A group of Americans came to visit us last week. They came to see the authentic “Horn of Africa” and make connections with the local people. Our trip out country would be my last excursion to the countryside. I will be moving back to America in 2 weeks time. One of the visitors asked me, “Do you just love it here?” Well, first off, that is a crazy question. It’s difficult, it’s frustrating, it’s beautiful, it’s different. But I was surprised by my answer – “It’s home.” Somehow in my 2 years here, this place has become a home to me. I think I feel this most when I am outside of the city. The countryside is so majestic and so endless. Sometimes I think about how this may be the birth place of humanity – and if that is the case, why wouldn’t I feel at home here.?
Visiting people in the countryside is my favorite thing. The people are genuine and welcoming for the most part – very different from the “Money, Money, Money!” I hear everyday walking around the city. In the countryside, they feed you what they can and offer you the story of their life. In return they listen to our stories. And in the end, the only thing they usually ask us is for medical advice or help because it is so hard for them to travel to a clinic. So here are a few snapshots of my last out country trip and the lovely faces I saw.
It was everything I expected and everything I wanted it to be. One my think that I would be appalled by such sites after living in Africa where mud-huts are the norm – but surprisingly I just felt amazed, maybe bewildered, but not appalled. Versailles was pure ridiculousness – this gilt castle, the extra palaces, the extensive grounds, the make-believe peasant’s cottage. I could just imagine myself playing a epic game of hide-and-go-seek in a huge ballgown while running through shaped hedges and around Classical sculptures.
A city to the north of us was home to the emperors of the country in the 17th and 18th centuries. This sort-of imperial city is now in ruins but still commands a magnificent presence. I just wasn’t expecting to see buildings like this in this area of the world. A walk through the old castle grounds made for an interesting and very peaceful afternoon.
One of the highlights of living here is experiencing life as it was a thousand or more years ago. In the countryside, life goes on without the interruption of modern technology or civilization. The only reminder that a different world exists are the few paved roads and a few sections of wire running across a field on its way to the next town, possibly hundreds of miles away. A few months ago, while I traveled through the countryside, I passed countless farmers threshing their crops – just like they did in Biblical times. We pulled the vehicle over and got out to talk to a few of the farmers we saw – asking about their crop that year and to explain the process of what they were doing. These are a compilation of farmers all with different crops. The last image captures the life-blood of this country: teff.
I still have some photos from my trip in late summer that I haven’t shared…so I thought I would just post them together. The first set are from the pyramids in Cairo. I think it was “neat” to be there and see something that is so important in history but, for some reason, the actually experience of visiting the area wasn’t really that awesome. I am sure the culture is lovely there, but I bet going to see the most tourist-y thing there wasn’t the best example of what Cairo has to offer. So I am not judging the place as a whole. (I do have to say, the felafel I had was pretty wonderful.) The second set of images are from the city center of Amman, Jordan. Amman was absolutely lovely. The people were friendly, the city was for the most part accessible, clean, and full of things to do. I enjoyed walking around in the evening when it was cool and everyone was out socializing and eating. I have never had so much good food, for so little money, in one place in my life.
There was a time when I listened to Ryan Adams religiously. Song lyrics of his still swirl around in my brain, though his voice is absent from the speakers. The lyric “I want an easy plateau, some place to rest my head, for awhile” would not leave me alone this past week as I traveled through the mountains in the countryside. I can take this sentiment very literally – I get carsick like it’s nobody’s business. But I was also given a beautiful metaphor for my life recently. I have been traveling a hard road and I am ready to find a place to rest my head. Just for a little while.
And everyone thought it was silly of me to buy it. But you know what, I finally got to go on that safari and I totally rocked that hat. I will remember this day for probably the rest of my life. I did not see running wildebeests or watch a lion attack its prey, but, despite the lack of drama, it was still like having an encyclopedia come to life; like I was in the middle of the Discovery Channel.
I saw a great deal of beautiful animals that I wish I could show you through photographs. I was unable to purchase a zoom lens before I left, so I had to shoot with a 50 mm fixed lens. While being a great lens for portraits, it does not quite give me the ability to capture animals in their vast landscape well. Also, add the fact that you are riding – or more correctly, standing – in a topless jeep/van that is traveling off road and bumping up and down like crazy, everything did not look so great on film. But here are a few shots that can give you some idea of what it was like.
These were taken about a month ago while I was traveling. It is the time for the harvest, and the farmers have received good rain here. And now, when I go to market, there are large bags everywhere displaying their fruits. There is teff, oilseeds, sorghum, wheat, barley, corn and coffee.
The countryside is beginning to change. The rainy season is officially over and we must prepare to say goodbye to the lushness around us. Our part of the country has been very blessed this year to receive more than enough rain to water the crops and the many rivers and streams. In the next few weeks, the landscape will morph from green to brown. And right when I am finally getting used to my surroundings – I am going to have to adjust all over again.