Three-thiopia: Ethiopia Round 3

26 Jul

Here we go! Patrick and I were on the road again, this time heading to Aksum. The way there was so gorgeous, even the driver wanted to get out and snap some shots.



Did you know Ethiopia was so green-thiopia?


IMG_1011 2

THE most beautiful scene


On our way to Aksum, we stopped for fuel (aka food) and got some Fuul aka an incredible baked bean dish.



More than an eye fuul


During breakfast, I bought a religious sticker for my notebook (for one bier aka two cents) — and then we were back on the road.  Hey, why don’t you come along for the ride:









Later, we stopped for another memorable meal comprised of 8, 12, or 10 things. Patrick couldn’t remember exactly — but it was definitely an even number.



Or, is this THE most beautiful scene?!


That night, when choosing a place to stay, apparently, we double-downgraded. At first, the eco-lodge was closed.  Rainy season.  Not my fault.  Then, we had a nice room for 500 bier with our own beds, a brand new toilet, and internet. But then, as Patrick puts it, I “ran to him like lassie” to tell him about a cheaper place.  In my defense, we saved 200 bier  – that’s 200 stickers – and everything was fine, albeit dirty.  

With the 200 bier we saved, we bought ourselves a bottle of wine called “Gouder.” So even though our room was dirtier, the outcome was gooder. #worthit

Overall, our hotel in Aksum ranked 46 on the rating system that Patrick and I created for the places we stayed. What’s that you say?  WHAT RATING SYSTEM?!  Oh.  Here’s a link. The Hotel-thiopia blog.

The next day, we started by going to another hotel to have Boona (coffee in Ahmeric), because that’s what you do in a country that’s obsessed with coffee. And not in the way that the USA is obsessed with their coffee. In Ethiopia, you don’t have coffee without a ceremony which includes burning incense to please the spirits during the ritual.  It’s incredible! And tasty.





Let the ceremony of the grounds commence!


While Patrick and I contemplated ordering a grande coffee with a side of ceremony at Starbucks, and serving coffee with popcorn at the next furries event, we sipped on the best coffee I’ve ever had in my entire life.  And it wasn’t necessarily the taste– it was the FEELING. I got the best body high where I was alert, but calm and patient while still vibrantly aware. Felt like drugs… but I guess caffeine is a drug.  It was a great start of an extraordinary day.

Patrick and I walked around feeling SUPER stimulated — even without the coffee it’s almost impossible to not feel this way in Ethiopia. We bought natural toothbrushes on the side of the road, and Patrick got his shoes cleaned before our next stop: a castle.



The height of luxury.



Natural toothbrush: Say Ahhhhfrica.


From the guidebook, we read that when this castle was occupied they had long tables and wiped their hands on bread instead of napkins (brilliant), and they fed each other balls of meat from a (very) recently alive cow. They chewed loudly, which meant they were enjoying the meal, and made lots of noise while they were eating.  Inside, Patrick and I did dramatic reenactments.



MYTH: Africans only lived in mud huts. 1790.


After the castle, we visited another cool rock church sans the treacherous climb. Some of the churches had a separate entrance for men and women.



Church rocks


Patrick and I enjoyed the church art, particularly what was on the ceiling. And, with the snoring priest in the background, we sort of tripped out over the repetitive angel faces..



can’t look away.



Meditating on what’s above


Later that night, we mixed our piety with a dose of debauchery (#balance) and headed to an illegal shisha place. It was on the 4th floor of a random building, which was actually pretty dangerous because we would have no bargaining power if we were caught by the police.

The establishment was like someone’s nasty living room, and Patrick came back from the bathroom saying it was the most disgusting toilet he’d ever seen. We met a guy who worked at a Citgo in the USA, and had a obligatory drink while PRAYING that the ice wouldn’t make us sick… and then got the heck out of there.

We walked around figuring out our plans. I (as if I hadn’t risked it all with the ice cubes in our drink) contemplated getting a hard boiled egg at a stand on the side of the street but decided against it. Our night wasn’t over, yet… We headed to an underground nightclub in Gondor called The Platinum Lounge. Kuba sarcastically wondered if he’d be able to get in with his sneakers.

Travel can be all about putting yourself in a situation you wouldn’t normally be in, and so even though the club hit me with a wall of B.O. as soon as we walked inside, the group decided to stay and break out our shoulder moves. The African guys wanted to dance with all the men in our group.  Definitely a not normal (for me) situation.



The next day was public transportation day. How do you turn 25 minutes into an hour? A bus. How do you make Ethiopia time? Add 6 hours.

We discussed how there should be a word for being immobile on a bus– for being trapped and helpless but resigned and settled in. A girl tried to steal my watch out of the bus window, good thing it was attached to me.

The scariest thing that happened was the fight which broke out between the guy behind Patrick and the conductor. There was a lot of yelling; we weren’t completely sure what was happening, but the men were FURIOUS about the police taking their IDs. A woman tried to calm them down while the ‘ductor made the van stop and ran outside to grab a giant rock as big as his hand. Everyone tried to hold him back. And then there was us, sandwiched in between it all, with the yelling in a language we didn’t understand, the B.O… it escalated quickly.

Eventually, the bus continued on its way… we never really found out what had happened. Nevertheless, we arrived in Bahir Dar truly grateful to be alive. We chose to stay in one of the nicer hotels that night. (Check out this one’s rating in Hotel-thiopia).

The next morning, we decided to go for a boat ride to a peninsula despite it still being the rainy season.



Yup, still rainy season.


But the ride was amazing. It was near the mouth of the Blue Nile mouth where we saw hippos in the wild and fed some pelicans.  






Pelicans be hungry.


On dry land, we walked through lush, muddy forests to get to church. Inside, if a church had a blue body painted on the wall, it meant that the person depicted was a sinner (not a saint).



Feeling hut hut hut





Note from video above: Nature sounds and people chanting



Natural paintings of archangels on goatskins.



Then, we drank wild coffee (ceremony included) plus ate some delicious home-cooked shiro. 



There’s popcorn in that pot.


We saw, clearly, a family and the progression of a young child’s role: from eating the popcorn, to making the popcorn, to making the coffee, and finally to overseeing the whole process. 

Back to the mainland for dinner.  We ordered fish that came wrapped in tinfoil, lit on fire. Patrick was in heaven.



Fish flambe


That night, we went out to see some more traditional dancing. It was all VERY interesting.   Hardly anyone used a phone to videotape the dance, there was no clapping after any of the performances, and beer bottles just accumulated on everyone’s tables because culturally, I guess you’re just supposed to leave them.

As you can hear in the videos, the music they danced to was repetitive.
As you can see in the videos, the dancing was MUCH more about the upper body than the lower body. The shoulders are the star.  It’s more jerky than smooth, more spastic than controlled. Fascinating and cool.





Some final observations:
A routine was performed on stage for about 20 minutes, and then the dancers joined the audience one at a time — where they were more likely to dance with men than women.


We wondered:
When in the United States can you just go up against a professional dancer?

Completely in love with our days,

One Response to “Three-thiopia: Ethiopia Round 3”

  1. Katie Barbaro February 8, 2020 at 4:33 pm #

    You are on fire!!! This is amazing. “Double downgraded.” 😂😍🤓

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