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Images From Ethiopia: Trip to Arba Minch

A minch (spring), Arba Minch.

When Chris and Anne Lise came in February 2005 it was great to have friends visiting, but I was sweating because they’re outdoorsy and Anne Lise is even pretty organized.  So I had to think of somewhere to go.  Eventually I suggested a weekend in Arba Minch and we went on the best trip of my two years in Ethiopia.

Chris and Anne Lise at our hotel in Awassa.

The full Arba Minch team, on our way back in Langano: our driver Bayu, Sofi and her cousin Weynshet, me, Serkalem, Anne Lise and Chris, Elsa.

Our first night we stopped in Awassa at the Play Hotel.  (The sign outside says Ply Hotel, but I was told that’s a typo.)  Chris and Anne Lise are the most easygoing and tolerant guests on the planet, but somewhat sensitive to noise and we would not stay here again.
Awassa from the balcony of the Pina Hotel, known for its pastries and bathrooms.

roadside-village roadside-villagers roadside-gojo-woman roadside-gojo-birds
On the road to Arba Minch we stopped in the middle of nowhere so Chris and AL could go inside one of these traditional huts (tukul?).  The locals bargained a bit but in good spirits, and getting everyone to pose for a village photo was a breeze.  Unfortunately I somehow ended up with only two shots of the inside of the hut.

arba-minch-roofs arba-minch-mosque
The town of Arba Minch, with the main mosque on the right.

Sofi’s uncle’s family.  Sofi knew they lived somewhere in Arba Minch but didn’t have a phone number, and the concept of street addresses (or street signs, or street names) is not well developed in Ethiopia.  So the way she found them in a town of 70,000 was instructive.  She stopped our van to ask someone on the street if they knew the family.  They didn’t, so she asked someone else.  On the third try we were directed to their rough neighborhood and the rest was easy.

This branch of Sofi’s family are Christians.  In fact Sofi’s uncle here, successful in business, has donated a lot of money toward the erection of a local church.  The only regret I heard from Sofi after this trip was that she forgot to ask to see his church.

croc-farm-approach croc-farm-serkalem croc-farm lake-abaya lake-abaya-beach lake-abaya-croc
Trip to Arba Minch’s crocodile farm.  In the center of the last shot you can just make out a wild crocodile passing by – or possibly a friend of our guide’s in a scuba suit, we never did resolve that.  In any case all jokes aside we were told this is not a good place for a swim.

Sofi and Weynshet trying out a bush thorn as an earring.
Typically elaborate Ethiopian hair, though I believe this is the cousin of Sofi’s interested in becoming a model.

Fish for dinner at the Soma Restaurant.
View from our Bekele Molla hotel.

Cheerful truck lads near the actual springs which give Arba Minch its name (“Forty Springs”).  You need a (free) permit from downtown to visit them, and someone as competent as Sofi to arrange it, but it’s worth it.

Weynshet giving the spring water her potability smile of approval.

minch-liana-serkalem minch-liana-weynshet minch-liana-firewood
You can swing on the vines, but we paused our fun as this woman passed by.  Carrying firewood is a common occupation for poor women who often earn less than $12 US a month.  At least that’s what my Lonely Planet says, but can I trust a book whose supposed author “Frances Linzee Gordon” is clearly just a Bourbaki-esque pseudonym for at least ten charming workaholics?  Anyway I wanted to ask this woman a few questions and maybe see how many inches I could lift that bundle myself, but I would have felt like a jerk.

minch-wading minch-suckers
Wading in a spring.  The water is chest-deep so non-swimmers can go too.  Bottom-feeding fish nibbled at our feet.  The girls squealed and thrashed.  Local boys on the opposite bank competed for most powerful belly flop.  A woman on the left did her laundry.  Good times.

arba-minch-gymnastics arba-minch-gymnastics-2 arba-minch-gymnast
This kid was our guide for the day at the springs, hired in the morning in the town square.  He was quiet all day until when we were about to leave he asked if we’d like to see “gymnastics”.  Sensing a fee hike, I wavered but in the end said sure, and he proceeded to put on a hell of a little contortion routine.  Where a grade school kid in Arba Minch picks up these skills I don’t know.

Pedal-boating on Lake Langano.
We left Elsa stuck like this as a joke and she was still giggling when we got back from lunch.

portuguese-bridge debre-libanos-gorge
Near Debre Libanos, where Chris and Anne Lise went on a day trip with Seb while I caught up on marking.  According to “Frances Linzee Gordon”, the “Portuguese Bridge” on the left is really 19th-century Ethiopian rather than 16th-century Portuguese or whatever they tell you.  But who cares?

debre-libanos-priest debre-libanos-hawkers
Shifty monk and hawkers at Debre Libanos.

mo-elsa mo-serkalem mo-sofi mo-weynshet mo-sofi-and-weynshet
A few of Chris’s shots.  (See also his Ethiopia album.)  Chris is a more serious photographer, using such archaisms as film, and he did a lot of things I don’t understand to produce these.  Meanwhile the latest news from Sofi is that Weynshet is off for a job in Syria!  With the Birr worth what it is Ethiopians find work in lots of countries – Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Yemen, Dubai – but I’m not aware of a large community in Syria.  Good luck, Weynshet, and don’t forget to call.

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© 2003-2005 Jacob Eliosoff (jacob@cs.mcgill.ca)