We left Turmi and made our way to Jinka, driving through Hamer territory and seeing many Hamer kids. We stopped in Dimeka, which is kind-of the capital for the Hamer people. It was compulsory to have a local guide, and so we were forced to use the guide assigned to us (he wasn’t that good). You wouldn’t have created a bigger scene if you had brought in talking pigs. I will admit that at times I was uncomfortable having the kids pulling at my arms, pants, clothes and ask me for birr. However, Tonio had a blast bargaining for some beautiful wooden carved statues- replicas of the “waka” (sort-of totem poles from the Konso tribe that they erect in honor of warriors).
The Hamer people are a huge tribe that stretches all the way to Kenya, and has a population of 50,000. The men and women decorate their bodies with paint and a variety of jewelry and ornaments such as earrings, neckbands, belts, and iron bracelets worn up their arm. We saw them with leather, shells and beads, but even regular keys sewn to the adornments. The women have a unique way to wear their hair, which is slathered in an ochre (from red clay), some butter, and water paste, and then twisted and twisted until it forms little reddish ringlets called goscha, that lay flat on their heads. It is a sign of wealth and beauty, and is completely different from other tribes. At the market, they were selling the different foods that they farm: coffee, corn, sorghum, tobacco, chiles, ginger, cabbage, and onions. This is the most popular market in the region, and several tribes attend. Some women were there selling fabric for skirts (each tribe has a different pattern in the fabric), and the Banna people were selling similar foods and also bananas. I already told you the honey story- that I wanted to buy some local honey from the Hamers, and then realized the honey was stored in huge gourds with open tops.. not ideal for air travel. Here are pictures from the market- you can go faster by clicking on the right arrow in the show:
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We went to the livestock area of the market, and Tonio found out the prices of different animals: a goat goes for 200-400 birr ($15-30), a cow starts at 2000+ birr ($150), and a live chicken would be 50 birr ($4). While he was imagining his growing herd, I was playing with some little kids. It turns out a digital camera is a great icebreaker and attracts a lot of attention! It goes like this: I take a picture and show them. Then I mime for the kid to make a silly face, which they do for another photo. Then I show them, and they burst out laughing, and attract many more kids to do the same. It is very fun and I have gotten so many good photos of adorable kiddos!:) Another great icebreaker is to talk about the World Cup. No matter who you ask in Ethiopia “What’s your favorite team?” they will always answer Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, etc (one of the African countries). One kid looked at me like I was a moron- of course Cote d’Ivoire: “I’m African!” Many explained that if an African team does not make final four, it is acceptable to cheer for Brazil, as the team is mainly black anyway.
The final ice breaker of the day drew a huge crowd of people. Someone asked me “You, mother?” and motioned to her kids. I said yes, and happily took out the pictures of our kids to show. People were swarming me to see the pictures and asked their ages, what they were doing in the pictures, why Tonito was Chinese (they didn’t understand adoption, so I explained it: he didn’t have a family and we didn’t have a son. Now he is our son… they completely understood and would smile and pat my hand). I went over each picture as the crowds rotated so different people could have a front row view. Everyone was smiling a lot more at us after we somehow became more intimate and we weren’t just another tourist, but actually a mom and dad with a family. Students were coming up to us to practice their English and ask us about Obama (who appears on many t-shirts here, and who is popular enough that he would win an election here tomorrow even without speaking Amharic- we even saw a mechanic shop called Obama- Yes We Can! And a video store called “Obama video”). Kids begged to take more photos, and we naturally obliged.
We left the popular Tuesday market, and started driving towards Key Afar (kaya- fer). Driving on the desolate roads, we came across a random Banna shepherd once in a while, usually with a big gun (and of course Tonio wanted a picture with them!). In this group, one kid (not shown) is very drunk and can barely talk, stumbling around and laughing. I’m glad that he wasn’t the one with the gun!
As we were getting close to Jinka, we transitioned into Ari territory. We arrived in Jinka and decided to stay at the Orit Hotel, for about $11/night- and including hot water this time! We did not camp this time because we really need to sleep in mosquito nets, and also it is the rainy season and we don’t trust the tents. Jinka is sort-of the capital of the Omo Valley and most people who live here are Ari, although they are not very traditional. We saw women selling bananas on the street, men gathered around fuzzy TV’s watching the World Cup (South Africa v France), motorcycles on dusty, unpaved roads, palm trees, bougainvillea, and goats and cattle everywhere. There is an old airstrip in the middle of the town that is now just a green pasture of cows and kids playing soccer, and one abandoned airplane. When we got to the hotel, we saw the same group of New Zealanders, Americans, and a new Spaniard arguing with their driver. I am so happy we have Yosef!!! These particular tourists are quite rude and condescending to the Ethiopians and we try to maintain a distance when they are around. We went to sleep to the sound of crickets, cows, goats, motorcycles, people laughing at the restaurant, and some buzzing mosquitos.