Thursday, December 25, 2008
Her excitement at opening each present,
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I have had a lot of fun working out which kids belong to Joe and Jim. Mercy's Raph was easy to pick - he looks just the same as when I saw him a few years back (exactly like his mother). Poppy was easy to pick too for obvious reasons.
Jim was five years old when I first met him. I was reminded of the time he carved his name into one of the leaves of my prized indoor plants - it stayed there forever! Mercy had a different name then but still the same strong persona. Jim was always the quiet one.
The whole family celebrated Barry's 70th birthday this year, in Ethiopia. I have included some excerpts from Dorothy's account. What a way to celebrate your birthday!
Our trip to
Then on to Addis via Ethiopian, an overnight flight. Joe and his kids were at the airport to meet us, with a minibus taxi which most people use, and their driver who is like part of the family. We dropped them all at school, Joe included, as they had a few more days to finish the school year.
Then on to our new abode, the guesthouse Oziopia, which Joe and
Our first week was spent in Addis, acclimatising and settling in, seeing the markets and museums, visiting the school where Joe taught kindergarten English to 4 different classes. There are 800 kids there from infants through to yr 12, and all were black excepting for Jasper and Ziggy. We went to the end of year concert where each class performed and the show went on for about 5 hours, in a huge hall, and people came and went. The principal is an incredibly fat American woman who is a Muslim, and she races around in flowing wrapping. She is married to a Somali.
On the first weekend we travelled to Wondo Genet for Barry's birthday. It is about 250 km away but took about 6 hours travelling on some fairly bad roads, as well as one good stretch, the bit heading from Addis to
A sheep was killed for the evening feast, and it was butchered and the organs were fed to the hotel dogs. The entrails were chucked outside the kitchen door and on the lawn, where the vultures came to clean them up. We spent the afternoon visiting a large family who are well known to Joe and George, and they ceremoniously welcomed us, and did the coffee making performance which involves roasting the beans over a small charcoal fire, pounding them, heating water, fanning the smell around, making the brew, then handing it around in little cups.
After dark, back at our hotel the tables were set outdoors for the feast, then the fire was lit, and the meat cooked. The entire sheep had been chopped into cubes of about 2 cm, tough and less tough cuts together, then this was cooked on very hot plates over a fire until done. There was bread and salad to accompany it and wine and soft drinks, and a big cake, so we all tucked in, and when we had finished, the local people who had been invited to share the feast arrived, so they ate, then sang and danced by the fire. Some had drums and stringed instruments, and they all took turns at leading the singing and drumming and joining in choruses. It was quite amazing. They have fantastic ways of moving and vibrating their shoulders. We all joined in, sort of. Jasper can do the moves extremely well. The Ethiopians are impressed with him, he seems to go into a trance.
There were two different sorts of monkeys in the area, and the vervets would come in through the doorway or window if they could, and steal fruit. The boys were thrilled to see their bright blue balls and red penises, and really loved seeing some of them mating. The others, beautiful black and white colubus amused us with their antics.
Picnics usually consisted of day old bread rolls, often with peanut butter or vegemite, sometimes a bit of cheese, maybe a boiled egg. There were bananas and small oranges, and we bought lots of bottled water. The kids were allowed one soft drink each day, and they usually ate chips and often chicken or fish for the main meal in the hotel of the day. On three memorable occasions when there wasn't anything appropriate for them,
We always managed to buy wine, either the local stuff or something from
The next major town that we visited was Gonder by now on one big bus which we should have had all along. In the 15th century a succession of kings built themselves wonderful European style castles, six of which are in one vast enclosure behind stone walls, all on lush green lawns, a novelty in
After this cultural tour of a small part of
We went on our bus to a place renowned for its fantastic view, to be the highlight of the entire trip. We had our picnic food and got off the bus which went ahead to meet us one hour later. As we organised our eats, down came the rain, it really pissed down, so we grabbed a few mouthfuls, packed our bags and did the walk. All we saw was the muddy path ahead, and at times vast valleys filled with cloud where the breathtaking view must have been. It certainly stands out as one of the most memorable parts of the trip. And trip I did, my 6th memorable slip in the month. I sat in the mud, and they hoisted me up and on we went. Back at the lodge we had to wring out our clothes, bags etc and dry them by an especially lit fire. Joe's kids had to wear pyjamas. We had very few warm clothes, as everywhere else the weather had been temperate. Later the weather cleared and we spent the afternoon cracking whips.
Then back to Addis for a day or two. Barry, Mercy and I were able to visit the
The atmosphere was one of love and care, and we were met by a nurse who gave a talk about the hospital, its history and the procedures there. We were not allowed to take photos. Then we were led around the various wards, the first being a small one where about 5 women were undergoing physiotherapy to enable them to walk and move again after their years of immobility. They didn’t look happy at all, but in the other wards the women smiled at us, some were waiting for their procedures and others were on the mend. They are used to visitors, and for most of them it is the first time in their lives that anyone has shown interest in them, and looked after them. It is likely that it is the first time that they have slept on a mattress, in a bed, and been fed healthy food. It would be the first time for any of them to enjoy and walk in a big lovely garden when recuperating. If they were there long enough they learned some handcrafts such as basket making and embroidery, and they could learn to knit and make themselves a blanket. Every one went home with a new dress and a colourful blanket.
We also did a bit of last minute shopping for more beads and jewellery for gifts and souvenirs, then it was time to pack up to head home. We left behind most of our clothes for others as we had planned, mostly giving them to the staff at Oziopia, who we knew very well by then.
Ethiopians are beautiful people, not only to look at, but by nature. They make the best of what they have, and are very friendly and courteous. They love little kids. They relate to big kids too. Raphy and Sol generally wore Arsenal or Manchester United tee shirts, and a lot of the young African adults did likewise, so conversation began easily. They don’t support Italian teams at all, for historical reasons. Ethiopians like looking at white people too. If we were stopped in traffic on the bus, they would come and stare in at us through the windows, sometimes wanting to sell a hand made hat, but probably hoping for a bit of food. Occasionally there were beggars who really deserved a handout.
On the day we drove back from the mountains to
Joe and George are importing artefacts selling them at house parties and the profits all go to Ethiopian causes. Joe is hoping to go back next year to do some serious photography for their tourist commission, at a festival where many tribes meet up. He also wants to go to Harar, a Muslim walled city [Brett Whitely spent a year there]. I would love to go back, especially to see Harar.
We only visited the Coptic Christian areas because it was easy, the sites are all in the east and north, whereas the Muslims are generally in the south and west. I’ll send you Joe’s website, he has some good stuff to look at and is hoping to get more work. He has taken masses of amazing shots of tribes people in the south where the people still wear their traditional attire.
Bye for now
PS Next time I would take more chocolate.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
We were able to help celebrate Gooyong David's 40th birthday at Pialligo on the way to picking up the flight to Melbourne last Sunday. He and Lotte celebrated their 20 years together in his 40th year with the birth of their third beautiful baby boy Lonnie, born in September while we were in France. I take some credit for David starting his stylish new blog, showing his great photography skills and capacity for wry, ironic writing. The boys seem to have inherited their parents musicianship and gentility.
I attended the World Indigenous Peoples Congress:Education (WIPC:E) Conference in Melbourne last week. It was amazing and unforgettable. Especially this electrifying school leader from Arnhem Land talking about new programs in her school...........