Sunday, October 6, 2013

It's the Holiday Season

It’s the Holiday Season!

September 11th is a somber day for Americans. It is one of those days that when we think back on it, we will always know where we were at the exact moment that we heard about the World Trade Center being bombed. We remember small and inconsequential details of the moments surrounding the news as it unfolded. It is a day that we hold on to tenderly. Not tenderly the way that you might hold child or something that is dear to your heart but tenderly as in the way that you caress a wound that has healed but still gives you trouble now and again.  

In Ethiopia September 11th is something entirely different. September 11th is a day for celebration. It is the first day of a new year! It is a day to spend with friends and family. The two weeks leading up to New Years is intense. The city has feel about it that I can only equate to Christmas in the States. Little bazars pop up in the most bizarre places. They sell everything! Traditional clothing, kitchen-wares, housewares, clothes, toys, baskets, you name it, its out on the street.  The streets also begin to fill with sheep and goats. Sheep and Goats are walked for miles and miles into Addis to be sold as dinner. Chickens are also widely seen for sale throughout the city. It is common to see people walking and carrying live chickens by their feet, one in each hand, home to be turned into Doro Wot, a wonderfully tasty Ethiopian dish!

There is a type of wood that is ceremonially burned called Chipbo in Amharic. It is burned to symbolically burn away the year’s misdeeds. Piles and piles of this wood are sold all over Addis. The energy in the city is palpable and even the farejis can’t help but feel a little excited. Not being Ethiopian it is hard to know what to do with this excitement. It isn’t New Years for us…. The way that we chose to spend the holiday was participating in the US Embassy sponsored a 7k walk up Entoto Mountain. On top of Entoto Mountain the Government of Ethiopia Erected a 9/11 monument. The walk (run for people crazy enough for that sort of thing) began at the Embassy and concluded at the monument where the Ambassador was to say a few words about 9/11.

We rose early on that Wednesday morning. We loaded the stroller into the car and we packed water and some other necessities like toilet paper (hey you never know). We left the house and began the drive to the embassy. As we drove on the Ring Road, the only highway type road in Addis, we dodged no less than 4 soccer games being played in the middle of the highway!  You did read that right. People were playing soccer in the highway. This is a big road people! You can actually drive 50 miles per hour sometimes! Who decided that playing a game of soccer was a good idea? It would be like playing a game of soccer on I 10! Not EVER a good idea! But I digress.  Outside of the four massive soccer games being played in the middle of the highway there was nothing too strange about the 30-minute drive to the embassy.

We arrived fairly early and checked in, got our t-shirts and visited the restroom; the thought of using a bathroom anywhere along the way was not something I wanted to dwell on! The hubs had Jake in the stroller and when the walk began he took off. Brenden, James and I took it a little slower. We chatted with some people and were generally enjoying ourselves. As we got further up the hill we realized that all of the water was in the stroller! The Hubs and Jake were nowhere in sight! We ran and searched and panted and searched all to no avail. He had busted a move, left us in his dust, pulled a fast one, whatever you want to call it we were on our own and we were thirsty! We were told that there would be vans following us up the mountain for security and to provide water to crazy people like ourselves who were with out water. The trick was finding the van. We put the word out that we needed some liquid refreshment and it wasn’t long before the van found us and we were given several bottles of water. After taking a few deep swigs all of us felt more willing to continue moving up the mountain.

In the USA when you hike a mountain you are usually on some sort of trail that has a no motorized vehicles allowed rule. There are no hiking trails here. You merely walk up the same road that everyone else walks up, drives up and runs up, there is only one way up! On the way to the top we passed Shirameda a market that sells lots of traditional dresses as well as other crafty things. It was mostly closed for the holiday but it reminded me of how much I really want to go shopping for some traditional Ethiopian clothes!

The people were surprisingly cool with the huge band of ferenjis walking up the road and I don’t remember having one person ask me for money. I’m pretty sure that is some sort of record! There were some little kids that were cheering us on saying things like, “You can do it”. Very cute! There were some places where the road is extremely narrow and the cars nearly ran us off of the mountain. There were herds of goats and sheep that tried in earnest to trample us. The worst and most challenging part of the hike was the exhaust fumes coming out of the cars that passed us. The air is thin enough here but to have all of that pollution as well made it really hard to breath. At one point the kids and I stepped off of the road and walked down the hill and walked below but along side the road the air felt a little cleaner and we could breath. At one point there was an accident involving two taxi’s. The traffic was horrendous and rather than subject my children to the horrors of enraged motorists on a tiny mountain road we cut the switch back and walked up some rocks and dirt and then back to the road.

Brenden was getting pretty tired and needed a lot of motivation to keep going. I think that if I had let him he would have jumped into the security van and ridden up with them. James was tired but if you showed him how close to being last we were he hurried right along. We made it to St Mary’s near the top. The boys thought that we were done but I had to give them the unfortunate news that we still had about 30minutes left to walk! They were pretty bummed out. After a while the ground pretty much leveled out and we were not walking up anymore which was a huge relief! We continued on and eventually met Jake and the Hubs at the finish. Apparently the Hubs made it to the finish a full 30 minutes before we did! I have not idea how he did that pushing huge old Jakey in the stroller! I realized as I was pulling my tired, sore, trembling body to the finish that I was happy that the Hubs went on ahead and left us in his dust. I was happy because if we had stayed together I would inevitably have had to help to push that stroller up the mountain! I was barely pushing myself toward the end!

After we made it to the top we hung around for a while and stretched our sore muscles and waited for the Ambassador to arrive and give a little speech. When he did arrive he said a few words. It was nice and it was short. We piled into the 5 or so vans that had accompanied us up the mountain and rode back to down to the Embassy where we enjoyed a lunch of Fantas and Pizza. All in all it was a pretty successful hike. I was so tired when we made it home that I slept no less than 2 hours and loved EVERY minute of it!
Until next time friends and family!!

Survival tips for hiking with the family!
1) Everyone carries their own water
2) Beware of motorists 
3)Make the Hubs push the stroller from now on...that was great!

Me and the Boys making our way up the En Toto

What's for dinner?

The stick ladies

A VERY tough job!

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