Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ethiopia 2011 - Coffee with salt and butter

Dear Dorothy

Sunday March 13 2011 - Jinka Ethiopia

Actually a very easy day. No eight hour drives through nowhere.

Well Let's start with yesterday from my notes. Never could take notes in school because "Me? Take notes? I'll remember it." I guess that is why I'm not a doctor now.

Evangadi Lodge - Turmi Ethiopia. The Best of the worst hotel in Turmi. No hot water, they store it in black iron tanks and the sun warms the water. The morning's water is too cool for my comfort, but the evening's water isn't all that bad. The electricity is on from 6pm until 10pm. The room is cooled by whatever wind or breeze happens to pass through. When the electricity is on it is just for lights. There are no electrical outlets in the room. No hair dryer, no computer charging, no hot coffee in the room even if my imersion heater was working.

All in all a pretty nice place. It is clean. Each unit is a separate bungalow. the room is very clean . The bedding is nice with the canopy bed mosquito netting. I will remember to bring a clock with me next time. This is the first time I can recall where no room has a clock in it.

Cattle blocking the road

The people who run the place are very friendly. Almost too much. Not in a suspicious way just there are times when solitude is what I'm hoping for. The food is geared towards the tourist. A prix Fixe (sp?) menu. No substitutions. The first night I've already written about. Last night was vegetarian spaghetti, rice, stir fried veggies (the cook/chef (depending on whether he's wearing his white coat or blue vest) spent some time as a cook on oil tankers with Asian crews) and fries. Six bucks. Whoops! forgot the big bowl of lentil soup.

This morning was the obligatory exchange of snail and E mail. They may happen they may not.

We left about 8:30 and drove for only two or two and a half hours before stopping for a break. Totally unnecessary for me, maybe the driver needed a break but i think it was more just so we didn't get to our destination too quickly. Today's roads were the most difficult so far. The fastest we got to was 25 mph (40 kph) and that was only once we were safely buckled in. A NASCAR driver's HANS (Head and neck support) device and a kidney belt would have been necessary if we went any faster. We did have one water up to our hubs crossing. Thank you Mister Willys. We didn't need to lock in the 4WD, but there was a little slipping and it was reassuring to know we could have powered our selves out if needed.

Since I am only renting the car and driver, much like Avis, the as is in me. In Arba Minch we had filled the tank and then filled up the Jerry cans. The Jerry cans were necessary because there is no fuel along the way. Well let me tell you a C-note didn't even cover all of it. Diesel was 16.7 Bir a liter. That works out to be within a penny or so of $4 a gallon. Made me feel right at home.

I know this is the I may seem fixated on the topic of boobs, but they are flipping everywhere. Some perky, some normal and some just flat depressing. But They are everywhere. No woman seems to give a hoot if her modesty is flapping in the breeze. The Hamer people. the Odomo people and I assume the Mursi tomorrow will be the same. There are more breasts on display that at a Lillith Faire. (sorry, I thought that last line up on the drive today and just HAD to use it)

Omarate women
I'm typing in the dark so this may get messy. The Captain has turned on the Fasten Seat Belt sign. This may get bumpy.

We arrived in Jinka around noon and went hotel shopping. We passed the best hotel recommended in the guidebook and tried the second best. Even by past experiences it was a little rough. I've seen more inviting prison cells. The bed took up the entire living area and the bathroom looked like and example of how not to plumb a room. It was $15 a night so I suppose you get your money's worth. I told her the place was on my list. The list was headed "Use in case of emergency".

We drove back to the best place recommended by Brandt's guide. It was cleaner, larger and the plumbing was understandable. I asked reception the hard questions. Do you have hot water?? Yes. Do you have electricity all the time? Yes, 24 hours. I had already looked for outlets in the room - Check ! OK, how much? $15 bucks same as the joint down the road. We maybe not those exact words, but the bottom line ended up the same. I was in hotel Heaven.

The driver said he'd be back in a couple of hours with  guide and we would go to the local museum. So I sat out on the veranda and read my novel and drank a couple Fanta's. Chatted briefly with a German couple from Stuttgart. Watched the two German dykes go hunting birds with their cameras and telephoto lenses, and exchanged small talk with the staff.

The driver arrived on time I guess. No watch you know? With the guide. He was a Chatty Cathy comparison to the previous one. A little too chatty. I guess the driver told him about yesterdays fiasco. He suggested that we go to a nearby village and made it clear, we were not going there for a 10 minute photo op like the rest of the Ferangi (Tourists)

The village consisted of over sized Tina Turner huts. The villagers were dressed in their whatevers. Just clothes from someplace else. Probably all donated or left behind by previous tourists. It was nice to get away from the constant beseeching of "Photo, photo". He said they were trying to convince the local tribes to take a flat fee for the village tour and quit trying to get their money from posing for tourist snapshots. The village was situated on a lush hillside. They grew coffee, bananas, mangoes and it really looked ideal for the living standards. The kids were friendly, but absolutely fascinated by my hair clip on my camera strap.

Two women were sitting one behind the other braiding her hair. We passed the blacksmith's forge, but it was Sunday and a day of rest. We wove our way to a lady. She was kneeling over a stone grind stone and the guide told me she would show me how to make a coffee pot. She chipped off a few pieces of granite (this is true) and then ground it to powder. Then she added some clay and mixed that up and started forming a bowl and then a neck and then a spout (the spout did start looking like a small penis, and the boys watching were all having a laugh at that) then a stopper. She did all this in less than half an hour. It was a miracle. She would let it dry for a couple days then cover it with banana leaves and kiln it.

And then ....

Are you sure Starbucks started this way
She took a wooden pounder put some beans in  wooden pistil and smashed them a little. She poured that onto a tray and tossed it removing the chaff. Then the non-chaff was poured back into the pestil and whacked mercilessly. She poured this onto a hot iron pan and cooked it. The smell I recognized in an instant. Home made Starbucks !! the coffee was poured into a pot like the one she just made and water added and set to boil. Three cups were poured and offered to me and the guide. The coffee was very very hot. served in cups more like Japanese tea cups than a traditional western coffee cup. I took a sip after smelling it and telling her how good it smelled. Then I took a sip ..... There was coffee there, not quite of a Starbucks Americano caliber, but not too bad. Then I tasted the most unexpected taste of salt. Salt and coffee do not Karaoke very well together for me. There was also a unctuous feel to it. I asked if there was butter and was told no. I;m not sure what was going on there. I took a few more courtesy sips and the guide saved me by saying it was time to go.

We walked past another forge. This one the wife was working the bellows, the hubby was lost in the either, so maybe it was a setup for my pleasure. Then we stopped by the Rakia still and we were suddenly in the backwoods of Appalachia. Well ya take yer corn and ya soak it in some crik water and let it sit then ya cook it over yer fire fir a bit and por her back and let her a perk-a- late fir a few more days, Then you take 'er and pour her inter yer pot and stick on this here clay funnel thing and chatch the drippins in this here jug. I knew the process, because Kenny Boles and I did it in high school with purloined glass tubing from science class.

Back to town and a saunter through the market. Potatoes, yams, onions, garlic, shallots, coffee, sorghum, corn etc etc. The next stop was the honey drink cafe. I don't fully understand the concept, nor did I risk "The Revenge" on a taste. More research is necessary. But it sure did smell like a honeycomb inside.

The guide had volunteered me to buy a soccer ball for the tribe. That sits uncomfortably on my shoulder, but I'll explore the possibilities.  The general store saw me and the price of a soccer ball went through the roof. $27.00. Pass. One f the guys here at the hotel has one that he will sell me for 300 birr ($18) but it is used. I think my price is 200 Birr.

Anyway it is now 9:40 pm and I have more words to type but no ambition.

By the way cigarettes are $1.80 a pack for the imports and $.60 a pack for the domestic.

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