Walking through the Amhara regional capital, you tend to notice a very interesting trend. Every 20 feet or so there is a clay bench, with a different theme. I don’t know if they were commissioned or if 1 person did all of them, but there has to be about 50 in the whole city. Here are a few on the way to the regional Peace Corps Office… with or without strangers
Just got back to Gondar from 12 days of Grassroots Soccer and Regional training in Bahar Dar. All of this was very exciting cutting edge stuff… cough cough… but I’ll talk about that later. The real events of the week included two shootings and a warehouse fire!
As we arrived a couple weeks ago, we were told to avoid a certain neighborhood in the city (with the beer garden damn!) because of a shooting incident. The rumor circulating is that an ex military guy shot up a wedding of a former lover, killing her family and a few unlucky bajaj drivers nearby. It was a really big tragedy for the area, some staff having personal connections to some of the victims. He then drowned himself in the lake. The next week, another shooting occurred in the same neighborhood. I feel a family feud developing.
A few days after that, a warehouse caught fire across the street from the hotel. None of the incidents are officially related, but if I were a script writer I would cry arson! We were told it was a palm oil storehouse, so clearly it burned quickly.
What was fascinating was the emergency apparatus here. Considering many households do not even have basic needs met, I was impressed by the multiple fire trucks that showed up. However, there is no hydrant system so they would wet the fire, have to drive off to get more water, and the fire would be blazing again by the time they came back.
Bahar Dar is one of the more modern cities in Ethiopia. Even though Gondar is bigger (or maybe because of it), Bahar Dar boasts cleaner streets, wider sidewalks and better infrastructure (including stop lights! You don’t even see those in Addis). So I can’t tell if I was surprised that there were two fire trucks, or surprised that there were only two fire trucks for a city that size (pop. about 200,000).
Peace Corps also officially consolidated us in the hotel. So I can check that experience off the list. Though we lobbied to move to the resort down the street for “safety” reasons, I don’t think they bought it.
So what is a girl to do when she lives in a hub town? I can’t get out of site to do my “banking” or “buy vegetables” or “insert other excuse to leave your village here.” Of course these are all real reasons people leave site, and I’m very lucky to have these amenities in Gondar, but when I want to get outta town for a bit there are plenty of day and weekend trips of the adventure and rejuvenation variety around.
#1: Bahar Dar
Bahar Dar is a lake town about 3.5 hours by minibus away. It sits on the southern end of Lake Tana surrounded by monasteries on islands. The city is the regional headquarters for the Amhara Peace Corps Office, and boasts some nice lakeside resorts. It also has an abundance of fruit and vegetables I can’t get in Gondar (read- strawberries!). The Kuriftu resort is the favorite spot for Peace Corps volunteers to get some sun and ice cream. Just don’t tell them I’m not a member!
Gorgora is a small village on the north side of Lake Tana about a two hour drive from Gondar. And by two hour drive I mean a two hour span of “road” made out of what I can only assume to be cow paths, water erosion paths, and giant holes. Should have worn a sports bra.
But once you get there, there is a lovely little resort (Tim and Kim’s Village) run by two Dutch expats with some of the best cooking in the West Amhara region. There is also a monastery on the nearest island—thought it’s males only. However, we ladies were able to take out some canoes and meet some of the local fishermen. Fresh fish for dinner!
Happy New Year!
(and belated Merry Christmas!)
2012 has been crazy! And moving in to my site right at the end of it was the perfect summation of the huge amount of change, adventure and starting over I have done this year. This past week has been a whirlwind of meeting people for work and in my neighborhood, setting up my house, and hosting other traveling volunteers. Because my site is a big cultural and historical city for Ethiopia, many volunteers (and volunteer’s families- wahoo free meals!) come through at some point in their 2 years to check it out. Looks like I will have a much fuller social schedule than the average volunteer (not a problem for me!)
But before I even arrived in Gonder, I got to travel across northern Amhara through the Ethiopian countryside, moving from lowlands to highlands and into the Great Rift Valley to close up shop in my previous site, Dessie. Traveling across Ethiopia is simply breathtaking. Imagine driving through 5 Grand Canyons, past a few Devil’s Towers, into the Rockies while passing some Nebraskan farm fields along the way, but all in the space of New England, or half of Colorado. There is no way to describe it and photos cannot do it justice, but I put together a short video anyway. This is just North Amhara- the Oromia Region (Ethiopia’s breadbasket) Tigray (Sub-Saharan Desert) and Southern Nations (Hammer Tribe and more typically “African” tribes) offer an even wider array of scenery! Enjoy!