Bringing Tears to an Old Man’s Eyes is Humbling

I sometimes wonder whether I pick the right people to surround myself with, whether I help to create the right atmosphere, or whether I’m just lucky.

My driver, Yonas, is probably the ony Ethiopian I’ve met who’s taller than me.  He’s one of those rangey, sonorous and very capable looking people.  The first time he broke into song took me quite by surprise, but I’ve since come to learn that he’s prone to frequent singing, dancing, whooping and clapping.  Our bonding was complete on a bar crawl in Arba Minch, where we both agreed that one bar was too loud, that all the girls were prostitutes (and probably some of the boys too, although I think that would shock Yonas) and that we should leave and take Amha with us.

It seems like much longer ago that I was in Addis than it really is, and even longer ago that I was in the UK.  When I left here last week, we headed straight into the Gurage region and to villages away from the main roads and which looked most traditional.

It was Monday when we made it to Arba Minch, where I witnessed a rather different form of pastoralism, in a visit to a crocodile farm.  Apparently, after skinning them at five years old, they feed the meat to the local wild crocodile population.  The following night we made it to Sheshemene, coincidentally on the day of Haile Selassie’s birthday.  Just outside of Sheshemene is that land that Haile Selassie gave to the Rastafarians and it has become their Jerusalem.  The town was full of Rastas from all over the world that day.

Yesterday, we got back to Addis much quicker than Yonas expected, despite stopping at two places on the way – the World Heritage site of Tiya and a rock-hewn church.

I think I’ve ruined Amha.  He’s now addicted to Tobasco sauce, Ali Farka Toure and the Loney Planet guide to Ethiopia.  Since we arrived back early yesterday, he insisted on taking me to all his usual hangouts and introducing me to all his friends.  I think he was most desperate for me to meet his fiancee, but his friends held us up and at midnight I said I was going back to the hotel and would meet her tonight.

The hotel…  It’s never a good sign when a hotel provides a bed, a table and a packet of condoms is it?

I’ll be in Addis again tonight, and then I’m heading out to the Sidama region for nine days.


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