I’m back from Ethiopia and probably DON’T have fleas.* Family, get ready for some hugs.
Only two nights ago I was an entire world away, sleeping at 3000 meters above sea level under a Milky-Way-dominated sky in the Simien Mountains, a place that was both completely remote and completely habited by the local population. For the four nights we were in the mountains, I kept thinking about writing a blog post titled, “Ethiopia—stars like whoa” but I didn’t know what else I would say besides “The stars are pretty. There are a lot. Some are bigger than others. They are far away.”
So I probably won’t write that blog post. Now I’m in Cairo and the sky is brown again.
I don’t think I’ve been somewhere before that felt so far away. While I was in the mountains I considered the fact that I was supposed to be heading back to the states in less than a week and the left hemisphere of my brain exploded. No way, I thought. Going to America from a place where I’ve seen shoeless ten-year-old boys plowing the mountainside with pairs of oxen should take at least a month. It’s hard to appreciate distances anymore. Geographical distances can be crossed so quickly, you don’t have time to get used to the cultural and historical gaps between peoples.
I was only in Ethiopia for about six days, which was definitely not long enough. We flew into Addis Ababa at the ungodly hour of 3:30 am last Wednesday and flew out at the even more ungodly hour of 4:30 am today. The entire time I was there I couldn’t believe it. “Wow….I’m in Ethiopia.” I thought, because sometimes interior monologues don’t get more creative than that.
After arriving at Bole International Airport, I exchanged my dollars for birr in the most satisfying money changing transaction I have ever made. I handed over my five thin $100 bills and in return I was given a thick stack of 100 birr bills that made me feel like a real baller. I proceeded to bleed those birr with astonishing speed.
We hung out at the unfortunately named café, “Yellow Spot,” and did some rat watching from the second story (more on this later) before heading to the domestic terminal where we lucked into a 7:00 am flight to Lalibela, the city of the famous rock churches.
In another 36 hours we would be at a castle in Gondar and in 48 hours we would be accompanied by a rifle-shouldering scout while trekking through some of the most epic landscapes either of us had ever seen, Nega, a guy we met at the airport, arranged the entire trip. After completing the deal, we noticed that his business cards said he organized tours of the Semen Mountains, and I confess that did make me a little nervous.
We were awesomely unprepared as the van trundled off towards our high-altitude adventure at 5:30 am last Friday, but we didn’t know it yet. Oh how our bodies would suffer.
On the whole, was an incrediblamaztastic trip and my coverage of it shall continue tomorrow and forever.
*Someone in a travel forum said that fleas sometimes happen.
P.S. Yes we saw crazy animals.
Along with 30 Rock I think you should add in “The Big Bang Theory”. Awesome fun. But speaking of stars, I love spending time at night looking at the stars, especially when up camping where there is no other stray light source except maybe the campfire. Love listening to the coyotes talking to each other, and even though there is a night noise that often scares some folks, it is like lullaby music to me. As for the insensitive prejudice in this world, I love all , for we are all different in our own way, yet we are all part of humanity. God put us all on this earth for a reason, so unite instead of fight. A little peace would be nice for a change.
Unite instead of fight—-I love it. People can do awesome things together. Awesome things and bad things, but if we’re careful we can just be awesome. I’m going to Colorado in a few weeks so I’m excited about the star possibilities out there. I can’t get enough!
Aaaah, what would I give to see a sky full of stars again! Damn all this light pollution. Also, I’m putting Ethiopia on my “Places to visit before I die” list now.
I’m hoping you got plenty of amazing photos, even if yours is not a photoblog.Who can resist?
I’m definitely not resisting…..get ready for photo-overload.
We don’t know each other, but I have read your blog from time, during the past couple of months. You write well, and can be very funny: the post about the ridiculous bwana with the pith helmet in luxor was particularly funny.
I would be interested to read a kind of summary of your time in Egypt. It sounds like you have have given up on Arabic (well, it is one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn, although Egyptian slang is real easy, mish kidda?), and that you have not much to say about the massively important Presidential election in Egypt. I think many people would enjoy reading a frank and open assessment of Egyptian society and culture, from the perspective of a young American woman, studying a year abroad, with no obvious axes to grind.
I am sure you realize this, but coming back to America will be a shock, after all this time abroad. In particular, now that you have spend some time in a Moslem society, you will no doubt cringe at the virulent racism and hatred in this country, towards most, if not all things Arab and Moslem.
My hope is that in your writing, in the future, you will find room to depict to your readers the humanity of Arabs, instead parlaying as fact the disgusting stereotypes that are paraded by politicians, in the press, and on TV, here, on a daily basis.
Best of luck in SF, getting a writing gig. As you know, the city has a massively er noble history of good writers who lived and wrote there at one time or another. May you become one day one of them.
This is definitely something I should consider doing, especially as I’m about to leave this fair country and it would be good to give some last impressions. I certainly agree with you that the portrayal of Muslims/Arabs in the media is appalling and has lead to an incredibly unfortunate amount of blatant racism. My blog began as kind of a documentation of my life in Egypt but has since wandered elsewhere, though I know that in some ways I have a responsibility to use these experiences to fight against bigotry back home and I hope to do so in the future. Thank you so much for your well wishes and thanks for reading.
I am glad you enjoyed your trip.. Ethiopia is my neighboring country and I always wanted to go there. If I one day happen to be there, I will stare at the stars and remember this post….
Thanks! You must make it there! It seems like it was on the edge of a big tourist boom so who knows how it’s going to be in a few years.
Just read a story about a night-time power outage in LA. 911 got thousands of calls about those strange lights in the sky. Was it a meteor shower, which had taken the power out? Many adults had Never seen the stars. Good luck on cultural re-absorption.
Haha I was actually just thinking about that story. The milky way can be a frightening thing if one is not prepared. Cultural re-absorption is going slowly…it will need to be aided with much oatmeal and 30 rock.
You and Uncle Dick will have to compare notes–he spent time there 15 years ago. He loved it!
I’m sure it’s changed a lot! I would love to talk about it with him——-are there pictures??
It all sounds really great, and I’m happy for you that you’ve had such an uncommonly amazing experience.
It really was and I’m still realizing that…it’s hard to believe I had the chance to go. Some things I’ll never understand.
So cool. If I visit half the places you’ve been, I’ll be a happy man.
Your first stop should be Oklahoma City, OK!
Happy you enjoyed your trip. Seeing the stars after their being hidden by civilization can be a hard thing to put in words. It can be unsettling knowing how small we are in the scheme of things. Or, it can reinforce our feeling of oneness with the cosmos.
I find the feeling of being small fairly comforting….like it doesn’t all depend on me. Because sometimes I can get confused.