from mine, have purpose and they are making the most of what they have been given.