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.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 5: Conversations with the Banna at Key Afar Market

Walking to market with firewood; A woven structure; Construction in the countryside; A school doing morning exercises

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.

Because we were fortunate to have Andy as our local guide, we gleaned throughout the morning about his and other Banna villages. For example, his friend (maybe 14 year old?), came up and spoke excitedly with him for several minutes. They hugged, and a very smiling Andy told us that he had just been invited to his friend’s bull-jumping ceremony: “The real one- not the tourist one- you can come. Do you want to come? You can stay at my house. My mother is a good cook. You’ll come? We have room. You can come to my village!” He got more excited as he explained and was getting us excited- imagine sleeping in the village! We wistfully declined, knowing that we had to stay on the itinerary in order to get back to Awassa and meet our little boy.
Here we are at the cattle market; The cow skin, holding some fresh meat for sale;
This man (below right) is wearing an ostrich feather, to signify that he has killed a large animal. Men are allowed to display their pride for 3 months- although I am not sure what animal he must have killed?

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:).
Also in the market, Andy pointed out the richest man from his village, selling some of his cattle. He has several wives, 400 cows and even more goats. Andy explained that there are no poor people in his village because the man has 6-7 cows that he allows anyone to share the milk.

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.
Be careful of the chickens; in the second picture you can see the guy on the left wearing the famous fabric-

This truck goes once a week to the village, and any people wanting to buy or sell in the market can pay a small fee for the transport. If you click on the picture, you can make it bigger to see the details.

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-
Similar to some southern US states, southern Ethiopia produces tobacco, cotton, corn, sorghum... Unlike the US, Ethiopia also produces the world's best coffee... Here is a lot of cotton drying and waiting to be picked up. If you look closely you can see the people working in the cotton mounds.

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

After having tea in Konso, we carried on along the highway- once in a while it was paved. In my journal you can tell when we are going over really rough road (and I can barely read my handwriting) to where it is gravel and pretty straight driving. We passed loads of green bananas piled high by the side of the road, waiting for a truck to come by and pick them up. Yosef believes that most of the bananas are consumed within Ethiopia, with the majority going from the south to northern cities like Addis Ababa.
Someone asked why all of the women in my pictures are working hard carrying heavy loads and the men in my pictures seem to be relaxing... I'm not sure, I didn't aim to take certain gender-specfici pictures. I know the men were in charge of the field work and the women were in charge of bringing back water from the well and gathering firewood.. Maybe we just saw more women working because they used the road to walk on, whereas the men were working far in the fields where we couldn't see them?

I love the traditional skirts of the women, woven by hand, dyed with native flowers. I looked for a skirt in the market but didn't find any. I was told everyone makes their own.. I guess I'll have to learn to weave if I want one.

Konso Market:

Sandal shop- made from recycled tires

This section should be called heavy cargo:

I wish I could have stopped the car to take a picture of the many rivers we passed... Here is one such river, where women gather water and carry it home on their backs using ropes or goat skins. The yellow containers are recycled cooking oil jugs. The smaller the person (child) carrying the water, the smaller the container. These kids were at the most 6 and 4? Maybe younger?

Besides soccer, we saw a lot of these foosball/table soccer games, always surrounded by crowds of kids cheering on their favorite players.

Saying good-bye to the acacia trees

We finally arrived in Arba Minch and decided to stay at the Bekele Mola Hotel, because the Lonely Planet says the views are heavenly. We couldn’t verify the view because it was pitch black but we did have a nice soup and sandwich dinner accompanied by bats and cats, who were both enjoying the insects for dinner. Once back in the room, we had no water, no electricity, and got STUCK inside our room. There were bars over our windows and the room could only be opened from the outside. We banged for about 35 minutes on our metal door, yelling for someone to come. Finally a guard came around 10pm and opened the door, but couldn’t fix the water or electricity situation. It was a little frustrating because this “hotel” actually had a toilet, but not the ability to flush… I think the holes-in- the-ground-as-toilets were better options?


Anonymous said...

Wow! Great post, Beck. It's no wonder people love reading your blog, you are a great writer. I love all the every day mundane details that make it so easy to imagine being there. love, dadxxoo

Zoe said...

You guys are really adventurous! I loved the story about Andy. I sure hope he reaches his goal.