Posts Tagged ‘Harar hyena feeding’

The Ethiopian Airlines flight landed smoothly and on time and as we stepped out into the sweltering heat of Dire Dawa a man with a sign saying “Welcome Marian and Howard” immediately packed us into his minibus and drove us up into the much cooler mountains lush with crops and intricate stone terracing. I was pleased that “Howard” aka “Howie” decided to join me on this expedition – he is a Canadian volunteer who’s been here for about 3 months now. He has lived in many parts of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean so it was fun to share this experience with a seasoned traveler who also happens to be a “foodie” like me! He and his housemate Mingfei Sun, a young IT volunteer from China, will be inheriting a lot of my kitchen stuff later on this week when I leave Ethiopia and I have no doubt this will advance their culinary adventures…mountain road  to hararMaize, coffee, khat are the major income generators in this area

hillside terraces en rout to hararHarar is located in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, about 525 km from Addis Ababa and 43 km from the lowland and very hot city of Dire Dawa. It take less than an hour to fly and 8-10 hours by road

lake along road to hararCloser to Harar we sped past a lake that is apparently great for bird life

narrow streetBiniyam, our terrific guide, met us at the gate to the old city of Harar, know as Jagul and led us down the narrow labyrinth of streets  to Rewda Guest House to drop off our backpacks

rewda's basket wallI had seen pictures of this traditional Harari house from other volunteers, but you really have to see it to believe it!

There are about 100 of these family houses still in operation in Jagul and each one has the same configuration with platforms at different levels for various household members to sit ( we won’t dwell on the male superiority embedded in this…). The walls hold the treasured baskets of the family, made by the women, some of the largest taking months to complete. A girl needed to make a certain number of various types, including” Mother-in-Law” baskets prior to marriage. A more recent addition is the colourful enamel ware from Asia that seems to blend in perfectly.

orignal harari carpet weavingThe carpets are imports from the middle east but Biniyam flipped one up to show us an original woven carpet underneath

pot "banks"The four large black containers on the shelf are the family “bank” originally containing coins, jewelry, incense and seeds

fine basket workWe flipped a coin and I got the upper room in the main house and Howie got one in the courtyard next to the shared bathroom

Rewda’s Guest House has about 3-4 rooms for rent within the family compound. Normally she serves a delicious breakfast but because it is now Ramadan we paid a bit less and ate out in the new town. Harar is considered the spiritual heart of Ethiopia’s large Islamic community and the fourth holiest city of Islam. Almost the entire population of Jagul is Muslim, although there is one Ethiopian Orthodox Christian church and one Catholic church in the city. We were treated to late night chanting (with a bit of excessive drumming in my opinion) but it did add to the authenticity of experience!

late afternoon lightEvery one of the hundreds of narrow streets offers fascinating views – it felt like going back in time (if one blanked out the electric wires and satelite dishes!)

making tibs at hirutTime for lunch at the atmospheric Hirut Restaurant where the chef puts on a good show in the open kitchen

special tibs at Hirut restairantVoila – Special Tibs, made with goat meat served with awaze paste and a basket of bread.injera to scoop it up

wall from aboveAfter lunch we took a tuk-tuk above the old town to get a birds eye view of the wall built in the 1560’s

big mosqueBiniyam estimates about 40,000 people currently live in Jagul

meskel flower close upOn the hillside I was pleased to get close up to some meskel daisies; these are sold for the September 27th Orthodox Christian Meskel celebrations all over Ethiopia but I had never before seen them growing in the wild

gateThen we proceeded down to the Buda Gate, one of the 5 main gates of the old city

downhill from gate marketHarari women dress very colourfully so every view is a visual feast

biniyam and berebere at marketShiro and berbere among the many tasty blends available by the kilo – when I asked for a small handful of Danakil salt and a bit of tikur azmut (black cumin) to bring home, they didn’t charge me because they consider these amounts too small!

bird on grain sackFire finches enjoy free samples too!

oily beans goolow for greasing injera makerBiniyam squeezed some beans (goolow) to show us how these oily beans are used for their greasing the traditional clay injera griddles. I was able to finally understand what Dirib had tied to explain to me in Woldia when she showed me how to make injera; at the time I had been confused when  she indicated that the grease she had in an old tin was from a bean!

woil containersThis market is huge – here a whole section is dedicated to re-cycling the ubiquitous yellow oil containers

man sleeping in marketWhen you are fasting from sun up to sun down an afternoon nap can be very tempting!

women carying woodWomen carrying heavy loads of wood

women walking past green buildingI saw many more women carrying things on their heads here than anywhere else I had been in Ethiopia

woman with large plastic bag loadHow heavy is this?

wall coloursLovely colourful walls presented themselves at almost every turn

blue mosqueHarar has 90+ tiny mosques as well as several large ones and is said to have the largest concentration of such shrines in the world

turqoise top mosqueEach one unique

upper level indian influenceThe Indian influence is seen on a number of houses with interesting balconies and roof finials

rimbuad museumThe Rimbaud Museum in a building restored with funds form France to celebrate the 12 years French poet Arthur Rimbaud spent in Harar in the late 1800’s

rimbaud museum stairsRimbaud poetry on the walls!

rimbuad top floor ceilingFrescoes on the ceilings

rimbaud artSketching journals

old photoAn interesting collection of old photos

view from rimbaud houseGreat views of the old city

bird of preyIncluding for the massive kites that circle overhead!

blacksmith shopThis is the Blacksmith area closed now for Ramadan

wall buildersAn old wall being restored in traditional fashion

Harar is a UNESCO World Heritage site and awarded a Peace Prize in 2002-2003 for being a role model of different cultures and religions living in harmony

UNESCO cities for peace prize

main  gateThe main Harar gate with the UNESCO and Peace Prize plaques

stiars and mosqueAncient stone steps lead to a mosque

coffee raoterIsn’t it time for some coffee?

roasted coffee spinningDivine aroma!

coffee packingGrinding and packing the buna  by the kilo – yes there is some coming home to Vancouver with me!

nure coffeeNure Roasted Harar Coffee – famous all over Ethiopia!

mosque detailTraditional basket replica outside a mosque

hyena guyAs night falls the hyenas come out. This has been a tourist attraction of Harar since the 50’s or 60’s

howie "kissing " hyenaHowie is kissed by a hyena!

howie with hyena on his backHowie and hungry hyena with meat in his mouth

feeding hyena with stickI decide its not that scary but ask for a longer stick

me feeding hyenaThen get braver and make him do tricks

hyena on my backBut realize that hyenas are really heavy (males weight 80-85 kg and females 85-90) and I don’t want it pressing on my back so say “Get this thing off me – beka (enough) and woraj (stop)” Hey but I DID it! His name was Willie I think – all these hyenas have names!

hyena place by dayIn daylight we see the site of the hyena feeding – a shine to a Muslim saint – these often are build with sycamore trees planted on top that eventually merge with the shrine as this one has…

harar fulNext morning Biniyam picks us up to go to eat ful at his favourite spot and I down a double makeeto in anticipation of another big day of sight seeing

khat buildingsWe hop a line taxi to Aweday about 5 km away and the site of Ethiopia’s largest khat market – that’s a typical khat bundle being carried on her head. The khat is wrapped in wet leaves to keep it moist…I decide the architect of the building on the left must have been chewing!

khat market entrance womenEntering the khat market into another world!

khat bouquet on headKhat must be consumed within 48 hours and this place bustles 24-7 with trucks speeding off to Djibouti and Somaliland with top quality khat. The fresh green leaf is a mild stimulant that is legal in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen and Somalia

girl who wanted her photo takenWe climbed up the stairs for a better view of the massive scene and this girl asked me to take her photo

men in room sorting khatRoom after room is full of chat being sorted and bundled by men

biniyam and top quality khatBiniyam displays a bundle of the best, costing about 1000 Birr ($60 CDN)

scene from above khat sortingWe were told that khat is a big income generator for Ethiopia and because it grows faster than coffee and is worth more it is taking over coffee production in the region. And no, I did not try any – my metabolism is already speedy enough!

rooftopBack in Jagul we continued to tour. This is a house that future Emperor Haile Selassie is said to have lived in until age 18

selaasie home detail rooftopNow being transformed into a museum to preserve/display the history of Harar

small mosqueFor lunch we met a couple of fellow volunteers, Helen and Mark Anthony, from nearby Haromaya University for a leisurely lunch at a local ferenji spot called Fresh Touch in the new town, then meandered back to Rewda’s to relax a bit in the courtyard and watch the kids playing.  When we got there a goat had just been slaughtered at the gate so we had to wait for the blood to be hosed away before we could get in…!

future hyena tamerA future hyena tamer practices on the cat with the freshly slaughtered goat meat!

Later on we wandered back to Hirut for dinner and conversation with Biniyam – since he knows every detail of his city and the history of Ethiopia and has become very well aware of many parts of the world from his interactions with tourists from all over, he is a great conversationalist. At 25 he has a bright future ahead of him I am sure. Every aspect of our visit was a delight; he seemed to know exactly what tell us and what to show us, tailoring the walks to suit our interests and ensuring we did not miss any highlights that if we were simply wandering about on our own we would surely have missed.

flour millLike a peek inside a flour mill

making fetireOr where to find the expert who makes fetira in this giant griddle

howie and breakfast fetire and chechebsaSunday morning we set off for another cafe to sample fetira with egg and honey and spicy chechebsa, both very tasty!

donkey basket with mangoesThen took a walk through the peaceful early morning streets to the mango market – it is mango season and donkeys are the main transporters using these attractive leather saddles

mango marketMangos galore

braying donleyThis donkey had a loud opinion!

wall sceneBack inside the old city past another one of the gates near the mango market

colourful houseInside a well known Harari  family compound attached to a mosque

tomb wall creatorFinally we arrive at the tomb of the man who built the Harar wall – Ibn Nur al Mujahadeen

Domes can tell you if the person was a warrior, politician, scholar or spiritual protector. They have 99 protrusions to indicate the 99 names of Allah and also for practical reasons to maintain the structure by allowing climbing for upkeep and painting.

tomb of wall creatorI had a scarf to cover my head and took off my shoes to see inside – this tomb is surrounded by other graves

boy inside tombThis little guy came in with me!

Late morning we hustled back to collect our bags for the drive back to the Dire Dawa airport and the flight home to Addis after a great weekend in Harar.

ras mekkonen on horseStatue of Ras Mekonnen, father of Emperor Haile Selassie and the man appointed by Emperor Menelik to rule Harar after defeating Emir Abdullah at the Battle of Chelenko in 1887

Final photo of us on HararFinal photo as we head back to the airport – thanks Biniyam for an absolutely perfect Harar tour!

NOTE: Anyone wanting to contact tourist guide Biniyam can email him at feresmegala@gmail.com or call 0911 076 059

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Visualize this – someone in a Cuso International t-shirt leaning forward with a piece of raw meat on a stick in his/her mouth about to feed  a wild hyena; the caption reads “Take a risk!” Would that grab your attention and possibly get you to read the pitch to be a volunteer in Ethiopia? Well that’s what our Canadian team came up with during the “key messaging” session at the recent VSO Ethiopia national conference…Yes volunteering can be risky and adventurous but relax, feeding wild animals is not really part of anyone’s job description. Though, for the record, no animals or humans have been harmed while taking part in the unique tourist experience of feeding hyena’s in Harar and a few vacationing volunteers have enjoyed the photo op!

Canadian group

The Canadian team at Lake Langano: Brian, Nalini, Sharmilla, Tsion, Me, Francis and Gerald with Beza in front

Volunteering really does provide challenges and opportunities along with risk and adventure. Organizing a national conference is certainly not without risk and I must admit that when I saw the email, my heart sank. Deputy Country Director Catherine had found some funds that needed spending before the fiscal year-end and issued a “challenge” to our VSO Ethiopia volunteer committee – organize a conference for 150, including all long tern volunteers, 38 short term youth volunteers and staff within 3 weeks. As chair of the volunteer committee, I knew we had to say YES and make it happen. After all, there had not been a national conference since 2010, volunteers were asking for a chance to meet as a whole and our volunteer committee had been lobbying for just such an opportunity. I also knew it would be risky, trying to please such a large and diverse group.

Thankfully when I contacted the committee, several immediately agreed to help. James was in town between meetings for the week, Gideon joined us one afternoon and agreed to be the “registrar” via email, Kate showed up for a medical appointment so we just mixed and matched meetings, keeping in contact by email and mobile with Barbara to make it happen! To avoid chaos and confusion we agreed on a clear and efficient communications strategy, using the VSOE Weekly Update for general messages with links to emails of those in charge of registration and transportation.

introductiona at vso officeComing together at the VSO office to take the bus to Langano, spirits were high. Most people had flown to Addis (or already live in Addis) so we needed 4 buses to make the journey, all efficiently organized by Eden, Judy and Beza

lake langanoThe stage is set – Lake Langano!

Location was a major issue since the budget was small and few places could accommodate a group our size. The added challenge of power cuts, unreliable phones and fax machines made getting the requisite 3 quotes take much longer than anticipated. Suddenly a breakthrough came and James and I found ourselves in Ruth’s car heading to a negotiation with a “big man” in charge of the Lake Langano property. Yes he said, I will set up a tent on the beach big enough for 150, yes I will give you the most expensive buffet for the middle price, yes, yes, yes! I basked in the Amharic negotiations and, understanding my numbers well, I even managed a few clarifying questions as Ruth used her charm to get us a great deal. Meanwhile, I secretly wondered how a small bottle of pink nail polish had made its way into the man’s desktop arrangement of pens and pencils…

With great relief, we were able to announce the location to the participants who already knew when but not where. Swim suits, sunscreen, torches and malaria medication were advised; Langano being one of the few Biharzia free lakes in Ethiopia, located in the lowlands of the Rift Valley about 270 km south of Addis.

The night before James, who had gone early to check things out called to warn me “We have a small problem”. No tent. Ever resourceful, he convinced the staff to re-arrange the dining room, moving tables and chairs into the bar and onto the deck, so we could use it for our sessions.

jenny and sheena on the deckAs soon as we arrived, the deck became a favourite place to meet new people and re-connect with others

Once we had settled into our rooms, our volunteer committee convened to iron out details and agree on tasks. We had left the evening free for people to mix and mingle and this seemed to set the right tone, as we were aiming for a good balance of free time and programmed sessions.

P1000733So far, so good! Time for a bottle of St George and sunset on the deck!

full house!The next morning we formally began, all squeezed in to the dining room converted to meeting hall!

beza and photoAfter the welcome and overview, and a short introductory activity, we  shared images of what VSO means to us.

IMG_4377Barbara had suggested we bring these images to contribute to a VSO collage, Judy volunteered to put it together and voila – we had a colourful conversation  piece/backdrop for our conference!

sharing the journey

Working in sector groups, we used metaphors to share our volunteer “journeys” and create group posters. Barbara had taken the initiative to seek out some extra funding and resources and we were thrilled to have these giant Post-It chart papers to use. This also meant that we all got new bright green t-shirts and some “beverages” for the final night’s festivities!

IT journeyThe IT group at work!

After all that creativity, it was time for tea…

peter gets birds eye view

Peter couldn’t resist a bird’s eye view of the tea table

what peter saw of the tea table

And it truly was an idyllic spot

tea table under tree

VSOE conferenceColourful birds and birdsong provided a delightful visual and audio backdrop

listening and leraning from each otherLong tea breaks and a 2-hour lunch gave plenty of time for informal conversations

ICS youth by the lakeTime with friends and time to meet new people. As well as long term volunteers, we included 38 ICS Youth Volunteers . These British and Ethiopian youth (ages 18-25) partner up to work together for 3 months contributing their skills to environmental, education, community development and health projects

three at teaFriends meet up after being spread out across the country  for some time

winne and tesfawVolunteers and staff  enjoying a chance to talk informally

tea brak on boat steps

geographical groupingsTo form regional groups for the afternoon session we lined up in direction/ distance from Addis and then we headed off to share ideas on how we could expand our regional linkages

barabara and Catherine consult on plan

Barbara and Deputy Country Director Catherine confer on the guiding questions for the regional group sessions

To involve as many people as possible, we had put out the call for volunteers to be on IT, social and sports committees and to facilitate or take notes for small groups and in the end at least half the people contributed beyond just participation.

An idea I came up with to allow maximum skill sharing was “Open Space” at the end of each day. We issued an invitation to volunteer to run an hour long session on whatever they wanted to share and let people chose whatever appealed to them. This seemed the riskiest idea to some of my colleagues – what if no one volunteers or people don’t show up? Don’t worry I said, it will work out!

face painting It was a risk that paid off! Talents shared by volunteers included…

face paintedFace paintingcross cuitural flag faces

weaver bird nestA bird watching expedition – Weaver birds amazed us with their nest building skills

cultural dancingEthiopian cultural dancing lessons


IT viruses talkIntense IT virus discussion!

Other Open Space sessions included Meditation, Origami, Ethiopian architecture, First Aid and photography. The energy and enthusiasm were catching and next day people added more sessions – hidden talents were surfacing… and it was a lot of fun!

beach jumpingWe ended the days early to allow free time before dinner -yeah!

line up on logGoofing around on a log!

VSO staff enjoy the beachNice to see VSO staff enjoying the beach!

on the beach and in the waterSwimming and playing in the lake or simply toe dipping…

food buffetTime for dinner – all meals were served buffet style on the bar

ruth and bezaVSOE staff Ruth and Beza

early morning sunand tree

Early morning meditation enjoyed with birdsong and sunlight on the acacias

morning yogaEarly bird yoga each morning at 7, led by Catharina


Birds watch people too!

group with customized t-shirtsHappy t-shirt models!

Judy customizes t-shirtsJudy, once a textiles teacher, helped customize t-shirts for some who were willing to risk the scissors for a new look

The second morning we set up heterogeneous “cross-cultural conversation” groups to tackle case studies that represented the common issues we face – accommodation, job frustrations/dissatisfaction, misunderstandings across cultures, emergencies, etc. Since a risk of events such as this is that they can spiral down into gripe sessions, these conversations were structured to support creative and collaborative problem solving. Volunteering in another country inevitably involves the ups and downs of culture shock and, despite the preparation we are given to help us cope, sometimes we really need a good listener. Comments on evaluations showed that it was helpful for some to recognize that they are not alone and that others have overcome similar challenges.

sharing ideasCross cultural conversations mixed people up to share perspectives on case studies representing common challenges faced by volunteers – it was helpful to learn how differently others may see the same situation…and how often we leap to conclusions that miss out a lot of the pieces of the puzzle,especially when we are in another country

open space in background

cross cultural conversationsWe tried to set up groups to ensure a mix of staff, volunteers from different sectors, cultures, and regions

VSO Ethiopia currently has volunteers from England, Ireland, Scotland, Kenya, Zimbabwe,Uganda, the Philippines, the Netherlands, India, China and Canada (recruited through Cuso International) as well as Ethiopian and British youth volunteers.

Philippine:india groupVolunteers from the Philippines and India. Here you see doctors, IT experts, educators and even a mechanical engineer!

Moving on from challenges to successes was the next order of business and James and Kate assigned sector groups to share their small and large successes and figure out how to creatively present them to the rest of us.

ICT sucessesIT group sharing their successes – the presentations were high energy and plenty of fun

livelihood ICSYouth volunteers shared some amazing success stories. These were inspiring to all of us, as we had previously known little about what they were up to in Hawassa and Addis…

YIuth envirnomnet workClimate change is a cross cutting issue (like gender and ICT) in VSO’s strategic plan so it was good to see the youth doing environmental projects…

group having a laughThis education group had plenty of fun setting up their presentation!

group presentation

Viv explains her give me educationThere are also 4 APs (accompanying partners) currently in country and many have gotten involved in their own initiatives – here Viv shares her “Give Me Education” project in Axum that has resulted in several street kids getting into school. Others have gotten involved in providing knitted blankets for neo-natal ICUs and one, a trained counsellor, has been working to support sustainable counselling services in his town

After another long lunch, it was time to think of taking our success stories out to the rest of the world.

wube speakingTo begin, Country Director Wube explained the key messaging strategy of VSO and gave pointers on how to effectively communicate to external audiences. Then groups set to drafting their own external communications plans including identifying target audiences, key messages, media to be used…the impressive results have been summarized and may be used for further outreach projects. I do hope our Canadian Hyena visual gets some air time!!

My “key messages” about the conference:

  • Retreats enhance volunteer motivation and satisfaction
  • Volunteers are resourceful organizers and willing participants
  • Trust the process and goodwill of people and you will not be disappointed
  • Open space is worth the risk – it works!

campfireThe last night we had dinner around the bonfire and some partied well into the early hours…

st george beer eyes

In the end about 130 people came to Lake Langano and created, through their enthusiasm and participation, a successful and memorable event that will now become a shared memory for volunteers and VSOE staff in Ethiopia in 2013.

big group photo

While it is hard to measure the long-term impact of such a gathering, the evaluation comments showed that people left feeling re-energized and supported to carry on with their volunteer work, knowing they were not alone and that everyone has ups and downs but the journey is worthwhile. New friendships blossomed, old friends re-c0nnected and ideas/experiences were shared all in a spirit of fun and creativity. Well worth the risks…

*We also had a team of about ten people taking photos during the conference and many of the photos in this blog are from the collections we shared – thanks to all these folks for sharing their talents!

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