Life with 4 kids 6 and under. Our trip to pick up Tonito in China is: mid-March 2008 through April 12. Our trips to pick up Ricky in Ethiopia are in June and August of 2010.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 3: Hamer time at Dimeka Market

I think these roosters are a little confused as to when they should announce the morning, because we heard them all night long. I finally got out of bed around 7, when I heard an incessant tapping. Peering out the window, I saw a woman tapping a stick into wooden receptacle. Later I found out that she was grinding the coffee beans, which she had just roast in a cast iron pot over some acacia charcoal. After grinding them, she boiled water in her clay coffee pot and then added the coffee grounds to steep. She laid out coffee cups onto a small table, set upon special grasses, leaves, and sometimes flowers that are placed on the ground. The traditional incense was filling the air and mixing with the coffee aroma. Finally she carefully poured the coffee into 8 tiny cups and served us coffee with sugar (video clip will come soon!). I am not a coffee drinker, but I LOVE this Ethiopian coffee. It is so rich, so strong, yum!!!! Every morning I have a tiny glass of coffee with sugar.
The legend is that a shepherd noticed how his goats acted differently when they ate from a certain bush (specifically the coffee berries). He tried some berries, and saw that they kept him awake all night. He told the local priest, who threw them in the fire, admonishing him for tasting food from the devil. However when they began to roast, the heavenly aroma convinced him to try some. Monks in Ethiopia spread the coffee bean throughout the monasteries, and later to Arabia. I’m not sure how much of this is true, but it sounds logical, and coffee is endemic to Ethiopia!

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).
We told the guide that we wanted to buy a calabash (carved gourd) after seeing all of the women carry their grains to the market in them. Tonio and our guide ended up convincing one of the women to dump out the corn she had brought to the market to sell, and instead sell us the calabash container! It was a very funny scene, but I absolutely love the gourd! She was confused as to why we would want to buy a “used” one, and why we wouldn’t want the corn, but was happy to get a good price from the farengis (foreigners).
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:
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Dimeka Market
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Customize a free picture slideshow

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!

Now that we left the Hamer territory, and were in Banna territory, people demanded 1-2 birr per picture (13 birr is $1, so 1 birr is less than a dime). Yosef was telling us that this supplemental income somehow motivates them to maintain their traditional dress and culture, and discourages them from leaving for the big city. It’s a very odd feeling to be chased down- kids sprinting up mountains and racing across fields and screaming “photo! You you you you photo!” This usually happens when we stop to use the bathroom (i.e. bushes), and kids that seem to be miles away somehow cover the ground faster than humanly possible (although they are Ethiopian, and ET produces some amazing long distance runners!)…But then for the local inhabitants, it is equally odd to be doing your daily duties and having weird tourists constantly take pictures of you. If the weirdness is a lose-lose situation, I guess the paying for the photos is a win-win situation.

This guy didn't charge me any birr for the pictures;)-

Look at what he is holding in his hand (besides the gun). That little wooden thing is a chair and a head rest for sleeping for all of the shepherds we saw- literally they ALL carry them. We bought several from shepherds at the market!

Here are some houses in different stages of construction:

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.


Anonymous said...

I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed following your trip via this blog! I check everyday for the next post (-: What a wonderful gift to your son.

Thank you so much for sharing, Buffy

Heather BT said...

So glad to get an update, waiting for more!
Heather BT

Ann said...

what a great journal for your new child, keep up the wonderful info! Best wishes K fyi