Ethiopia map:
Strange dreams and bad water
Feb 05, 2005

I awoke from a very strange dream.  A car had crashed.  Oddly, the car had a bear in it, and because of the crash the bear was able to escape.  The bear was still tied up with a chain, but the chain seemed to be miles long and so the bear was running around causing total chaos.  I was going to, somehow, help out with the bear situation, but couldn't because I had to run to the toilet.  I woke up, and in real life also had to run off to the toilet. 

Coffee Ceremony

Coffee Ceremony

People of Omorate

People of Omorate

People of Omorate

People of Omorate

People of Omorate

Two more times, I woke up during the night to rush off to the toilet with diarrhea.  As stomach problems go, it wasn't bad though.  There was no pain, and no fever.  I took the diarrhea simply as a sign that I was adjusting to the local food. 

The toilet though, was a bit scary.  I've grown accustomed to dirt pits.  Moths attracted to my headlamp were circling my head, and flying into my face.  But, I'm used to that too.  It was the cockroaches that scared me.  Five isn't many cockroaches for a village squat toilet, but these cockroaches were huge.  Each one was 3" long and they seemed to fill the tiny room.  I felt like I was invading their space.  Rather than scattering, they turned their heads towards me giving me an evil look "What the hell do you think you're doing in _my_ toilet."

In the morning, I read the directions for the water purification tablets, which I had inherited from another tourist on his way home.  The directions said to wait a full two hours before drinking the water - Ooops.  I'd been drinking the water after only 15 minutes.  Also, the directions recommend not using these tablets for trips to remote places - places don't get too much more remote than Omorate.  I'm doubling the dose from now on, in addition to waiting two hours.

I switched hotels today, and that toilet was only half the reason.  Next door is a hotel that is much more friendly and only 1/3 of the price.  I'm now paying $1.25 for a room.  For another $0.75, I get more good Ethiopian food than I can possibly eat. 

To welcome me to the hotel, there is a coffee ceremony.  In Ethiopia, only the women make the coffee, and it's quite a performance.  Cut grass is placed on the floor, and huge clouds of incense fill the room.  The coffee is made completely from scratch.  First fresh coffee beans are roasted on a metal plate.  Then the coffee is violently crushed into a powder with a metal or wooden rod.  Finally, the coffee is mixed in with boiling water in a clay coffee pot.  The whole process takes more than an hour.  Coffee in Ethiopia is almost a religion.  I love that.

In the afternoon, I took a walk around town with my camera.  The idea of taking pictures of the tribal people originally left a bad taste in my mouth.  People go on safaris to see the "Big 5":  lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, and buffalo.  The Omo valley isn't too different as most tourists go with a checklist - they must photograph the Mursi, and Hammer, etc.  I'd much rather be a participant than a spectator, and I don't want to treat these people like objects.

But as I start taking photos, I got a different feeling from it.  I don't give to beggars, but this was a way for me to give money to people in need through a fair exchange.  I paid each person the standard fee of 1 birr ($0.12) for posing.  One birr is a small amount of money for me, but still a large amount of money for them.  They were thrilled with the money, and I was happy to have the photos. 

I wanted to keep taking photos, more to give out money, than for the pictures.  But quickly I had to stop.  Everyone was desperate for money (even a dime).  The crowd around me grew too large and started getting unruly with everyone pulling on me demanding "take my photo, take my photo."  For my own safety and the safety of my camera, I ran away into a local restaurant and had, yet another, cup of tea.

While I was scribbling notes for this journal, a big fucking scorpion rushed under my door, made a lightning fast pass around my room, and then rushed backed back under the door.  Every hotel I've been in since Lodwar has had cats.  They're there to kill the scorpions and apparently it works, as this is the first scorpion I've seen.

Tomorrow, more exploration of Omorate.

The trip from Nairobi to Addis Ababa was interesting enough that I wrote it up as a daily log.  If you'd like to read it from the beginning click here:  [ Leaving Nairobi ]

Leave a comment!  I'm much more inspired to write when I know people are reading. 

Julia - Apr 25, 2005

Adam, I feel so UNhardcore when I read your journals!  I'm all like preparing to go to hoity-toity graduate school next year, where I am fairly certain there will be no scorpions to worry my pretty little head about.

Deirdre - Apr 27, 2005

I know it's strange but I liked the description "fucking" scorpion.  I think it conveys your feelings through tone rather than having to describe it to us.  I also liked the first sentence -- it grabbed my attention. 

It is so nice to see new entries in here!  I've missed them!  They break up the monotony of my own busy, domestically situated life :) I need more!


Thanks Deidre.

Hey everyone!  Follow Deidre's good example, and please give me more feedback on my writing.  Thanks!


Kris D. - May 06, 2005

Take that Starbucks!  I was enthralled with the coffee ceremony - thanks for writing about that.  Anyplace that takes their java so seriously is my kinda place.  Your pics of the local people are simply amazing.  Thanks for writing about how you were able to pay for such stunning portraits.  Too bad it became a mob scene -- the faces and especially their worn looking bodies tell me more than words ever could about life in Ethiopia.  Be careful in the Sudan - and enjoy your adventures!
Kris D.
West Palm Beach, FL


Yeah, some of the photos do tell a story.  The photo of the "old woman" - I wonder how old she really is.  The life expectancy here is shockingly only 40 years.

Everyone tells me to be careful in Sudan, but from what I've heard from other travelers is that Sudan (at least Northern Sudan where I'm going) is unbelievably safe.  You can sleep by yourself in the middle of the desert beneath some pyramids with any danger of being robbed.  I'm really looking forwards to it!


Wonde - Feb 21, 2007

dear Sirs;

i am happy to read such a genuine article about our culture and i am happy and wanted to extend my heartufl appreciation to the writetr

being in the tour and leisure business lots of unknown things are invooved and when some estmeed guest comment about the service and the real image of our country we are happpy.



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