April 2010

So tonight is my last night in Ethiopia. I’m in Addis Ababa right now, and before I start my victory lap and crowing about how I’ve made it out alive, I’d like to reflect on a few things.

1. They eat a surprising amount of eggs here. I keep seeing baskets of eggs. And there are hardboiled eggs in a bunch of the stews I’ve eaten. And eggs mixed with stuff for breakfast. Not that I’m complaining, of course, it’s just not something I expected.

2. If the power is working, the water is not running.

3. Do not try to tell an Ethiopian that the Ark of the Covenant might, in fact, be somewhere besides Axum. Trust me on this one.

4. Ethiopia is actually Middle Earth. Gondar, Axum…even Lalibela was formerly known as Roha(n). Think about it.

5. No one in Ethiopia can properly slice anything in loaf form. It’s bizarre. Even packaged loaf-shaped things like the poundcake we got as a snack on my flight(s) of doom are all a completely arbitrary size and have one fat end and one skinny end. Why does everyone here slice bread like my father?

6. I am now relatively certain that Ethiopian Airways has only one aircraft for domestic flights. And that it is broken and they do not know how to fix it. If you opt to fly on the death glider, make your peace with God beforehand.

Cape Town tomorrow! (Hopefully. Addis is so far not my favorite city, so we’ll see if I actually make it out of here.)

Priest as Door Guardian.

First thing: my parents have discovered this site. Therefore, from now on, all naughty words shall have asterixes, so that “they” can’t “come get” me.

Moving right along.

My last real stop on Jane Goes To Africa To Not Die Part 1: Ethiopia, was Lalibela. I’m glad I did Gondar-Axum-Lalibela, because the towns get more and more rural as you go. I think Axum was my favorite. It had such a pretty main streed lined with these trees that have no leaves, only light purple blossoms. I think they’re called jicanda? And also, flame trees, which have bursts of red and orange flowers. Quite nice. In Lalibela I stayed at this little hotel, the Seven Olives, that had a gorgeous view over the town and valley. Lalibela is actually pretty high up at around 2600 meters. Sunset on the terrace with a mango juice or cold beer in hand is not a bad way to spend the evening. I hope everyone is enjoying work?

I spent the morning wandering around the famous rock churches. These are the ones that are on every poster and the ones that show up on every google search for “Ethiopia”. Since it’s low tourist season I had them all to myself too. Really, there was no one else there, just me and a bunch of priests. UNESCO has put up some pretty awful scaffolding over some of them, but I guess I’d rather have that then no churches at all due to erosion. You used to be able to go from Church to church in these valleys and tunnels carved into the rock, and although most of the tunnels are closed now, I did find an open one and scrambled through it for about 200 meters. Shockingly, I had my torch on me, so I could actually see…might have been cool to wander though it in the pitch dark though. Someone told me that that’s how the pilgrims used to do it, as a test of faith.

In the afternoon I shared a minibus with a Dutchman and a Swede, and we drove up into the mountains to see this other church. Noow the old school Ethiopians must have had this thing for caves and rocks and churches because this church was built from wood and marble imported from Jerusalem. Only first they hollowed out a cave in the mountains to build the church in. OF course, today, the church is exceptinally well-preserved because of the cave, so I guess they knew what they were up to. The other thing about this church though is that in the back of the cave, there were piles and piles of skeletons. Over 500 of them, our guide said, dating from the 11th to 15th centuries and all the bodies of pilgrims who had come to this “Second Jerusalem” to die. Mostly they were piles of bones, but you could see a whole bunch of them still held together by old sinew… And of course, it’s not like these guys are behind a wall, no no. There is no light in the cave so all of a sudden you’re like, wait a minute, that rock is abnovmally smooth ohmygoditsaskullholysh*t. And then you look 3 feet ahead of you and there’s a sea of bones. I still cant decide if that’s cool or just freaky. Anyway, I hope you all read this before you go to lunch.


Refueling the car, safely.

Rain in the Ark of the Covenant compound

I’ve joined forces with this phenomenal Australian woman who has been traveling through Africa alone for nine months now. She’s brilliantly nutty, talks a mile a minute, waves to every child, calls everybody darling, and is the same age as my mom. She’s been using the name Aisha. I don’t know what her real name is but I want an African alias of my own. suggestions?


So today we got a little robbed and ended up paying slightly more than we wanted to for a trip out to Yesha, which is about an hour away, and only 60km away from the Eritrian border! And I didnt even try to cross it. Even I know better than that. it’s got the oldest Judiac temple in Ethiopia there, and is pretty sweet. 2400 years old. Not bad. We also saw these old tombs in a palace complex that we had to explore with candles because we didnt have torches and the power was out. (the power goes out at least once a day here. im getting used to it) I have never felt more Indiana Jonesy and it was incredible. there were the deep wide steps leading into the tombs and everything! and then there was a room full of bats that came screaming out when we went near them!

ok im about to get kicked off this computer, but tomorrow im going to the rock churches of tigray for two days. I am going to scale a cliff face with “fingers and toes” to reach one of these things. AWESOME.

And the people are just as skinny as you’d expect!

Actually, I made it here withought any serious mishaps–even my baggage arrived, which is nothing short of miraculous. I did have to spend Monday night curled up on a conveyer belt in Addis Ababa Airport’s baggage claim, but that was fine. I tried to post from a park in Istanbul too, but apparently that didnt work as well as I had hoped. Had a lovely layover thanks to Jared, my future beau, who gave me a great little tour and overcame his vegetarianism to feed me kofte, lamb meatballs. That’s true love. I’d describe my wonderful meal, but it would make me too hungry and since there’s no food in Ethiopia I don’t want to go there.

This is sort of different from Manhattan.

I’m trying to ration my clif bars. Seriously. I’m going to eat the kid that’s been staring at me from the doorway of this internet cafe for the last half hour.

I spent two days in the “city” of Gonder (or Gondar. I keep seeing it spelled both ways and i have no idea which is right.) and a morning romping about in the Simien Mountains where I saw HUNDREDS of Bleeding Heart Baboons. Damn things are big. I would have written sooner to let everyone know I made it at least into the country (anyone lost any money yet?) but there were two massive freak thunderstorms which knocked out the power both nights. Go f*cking figure. I go to a nation plagued with water shortages during the dry season and as soon as I made it to Chuch number one, BOOM. Downpour. God really wanted me to take a close look at those painted Ethiopian saints!

I guess they were pretty cool. OK FINE IT WAS AWESOME.

Anyway, in the hopes that I will have more internet in Axum (where I am now), I will let you know how my search for the Ark of the Covenant goes. Because it’s supposed to be here, in the St. Mary of Zion Church. No one is allowed in the inner building, and women apprently arent even allowed in the court yard. But what if they have an Indy hat?

Flight delayed two hours! Iceland is exploding everywhere! I’m reasonably sure I forgot to pack a toothbrush and an adequate amount of socks!

Which is fine, I guess. I bet they don’t even wear socks in Ethiopia. Good thing I have some leftover Valium from the eye surgery. I’m setting up shop at the nearest airport bar and I’ve already made friends with a security guard on account of my supersweet Indiana Jones hat. Let’s get this party started off right!

Don’t FUCK MESS with me, JFK.