Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Ben Abeba restaurant’

Finally! The blog becomes a book. Why did I do it? Initially I simply wanted to print my blog from start to finish in hard copy, to be able to reflect on to my experiences as recorded over three significant years of my life. What started out as a straightforward idea grew into a book project. I intended to make a few copies for family and friends, but with the cost of making more copies lowering the average price per book, my sister Kat urged me to go big.  “Print a lot, have a book launch and see what happens!”

Good things happened…

 

Book titleIt was a challenge to get it done so quickly, but when Cuso International Ethiopia invited me back in January 2016 to assist in the orientation of their first group of Assosa volunteers, I asked graphic designer extraordinaire Terry if he thought it was possible to get the book finished in time for me to take copies with me for Ethiopian friends. Over the past year and a half we had been working on it at a leisurely pace with no firm end date in mind. Suddenly with a deadline looming in two weeks, we worked at a frenzied pace to finalize the design and finish the edits. Thanks to the excellent support of Bond Printers, 150 copies of Spider Webs Unite – My Volunteer Experience in Ethiopia were delivered three days before take off!

With my two bag allowance to Addis Ababa via London, I managed to squeeze in 17 copies of the 1.25 kg book. And despite a few typos that slipped through, I am delighted with the result. Most gratifying is the response of my Ethiopian friends and colleagues. “You did not forget us” they said as they pored over the 1710 colour photos in the 246 page book. Over the next 6 weeks I was able to enjoy many reunions and gift them their book. It made all the time, energy and cost worth while.IMG_1395

Here Henok receives the first copy of the book in Addis Ababa in the gardens of the Ghion Hotel on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon in February.

IMG_1410Zerefa was thrilled to get her copy and also able to take 3 to Woldia – one for Asrebab our landlady and one each for the Teachers’ College where I had worked for the year and one to the new Woldia University where many of the instructors I had in my HDP class are now teaching.

IMG_1447

IMG_1448

 

IMG_1490

Yasabu from the Ministry of Education where I worked for two years accepted a copy and was pleased to see the photos of his family included.

IMG_1500

Ruth from VSO Ethiopia accepted a copy for the office

IMG_1442

Wendwossen from the new Cuso Ethiopia office flips through the book

IMG_1522

When I called my friend Hiwot to tell her I was back and had a surprise for her she said “Well I too have a surprise – I have a baby girl!”

IMG_1516

What a delight to meet the miracle baby and share coffee at her home!

IMG_1509

I met artist Abiy Eshete for juice and he spent an hour poring over every page, thrilled his two paintings are featured at the beginning and end of the book . He was impressed with the graphic design. Terry had suggested we put a colour screen behind the photos on each page based on the cherubs from the famous Debre Birhan Selassie Church in Gondor along with the Queen of Sheba design.

yellow background

For fun we chose to code the years from 2010-2013 with the colours of the Ethiopian flag – yellow, green, red and blue. Yes a lot of TLC went into this production.

blue background

I couldn’t wait to visit my old compound to share the book with my Addis family – Kifle, Almaz and the kids growing up so fast – Sami about the complete grade 12 and younger siblings Meron and Eyob…

IMG_1495

IMG_1497

Returning home to Vancouver my official Canadian book launch was April 10th, complete with a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony thanks to my friends Alganesh and Akeberet. They used the fresh green coffee I brought back from Assosa to scent the air, enabling many friends to experience their first real Ethiopian coffee ceremony and to sample Ethiopian food.

IMG_5090

Akeberet performs the coffee ceremony.

IMG_5098

Alganesh was a great support, roasting coffee, assisting in the ceremony and  with the food.

IMG_5114

At the Book Launch with my sister Kat, the one who encouraged me to publish the book!IMG_5085

Friends got creative with Ethiopian finger food…

This May the book came along to England and Ireland when I visited family and reconnected with former VSO volunteer friends. Just this week I got a lovely message from someone who had read it in Ethiopia at Wini’s Gourmet Corner cafe near the Mulmul Bakery in Addis Abeba and earlier I had heard from fellow volunteers who had seen it at Susan’s Ben Abeba restaurant in Lalibela. Next week I’m giving a book talk at the Gibson’s library on the Sunshine Coast. I only have a few books left and most are spoken for but am looking into other options to make it available. Meanwhile if you are interested in what I had to say in the my Afterword read it on page 11 in the recently published  BCTF Social Justice Newsletter.

img_6291

A lot is changing in the political landscape of Ethiopia as I write this post. All I can do from afar is light a candle for peace and stability to all the good people I care about in that world so far away. I continue to feel blessed to have had the opportunity to spend 3 years of my life living and learning in Ethiopia and hope the intelligence, strength and resilience of the people I got to know will see them through their current challenges.

Read Full Post »

The bus touts swarmed us at the Woldia manaharia (bus station) but we were experienced enough to play it cool. Whenever foreigners appears in Woldia they are accosted by shouts of “Lalibela, Lalibela”. This is the main reason anyone passes through Woldia – to visit the 11 rock-hewn churches of this famous UNESCO world heritage site and likely accounts for a large percentage of Ethiopia’s tourism income. But that was not our motivation to visit this time.

My travel strategy involved seeking out a bright looking English speaking young man who appeared to be trying to get on the same bus

“Hello, are you going to Lalibela?” I ask

“Yes I am”, he replied in good English

“Great, so are we, can you help us out?”

“Of course”,  he volunteered.

True to his word, he made sure we got seats and then helped us negotiate the second bus once we arrived in the chaos of small town Gashena. Turns out he is working for a German NGO that is involved in saving the endangered endemic Ethiopian wolf.

stradling 2 vansWe squeezed onto a mini-bus going to Gashena  on the ashphalt road (aka the “China Road”) and hoped for the best…after all, these roads were more straightforward with fewer hairpin curves up the mountainsides

The last time Shelagh and I had done this trip we had taken a bus that diverted to a “short cut” gravel road where we had to ford a “small river” washout with 50 others on a 24 passenger bus. This time this one proved a better option…the road was good and the ride not bad, only a couple of stops to ditch extra passengers prior to the traffic police check and then collect them again a few kilometers ahead – they appeared to have sprinted through the fields to catch up. Well, Ethiopia is famous for its’ runners after all!

next bus to lalibelaThe second mini-bus from Gashena to Lalibela, fated to be stopped twice by the traffic police and once for onions!

buna breakTaking a buna break in Gashena while the mini-bus gets a tune up, Steve and Shelagh are anticipating meeting their Plan foster girl the next day in a small village near Lalibela

My motivation was to cut down travel time back to Addis by taking this route and flying back the next day. At the same time I would get to see our Scottish friend Susan who now has a flourishing restaurant, Ben Abeba, on top of a mountain in  Lalibela. Shelagh and I had seen it half built two years earlier and I had been back in January 2012. Since then I had sent countless other volunteers there to be nourished by Susan’s good home cooking and always got happy reports of her superb hospitality. I wanted to spend one more evening on the top of the world with good friends!

minibus from woldiaLooks like there’s room for a few more in here…

lowland townTypical scenes along the way

two goatsSometimes it is just easier to sling a defiant goat over your shoulder!

dirt road to lalibelaYes the woman (and the donkey) usually carries the bigger burden here…

boys looking at us in busWhenever a bus stops children instantly appeared to stare in at us and beg for pens, money and candies. I tried to get a good photo of girls but every time I made an attempt boys would jump in front of them with a grin. Yes indeed there is much gender work left to do here…

Heartbreaking as it is, when confronted by these kids, to hand out trinkets would result in literally dozens more appearing out of nowhere and demanding more. In Ethiopia there is never enough and, especially where tourists abound, the children have learned that begging often yields results. As development workers with concerns about long term solutions to poverty the challenge always is to balance compassion with pragmatism. I find that smiles and jokes, asking them some questions (what grade are you in?), some attempts at broken Amharic and showing them their photos on the camera screen works for me…

In the Bradt Guide author Phillip Briggs makes a good point  in his piece on responsible tourism: ” The thread that runs through my opinions is that you should never give things to people who ask just because you are a foreigner. The give-me, give-me, give-me attitude is prevalent enough already in Ethiopia;responding to it will only reinforce it.”

In Lalibela town itself the kids are trained to say “Welcome to Lalibea” and not to beg overtly. A favourite scam though is the one that goes like this: “I really want to learn English – would you please buy me a dictionary?”  The naive tourist is taken to a shop, pleased to support some poor kid’s education. The same dictionary has been sold hundreds of times, the shopkeepers are laughing all the way to the bank and the kid pockets few Birr as well! He could have been in school instead.

boys with ballShowing off their hand made ball

loading onionsRed onions skins drifted past my open window and scented our luggage as five sacks of onions added a weight to the roof that I though might cause it to cave in!

Our bus had several long unscheduled stops on the gravel road from Gashena to Lalibela. While it is only 60 km we spent time loading 5 sacks of red onions at one point and a hour long pause while the traffic police issued the driver with what looked like several tickets and smacked him in the face while half the passengers stood around and weighed in on the situation. Someone took an air filter hostage so the bus could not take off. In situations like this, the only smart move is to stay put and quiet and allow things to resolve. Eventually a fine was paid, the filter returned and we were on the road again.

looking downFinally at about 4 PM we chugged up to the top of the mountain in Lalibela. 175 km, two mini-buses and 7 hours travel time. Oh well – it took Thomas Pakenham 4 days on a mule from Dessie to Lalibela so things have certainly developed since 1955!

me and susanAfter a deliciously decadent hot shower at the Top 12 Hotel set on the nearby cliff, we finally met Susan for our reunion at Ben Abeba –  Salut!

During her 6 years living in Lalibela Susan has opened a school and a restaurant and shows no sign of stopping with plans for accommodation in the works – not your usual retirement! Ben Abeba employs 32 cheerful young people who are being taught hospitality industry skills in cooking, serving, finance, management and customer service. I have no doubt this initiative will ripple out for years to come and improve the lives of many more Lalibela citizens.

kitchenThis is likely the most beautiful kitchen in the country! The girl in the foreground in scrubbing out giant pan for the film set…

Ben Abeba gets great reviews on Trip Advisor and has made it into the new 2012 version of the excellent Bradt Guide to Ethiopia – only problem is they raved about her Shepherd’s Pie so now they are obliged to make it every day; one night they served 20 portions! Steve and I enjoyed it too while Shelagh opted for the meatballs and pasta.

movie set and habtamAnd here’s a surprise – we are on a film set!

Susan’s Ethiopian business partner Habtam shows off the film set – turns out an Irish-American co-production is being partially filmed at Ben Abeba and the new flowers and plants will remain as a garden legacy. Titled “Wild”, this Lalibela love story is expected to be in theatres in about a year.

ben abebaMore railings and a glassed in area have been added since I last visited

wifi at ben abebaAnd yet another surprise – Susan has Wifi!

down pool ben abebaGardens and future sites for some small tukuls to rent out

dining on top at sunsetBen Abeba at sunset – a destination well worth the effort!

sunset with railingAfter a long and lovely evening reminiscing and catching up, we said our farewells and headed off to the Top 12 Hotel where I sunk into a decadent mattress with springs – foreshadowing what’s to come when I get home in two months after three years of VSO foam!

lalibela quiltTucked under a heavenly Lalibela angels quilt for a great night’s sleep…

Next morning Shelagh and Steve were collected by Plan officials to meet their foster girl and I chatted with two couples staying at our hotel en route to the airport who had enjoyed hiking in the mountains. The Swiss couple plan to visit Vancouver in the fall so I invited them to look me up there! He has been working with Medicins sans Frontiers in the Somali region for a while with interesting stories to tell. You never know…

fields from planeFlying home over freshly planted fields

ploughing with oxenAll these fields are still being ploughed by oxen – I was reminded of this as we walked past the Woldia Primary School on the way to the college

airiel viewBright green teff fields and small rural villages

simien mountians entrancePassing by the Simien Mountains our Ethiopian Airlines flight touched down briefly in Gondor and then smoothly took us to Addis Abeba

view from planeDeep gorges. No doubt about it – Ethiopia has stunning landscapes and rich potential

diggy welcomeHome sweet home to the usual welcoming gang and then back to work the next morning after my 5 day adventure packed journey with good friends and two destinations that touched my heart.

Read Full Post »

“Oh” said Shelagh “I think he is holding that air filter hostage!” We were enjoying a return visit to Woldia and Lailibela and the usual bizarre and at times hilarious adventures along the way reminded me of our ten months sharing a volunteer life at Woldia College of Teacher Education in 2010-2011.

steve and shelagh at selam busSteve and Shelagh ready to board the Selam Bus at 5:30 AM to go to Dessie. They had come from Nottingham for a visit and I joined them for the Woldia-Lalibela part of their trip since it was my last chance to see the folks I know in Woldia and Lalibela before I leave in July

My companion at the window seat turned out to be an interesting fellow. A Protestant, he explained his work as a religious educator and I got some insights into his world view that helped me better understand the rising trend toward Protestantism in Ethiopia. I also felt refreshingly able to share my own perspectives with this obviously intelligent and committed man. We talked about the work they are doing to help the poorest members of their congregation and those infected with HIV, using the government 1:5 model that also is used in workplaces. In this model people are organized into small groups of 5 with one being the leader. In his context he felt this  model helped them not only teach religion but also identify those in need. He seemed appreciative of my suggestions on how to infuse some critical thinking into their work..quite an stimulating 6-8 AM conversation indeed!

debre sina vendorsDebre Sina! When Shelagh and I were en route back and forth we usually texted each other when we reached this half way point to Dessie, that is the usual 30 minute stop. Persistent sellers offer a wide range of specialties including kollo (roasted barley with a few peanuts), dried oregano, sugar cane, fruits in season – this time small plums, oranges and mangoes.

We had our traditional makeeato and looked forward to the second leg of the journey, thinking we were making such good time we might get to Woldia by 4 and could certainly make it to Dessie with having to visit the infamous Debre Sina toilets. But we were in for a surprise…

collecting luggae from selam busThe bus had broken down and they started unloading luggage off the disabled beast – and we had paid extra for this relatively luxurious and safer vehicle!

Amidst the chaos we eventually got onto a minibus arranged by the bus company but our tickets were taken from us and not returned and, as is the tradition, no one explained anything. Certainly no chance of a refund. Taking a bus in Ethiopia is never simple.

camel and manHowever we headed down the mountain into the lowlands, passing plenty of camels

donkey road hazardDrivers must watch out for donkeys and lorries – all part of the journey

road cattleMore typical road hazards

shop along the road near kombolchaDropping off a Peace Corps couple near Kombolcha I snapped this colourful vignette

winding road to DessieThen we headed up the long winding road to Dessie

dessie bus stationAt last we reached the Dessie bus station, stopping at a cafe first to use the “almost as awful as Debre Sina” loo…

arab and weyela on minibusNegotiating our final minibus ride of the day

Me “Is this driver going to chew khat”

Man  “Of course not, he is fine”

Me : “Are you telling me the truth?”

Man “Yes of course, I am taking this bus myself'”

crowded bus in gashenaLets see how many we can squish in…

dessie main streetOn the way out of Dessie – the main street

khat stopFirst stop out of Dessie near Hyak the same passenger who had assured me about the khat insisted we stop and proceeded to purchase a large bouquet of khat which I later watched him sharing with the driver

My experience is that it is not possible to travel from Dessie to Woldia without going in a minibus driven by a driver who is chewing khat, despite the fact it is illegal for drivers to chew. Like so many things here, the law has been written but the enforcement steps have yet to be taken…though there are a lot of traffic police checking for overcrowding these days…

sunrise at lalibela from top 12 I foolishly chose the worst seat and spent the next 2.5 hours bracing myself so I would not be tossed out as we careened up the mountain curves, while several of my fellow passenger proceeded to discreetly vomit into plastic bags and toss them out the windows. As Lonely Planet accurately states travel on Ethiopian buses can be “Butt-clenching”!

past dessie up highBest to focus in the scenery and visualize a safe arrival – in times like these it IS the destination, not the journey that keeps me going!

a small river..The final hurdle – a small river to charge through where the road had washed out

animals heading home at duskAnimals heading home at dusk, a lovely pastoral scene

freshly ploughed fieldsWoldia at last! Total time from 4 AM wake up to arrival = 15 hours to travel 520 km!

shekla tibsWe met the Woldia volunteers and headed out for beer and skekla tibs with injera, about all that’s on the menu right now with all other items being “not available” as usual. Luckily no vegetarians in the group or they would have been out of luck

cow outside aisling's bedroomAisling the new volunteer had kindly invited me to stay with her. We awoke to discover a cow had arrived overnight and settled in under the bedroom window.Well these things happen…it’s owner recovered it 24 hours later

chocho in woldiaThat morning I headed into town in a bajaj for breakfast and there he was – ChoCho the one horned pet Afar goat lives! Though he did seem pretty old and frail I was pleased I got to see him one last timecute bajajOne thing I really love about Woldia is the easy way you can get a bajaj anywhere for about 10 cents

special ful at wawNaturally I had to have Special  Ful for breakfast at the Waw Cafe balcony and enjoy the passing parade

chechebsa at wawAnother tasty breakfast option is chechebsa – small chunks of fried bread soaked in a honey-spiced butter-berbere mixture

cinema advertising vanOh yes, I had forgotten how these buses troll the streets with really loud speakers blaring out the cinema on offer at the municipal  hall

woldia view from wawConstruction continues to boom with skeletal scaffolds above already open ground floors

beer with zelalemThat afternoon we met up with Zelalem, who had been in my class, for a beer and to catch up on all the gossip. Aisling on the right is the new young Irish volunteer working with the Woldia University Higher Diploma Program

zerefa and her sisterLate afternoon we met Zerefa and her sister dressed for the Mels of their nephew Tamrat. We were honoured to be invited to attend this event that coincided with our trip to Woldia and Zerefa was thrilled that her match making had worked out!

aisling jim and tekluWe were all graciously included – Aisling is joined by Jim, another Irish volunteer who was passing though town on a Ministry of Education road trip with his colleague Teklu on the right

wedding welcomeExcitement mounted as candles were lit and a sheep was herded into the center of a jubilant circle of people clapping, drumming and singing

wedding sheep and drumI wondered if it was to be slaughtered on the spot but then I saw the buffet so I think it was given a reprieve…

bridesmaidsBridesmaids!

grrom and brideGroom Tamrat helps his bride Feven out of the car

wedding scene with briede and grrom and basketsA Mels happens after the wedding and is where the family of the bride welcomes the family of the groom or vise versa. The groom Tamrat is from Canada and his bride is from Dessie

buffetThe wedding party enjoys an impressive buffet

I was an honour to be included in their celebration and I wish Tamrat and Feven many blessings as they begin their married life together.

Next day I visited the new Woldia University

woldia university tea houseWoldia University is up and running in two years with 6 faculties and first and second year students, an impressive accomplishment. This round tea room is gorgeous!

woldia universityIt is astounding how fast this university went up. Two years ago it was only a plan. Last year they started using a temporary facility nearby and now they have enrolled 2nd years students amid the construction on campus – a work in progress!

sharing a laugh with balianeshIt was fun to meet old friends from our time in Woldia CTE who have moved on to work at the university. Balainesh is now secretary to our former college dean, Ato Bihonegn

friend from woldia CTE now at universityBalianesh, Tesfaw works in Finance and Ato Bigonegn is Vice President – Administration

countryside n=and jeery cans near universityWomen  with jerry cans of water near the university campus, a reminder that 85% of the population still exists on subsistence farming alongside this rapid expansion of tertiary educational facilities and that only about a quarter of adult females are literate and half of males…

Later I visited my old workplace, and was amazed at the transformation

Woldia CTE buildingsThe new Woldia College of Teacher Education is almost complete. Next step will be the landscaping

I enjoyed some brief reunions with many of the instructors who had been in my HDP class though about a third have transferred to other institutions, as is common here. Still it was lovely to sit and catch up with several in their new offices and share a thirst quenching laslasa (soft drink) in the hot sun with others. The next day I spoke to several on the phone that I had missed seeing, including Nejashi who said, “Please don’t forget us”. “I promise you”, I replied, choking up a little, “I will never forget you” How could I?

goofing around in the old HDP ELIC roomAt the College we enjoyed some silliness with masks in our old classroom, scheduled to be demolished in a month since the new buildings are all  but complete

with grads and yokosoIt was a delightful surprise to see a group of 3rd year students about to graduate – when we were there they were beginners! And the boy called  Yokoso in front with the drawings turned up too – he used to draw me a lot of lions on scrap paper I provided and he is still at it!

woldia VSOs past and presentTea time with the soon to graduate students – here you see all the volunteers in Woldia past and present lined up. Alain and David replaced Shelagh and me and have now almost completed their two years. Aisling arrived two months ago to teach HDP at the new university

Marian serke and shelaghAnd Serke has a new Shy Bet (tea house) near the primary School so we had another reunion

future teachersFuture teachers brimming with confidence!

passin scne shopI enjoyed a visit to the Adago area and said hi to a few shop owners I knew

makeato fancy cup with sayingPaused for a makeato at the Hamar Cafe – it came is a most surprising cup!

The message on the saucer read: “In the taste you may do as much as you like to enjoy an elegance and leisure. Even if there is a leisure time for awhile you still can expel sadness and oppression.” Indeed!

All too soon it was time to say a final farewell to Woldia and tackle a day of bus travel to Lalibela to visit our friend Susan at her Ben Abeba restaurant, the one Shelagh and I had seen two years earlier when it was still under construction. Stay tuned for part two, including the fate of that air filter…and a visit to a movie set…

Read Full Post »