On Friday, we headed out on our first tour; first stop, the semi-rock hewn church Adadi Marim. Beautiful.  Amazing to think that people had the passion and dedication to chisel a place of worship out of solid rock….this from someone who has a hard time making it to church by 10:00 AM. Had I been in charge, I might have lasted five whole minutes and then been all “You know what? I think God wants us to worship outside, sitting in the grass, drinking a beer.” I bet a lot of folks would’ve joined my church, but it wouldn’t have been as inspiring as this.

Seriously. Carved from solid rock. I need a nap.

Afterwards we headed to Tiya, to see the tomb markers. Roughly a zillion years old, I guess. ( I don’t know, history falls out of my head.  All my brain space is already taken up with celebrity trivia and Duran Duran lyrics.)  Zerefa did a fabulous job of passing on the excitement of this place. A mini-Stonehenge, the amazing bit of it isn’t that the stones were moved or carved or any of the practical construction of it, the amazing thing is to think that this shows the beginning of the human mind, of  the capacity for abstract thought.  There early humans were, running around the savanahs thinking, well not whole heck of a lot, (“Hungry!” “Sleepy!” “Horny!”) and then-BAM!-they started contemplating death and the afterlife. It’s a little goose-pimply when you think about it. Even more so, when you get to place your hands right on the tombstones.

Just freaking awesome.

Finally we visited the Mekla Kuntire archaeological site. So disconcerting to be standing in a circular grass hut filled with precious, archeological finds laid out on a table in front of you.  My western-shaped brain is yelling, “You need to lock this stuff UP!” For God’s sake, don’t let dummies like me touch it!” but that isn’t the vibe at all. There is such a generosity and desire to share this history, our history.  It touches you– maybe we feel a sense of recognition; this is where all of human life started, after all.

Would it be unforgivably cheesy to suggest that in coming to Ethiopia, we all come home?

Yesterday’s trip was another breathtaking dive. We traveled to Ambo and beyond. Gorgeous countryside– lush and green, everything from forests and valleys and waterfalls to rifts, cities and mountains.

Our goal was one of the crater lakes. We traveled to the top of the world, it seemed, only to be told the way was too muddy and impassable. We drove all the way back to Ambo and took the bumpiest road imaginable up the other side.

We arrived just as the rain began in earnest, a freezing, punishing rain. Accompanied by 8 or 10 local folks we climbed and slipped and fought our way up a precarious path to arrive at the top and see..


Fog had rolled in, obscuring all below us. Our guide looked stricken, but, as this is just the kind of thing we all expect from a Frauenheim Danke vacation, our whole family burst into laughter. If only we could always take obstacles so gracefully.

Since we were so very wet and chilled, Zerefa suggested we stop for hot tea at Ambo’s oldest and most beautiful hotel. We had our drinks in the garden cafe which was constructed around a giant sholo tree. We lingered for well over an hour, talking and sharing tea and kolo. By the end, we were quite warm and relaxed and the experience was among my favorite of the whole trip.

(A little side note, here. All our tours were through a great company called Pharaze Ethiopia Tours. I can not recommend them highly enough. Samuel and his guides were wonderful, knowledgable and great company, to boot.)

On the plane to Italy after an action packed two days– well, really just one. Sunday we didn’t do much of anything; shopped for food, hung out at the guesthouse, much napping….

Yesterday, a marathon day of touring with Samuel. First to the Sodre Resort Hotel, with it’s pool, hot springs and to the delight and eventual terror of the kids, monkeys! The kids loved the pool, fed by the springs and the scenery from the base of the mountain was breathtaking.

Watch out. This monkey will jack you.

The hot springs wasn’t what I expected, not a deep pool for soaking, but a shallow concrete basin, with three pipes spewing the hot water for bathing. I, of course, not being nearly conspicuous enough, promptly slipped and tumbled, ass over teakettle, into the water, much to the amusement of the 20 or so semi-naked women and girls. (Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be here all week!)

Then lunch at another super fancy hotel. Honestly, people vastly overestimate our desire for luxury. ( But not for modern plumbing. You can never underestimate my desire for modern plumbing.) then onward to the crater lakes. Samuel took us for coffee at one of the exclusive resorts on the edge of one lake. Beautiful, so lush and green we might have been in Greece or Switzerland. Do NOT be afraid to visit Ethiopia during the rainy season. The rain hardly slowed us down one whit and you get to see the country at it’s most vibrant.

Sigh. I can barely stand to leave. I shall strive to console myself in Rome with beauty, culture, gelato and wine.

I know, I know…I’m a trooper.

The Rise & Fall of a Momocracy

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