One More Time

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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.

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glamour and glitz

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.

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walking through history

This was my reason for coming to Paris.  We had it narrowed down to a few places in Europe.  But when I thought about what I wanted to see if I was never to come back to Europe – the Louvre was it. The chance to see that much art and culture in one place, to be surrounded by all the stuff I study in university, to experience the masters in person – I had to take it.

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first night in Paris

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It was like everything I had imagined and more.  All of the stuff I had seen in movies and read about became magnified by the deprivation of Western culture I felt living in Africa.  Walking out of the subway tunnels and seeing sites like this made me want to cry.

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when your shoulders start shaking

What I remember from National Geographic videos  or from what I have seen of the “african style” numbers performed by dance companies – African dancing seems to involve moving whole bodies, especially the mid-section, to drum-heavy music.  I am no dumby – I know that I can’t generalize all of the African cultures’ dance styles into one category or image.  But I was definitely not expecting to find the kind of dance that is prevalent in this culture.  The first cultural celebration I attended a year and a half ago surprised me when I saw how this African culture moves their bodies – by popping their shoulders and necks in and out.  Way, way more intense then the chicken-style dance you are probably thinking about. For the most part, people never move their lower bodies at all, except to maybe “sway” around with the music.  All the energy is focused in the chest and upper back. People will face each other and try and match the others movements.  A very intense back and forth of varying pulses and patterns – all within the beat of the music.

Now, if you go to a special performance with dancers and music, you will see more full-body movement.  Last year, we went to see a showcase of the different regions’ take on the dance. Every few songs, the dancers would change clothes into the appropriate attire for that specific region. It was a load of fun.  The dancers would come into the audience and get the crowd dancing too.  Even with my many years of dance training, I cannot manage to get the hang of it.  I may fair better than some foreigners, but man I sure do look silly.  The nationals enjoy it though.

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African Castles

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.

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the threshing floor

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.

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