For breakfast, we've been eating at the little hotels, typically fried eggs and fresh, homemade bread (SO GOOD). Today our goal is to make it to Arba Minch. After breakfast, we drove 40 km from Jinka to Key Afar (pronounced KAI-ya FAR). It was a short drive through the beautiful green countryside, and as we got closer we saw a lot of people carrying their goods to the market to sell. This market is mainly Banna (pronounced Benna) people, but also there are some Ari and some Hamer. Our guide was a nice kid who insisted that we call him Andy. (here he is with me) Andy's story was fascinating, but I'm not sure if it was common or unusual? He is from the Banna tribe, and lives in a small village "a very long walk" from Key Afar. He is one of 10 kids, and his father has 2 wives. He couldn't give us the reason why, but he explained that he was the only one from his entire village to come to the "big city" to study. When I tried to look up the population of Key Afar, it did not come up in the list of towns with population over 5,000. Even with a couple of thousand people though, it would be huge compared to a village of less than 100. Andy told us that his parents were OK with him going to study for a little while, but not that he is finishing high school, they are not happy at all. His father has told him many times that when you are studying, you are lazy- you’re just sitting there looking at books and not “working.” When you equate working with sweat and manual labor, then “staring at books” does make the person seem mundane or lethargic. His father’s other complaint is that the studying has “changed” Andy. Starting this year, his father has refused to pay for any more schooling.
If Erik Erikson is right, adolescence is when our kids will question their identity and go to extremes to test different roles before deciding which jacket to put on. I’m pretty sure that leaving your village, clothes, language, food, family, traditions qualifies as this teenage identity crisis (even though I don’t like to think of it as a crisis). He pointed to some mud and straw structures “We don’t have these mud huts…. Just straw in my village.” Andy walked for 2 days to get to Key Afar. He then slept in the main square for 2 nights, on the ground, and was terrified because he didn’t know anybody. He finally was given a room by an elder man with no children; in exchange for his room and board, he helps with the man’s farming in the afternoon. He works as a local tour guide to get a little bit of extra money. With that money, he saves some, has bought his books, and he purchased one set of “Western” clothing to use around town. Can you imagine owning 2 sets of clothing, and that by simply changing one for the other, you move from one world to another? He still saves his Banna cloth/skirt and accessories for when he visits home, because he confided that his friends and family would never accept him if he wore his non-Banna clothes at home.
Andy wants to open a health clinic in his village. He told us that if anyone gets sick now, they have no one who knows medicine: “You just get better or…not.” His father-and town- do not believe he will ever come back, nor do they think he will become a doctor. In order to go to medical school, Andy has developed a grandiose plan that I think might work; he is saving his tour guiding money to buy a motorcycle. Once he accomplishes this task, he will taxi people to and from his village and surrounding villages that need to get to the market. He knows that many people will pay to be able to bring their goods to and from the market in a single day (actually, in a matter of hours). He hopes to pay for college with his taxi earnings, and one day, when he opens his clinic, he wants to prove to his village that he did indeed achieve his goal.
At the cattle market, he explained the differences in the cloths the men use as wrap skirts. The terra cotta-white-charcoal striped fabric is meant for young men who can “still jump the bull” (ie can still participate in the traditional rite of passage for teenage boys into adulthood). We actually bought a couple of yards of this “Hey, I’m a teenage guy” fabric. Then the royal blue striped fabric (see the guy above on right- with the ostrich feather) is for “older men, like you” (said pointing to Tonio)- haha. Hey, he could still jump the bull:).
These pictures above and below are the road between the regular market and the livestock market. While we were at the livestock market, we were attracting some attention. One shepherd was watching us as I peppered Andy with questions. “So there are different markings on each cows- some scars on their backs, some notches in their ears, cuts on their necks.. what do they each mean?” Before he could answer, the Banna man asked Andy what I was wondering. They exchanged some words, and then Andy translated: “This is how they mark their cattle- how do you mark your cows?” My cows?:) It was such great question, and I smiled when I answered (as if I were the expert in branding cattle, or even have any for that matter) “Oh, we (notice how I say “we” as if I were included in the set of “past US cowboys,”)… We brand them by forming iron into a symbol, or letter, like this-” I bend a stick into a circle- “and then sticking it into a fire, and then”- I artificially brand the cow in front of me and add a “sssssssssss” for sound effects. The very serious shepherd needed no translation and broke into a huge smile saying something. “That’s good, good. We do that too sometimes he says” Andy translates. I try not to take credit for inventing branding, but he pats me on the shoulder. He pointed to my elastic hair band on my wrist and asked me about it. I took it off and showed him how it was stretchy- this was almost as impressive as my knowledge as an amateur cowpoke, and he signaled that he wanted to keep it. I said yes and he proudly put it on his arm, below the amazing brass bracelets that most Hamer men wear. I saw him walk away smiling, stretching out from his arm.
We leave the livestock market and walk around the main section: lots of butter, onions, bananas, avocados, honey, legumes, seeds, more handicrafts, gourds, containers for milk, shepherd’s little stools/headrests, and bracelets made of bullets. We saw a lot of tobacco, and Andy explained that the people grind it into a powder and snort it instead of smoking it. The goat skin skirts were beautifully decorated with layers of different colored skins, beads, and sometimes cowrie shells (we were told by several people that they are traded by some tribes that live near the Red Sea). A different length on the goat skin skirts worn by the women, would signify whether they we married or single. On the Hamer men, you can observe necklaces that signify the number of wives each man has.
See the orange/blue/white striped fabric he is holding out in the bottome of the picture? That is the "cool teenager" fabric I was talking about. It is a nylon (!?) mixture and I have no idea how it became popular, where they buy it from- definitely factory made.
These cute kids hung around us all day asking for candy. We finally caved in and immediately felt guilty about promoting cavities instead of passing out fruit. We learned our lesson and later gave out bananas!
After this wonderful market, we drove through Konso territory sharing the road with women in colorful, traditional skirts walking to and from the Konso market, lots of cattle herders, and many, and many, many people carrying bundles larger than themselves. We pass trickling rivers, not yet swollen with the rainy season’s downpours, where women washed clothes while children bathed and played. Thank you Yosef for being so patient with our whimsical requests! We also passed by a lot of huge termite towers, and finally found one we could get close enough to-
Beautiful Konso territory with their farming terraces:
It drizzled a bit. You can see the reddish sorghum in the foreground.
I love their fences; bananas
Sandal shop- made from recycled tires