Ethiopia map:
Leaving Omorate
Feb 09, 2005

I haven't written in the past few days. 

I said I would keep a daily log until I had a boring day.  Omorate is fascinating.  It's a world completely different than I'm accustomed to.  I cannot describe the past few days as boring but they were repetitive enough that I have little to write about. 

People of Omorate

People of Omorate

People of Omorate

Birds of Omorate

Birds of Omorate

The culture in Omorate is all about sitting, so I did that a lot.  I took more pictures of the local people and of the birds.  I learned more Amharic.  And, I continued to drink homemade beer out of rusty tomato tins in my favorite little bar.

After the additional time in Omorate, I would have hoped to have all sorts of new insight into the local culture to share, but I have more questions than answers. 

A half-dozen prostitutes work in my hotel.  Let me clarify that term, as "prostitute" has a very negative connotation in America.  In Ethiopia, prostitution is pretty much just a job.  The girls at my hotel are nice girls, who happen to get paid for sex.  The question that I've been struggling with is regarding their weight.  They're all chubby.  Are Rubenesque figures considered sexy in Ethiopia?  Or are the extra pounds from the prostitutes sitting around all day eating injeera.  The answer, I guess, is somewhere in the middle.  These are the things you ponder when you have too much free time on your hands.

The other question is slightly more serious.  One of the guys asked me if I was a Christian.  I told him that I was not.  I told him that I thought that there was no god.  His eyes popped out of his head.  Puzzled, and concerned for me, he asked who then created Adam and Eve. 

I was dumbfounded.  How do you explain evolution to someone with limited English, and a fundamentalist Christian education?  Hearing that "man came from the apes" sounds ridiculous to anyone without a science background.  Can any of you please help me with a convincing, but very simple, version of Darwin? 

I photographed the pretty little birds in the trees around my guesthouse, but in Omorate there are also lots of eagles.  They're always circling the sky, and pass occasionally right overhead.  The eagles are not as big or impressive (or bizarre) as the Marabou storks in Uganda, but they are pretty damn impressive when they come swooping down into the courtyard of your hotel.  I had yet to get a good photo of them.  Whenever they passed over my head, my camera seemed to be locked away in my room.  On my last day in Omorate, the kids helped me out.  They threw goat bones into the air.  Instantly, half a dozen eagles were dive- bombing the guesthouse - set up perfectly for photos.

I would have liked to say longer in Omorate.  Unfortunately, it was time for me to leave.  The memory card for my camera was full, and I had to get up to Addis Ababa to burn the photos to CD. 

After sitting all day every day with the people from my hotel, I made some really good friends.  The owner of the hotel begged me to stay.  She even offered me free accommodations.  Unfortunately, I had to go.  As I got on a truck for Turmi, there was a slightly tearful goodbye.

I am considering coming back to Omorate, but it is a long way up to Addis Ababa...  and I know that it is even further on the way back.

In this journal entry of questions, I do have one answer.  It's the answer to a question that I've struggled with for months.  I was told that the only form of transport available in Southern Ethiopia is "cattle trucks".  What the hell is a cattle truck?  I didn't ask at the time - and the lack of an answer frustrated me.  Is it a truck pulled by cows?  Or is it like a chicken bus, with the passengers sharing space with the cows?  I imagined hellish rides in the back of a truck for 12 hours surrounded by cows, and lots of cow shit.

The answer was a disappointment - not at all a wild adventure like I expected.  "Cattle trucks" are trucks with a metal bar running down the length of the bed.  If the truck happens to be carrying cattle there is something to tie them to, but there was not a single cow anywhere near the truck that took me out of Omorate. 

Oh, and today I heard a report that 5 people were recently killed on the road between Omorate and Turmi.  It's the road that I'm taking right now - the only road in or out of Omorate.  That news probably explains why I've seen almost no tourists in Omorate (only one couple on motorcycles).  I'm not worried though.  If I can walk through remote regions full of nomads, this truck ride should be no problem.

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. 

GLADYS SIEFERT - May 02, 2005

very interesting letter enjoyed it very much keep wishes ,Gladys

Daniel - May 02, 2005

I think that all of the questions of creationism and evolution come down to the grander question of "why and how does the universe as we know it exist?" Since I have no answer for this question, any line of questioning that leads that direction fundamentally leads to a question I cannot answer.  What I do believe is that the story of Adam and Eve is best thought of as a metaphor to understanding that with the fantastic gift of knowledge and the freedom of personal choice comes an often harsh reality that both brings out the best and the worst in mankind.


I have no problem with "Adam and Eve" as a fairy tale and even as a metaphor.  But I do have a bit of a disagreement with anyone who touts it as fact.


barce - May 08, 2005

On Darwinism:  You should tell the guy to talk to a local breeder, and ask him about what the breeders do to make the animals of the next generation "better."  The guy would probably say something cute like, "Well who breeded you?  God?" Other than that I'd be at a loss.

Julia - May 20, 2005

We've been arguing over "evolution vs creationism and how to deal in science centers" on the science center geek list I'm on at work for a month or so now.

Even in this group of hard-core science educators, we're at a loss on how to both respect our fundamentalist audiences and at the same time assert what we know to be prevailing scientific theory vs a quaint fairy tale that it's fine to believe in during your non academic hours.

As for how to present this information and debate it with someone with a background SO far away from even knowing the two arguments in the first place...good luck and I look forward to hearing about any debates you might have!

*I* wonder how fundamentalist Christianity got all the way over to where you are, but I suppose the system's set up to make sure that sort of thing happens.

This does lead me to ask if you've come across some people who are still into hardcore traditional religions?


I think that explaining evolution to people with no science education and limited English is hopeless - but I had to ask. 

Fundamentalist Christianity got over here through the Missionaries - they're on a mission to convert people and they've been in Africa for a long time. 

Northern Ethiopia is completely different story.  It's a different form of Christianity (Ethiopian Orthodox) and
Christianity has been in Ethiopia since the time of the apostles.

I don't know what percentage of people in the Omo Valley have been converted and how many still practice local religions.  I suspect that a lot of them retain the local beliefs - that's exactly why the missionaries are there.  But unfortunately, I didn't witness any relgious ceremonies down theree.  I did of course also met with that witch doctor in Uganda. 


red+leaf+clover - Jun 04, 2005

Darwin's theory of evolution is not a theory about God.  It explains fossil records and the origins of species.  Believing that evolution proves that there is no God is as much a leap of faith as believing that we are all descended from Adam and Eve.


No, but a belief in Darwinism pretty much rules out a strict interpretation of the bible.  It's pretty hard to reconcile "And God created Adam and Eve" and "Man comes from the monkeys."


Sue - Sept 08, 2005

Adam, I am a first time reader of your travel journal.  I enjoyed it very much.  I have wanted to visit Ethiopia for some time and may visit next month.  So, I am interested in learning anything I can.  Just curious, did you have to give money to people so you could take there pictures?

Habtom - Mar 01, 2006

I am Hbtom I was in South Omo Region for 8 years and I love the people, and the region very much.  I will not forget the time I spent in Jinka with my friends.  Now I am in Eritrea due to the EPDRF (Ethiopian rulling party).

I read your atravel and found it interesting.

If you can can sent to me a letter to South Omo Region I would be gald, since thre is no postal connection between Eritrea nad Ethiopia. 




Nice to meet you Habtom,

I can't make any guarantees, but if you email the letter to me, I'll try to have it delivered. 


Donald Freeman - Jan 19, 2007

Thanks for your Ethopian travel log.  I got back just before xmas from four weeks there and it was truly amazing.  I found it a country of smiles and waves and am convinced that there is not a single dentist in the entire country because they all have perfect teeth.  I look forward to going back in a few years as I have a trip planned to go across Russia by train to Mongolia and then enter China from Mongolia. 

Have good travels.  Don Freeman

eshetu zewde - Aug 09, 2007

Iam ESHETU,Iapreaciate you,adam becouse you introduce one small kebele from many large regions in ethiopia.ou eventhough Idid NOT DO,BUT Ispent afew months their for sivil conesteraction work.I LIKE jinka tawn so much.  finaly,I learn from you is big things,is,that the ethiopian cheritied culture&history or other cuntry is may not theme selves onely,these is the wealth of the human being of the world.  Tankyou.  Eshetu,

Kenneth Gutman - Feb 20, 2008

Adam Katz,

Regarding your question, "How do you explain evolution to someone with limited English and a fundamentalist Christian education?" ...  don't bother; change the subject.  It's futile.  That said, let me tell you of a little encounter I had some 8 or 9 years ago.  I was tutoring ESL (English as a second language) in Seattle to a delightful Amharic-speaking Gurage woman in her 40s.  Much of that 'instruction' amounts to hour-long sessions of small talk.  So the tutor constantly scouts for anything to talk about.  We were in a library so I brought over a globe, showed her Ethiopia, and traced its latitude around to points in Honduras (if I remember) and southern India.  Then I said that explains why it's so warm there, while the altitude of the high plateaus tell why it's not TOO hot (at least in those regions).  She considered this, then tolerantly 'corrected' me.
"No-o-o-o," she started.  (The 'no' was drawn out as a kind of courtesy,someone later explained.) "The reason it's warm in Ethiopia is:  God knows, Ethiopians only like to wear cotton.[!!!] And the reason it's not TOO warm is:  God really LIKES Ethiopians."  [!!!!]
So ...  there you have it.  I, too, was dumbfounded.  And of course I'll never have an answer to anyone grown who actually talks and thinks that way.  It may be appalling or it may be amusing, but I'm pretty sure that it's effectively unadressable.  You will not change them.  I've known since the age of 18 that you can either mark yourself as pariah by attempting to or let it ride.  I let it ride -- it's going to anyway.

Kenneth Gutman

P.S.  You may use this if you choose; I only ask that you attribute it & leave out my email address. 

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