Recap: Luke and the Simiens

I have way too much to talk about. I’ve gone so long without blogging that I’m behind on stories to tell. I’ll have to tell them in retrospect, with less detail and more insight More reflection. This month has been awesome, tiring, adventurous and eye opening.

I’m beginning to understand Ethiopia. I am less of a spectator and more of a participant now. It’s traveling back in time. It’s a place with no straight lines. Everything is crooked, rustic, bent and beautiful. There is no order and no time. Greetings can last for 5 minutes. Family comes first. Everything moves slow, save for the cars. You have to let everything go. Enjoy the moment, appreciate the little things, and trust yourself. Forget about schedules and watching the clock. The people have amazing eyes and sharp features. They are proud of their climate and culture. They can be self-centered and entitled. But more so than anything they are wonderful hosts. From my host family in Addis Alem to Geze in Bonga and Haile in Bahir Dar, Ethiopians continue to surprise me with their genuine generosity.

I’ll recap as best as I can. One story at a time:

The adventure started when my brother and I headed to the Simien Mountains. I suppose my words can never match my pictures, but heck I can try and do it justice. I’m very lucky. I’ve done and seen some amazing things in my life. I fished for salmon in Alaska alongside Grizzlies. I ran with the Bulls in Pamplona. I’ve backpacked through Europe. But the Simien Mountains might be the best experience yet. It was the Grand Canyon, raw and real, free of the shackles of tourism. It was also filled with Gelada Baboons.

I was able to share this experience with terrific people. It was cool to show off the country to my brother. Luke and I have always been good at finding adventures. We were joined by the lovely Jon, his brother, and Derek and Claire, a married couple who live at the entrance to the park. We stayed with some brilliant researchers from the University of Michigan.

We saw their world, a glorified two day version that included the surreal experience of living amongst the Gelada Baboons. We watched them for hours, their meticulous grooming, aggressive banging, mesmerizing lifestlye. Their eyes are dark and emotional, as if they had a story to tell. It was a weekend of good conversation, great views, and even better company. My brother, my friends, and some distant relatives.

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Ethiopia through the lens

Below is an album of a few of Carly’s Photos from our trip. They include pictures from Arba Minch, Jimma (where we worked at Operation Smile), Addis Ababa, and my town of Bonga. I’ll tell the stories later, but for now these pictures basically say it all. She’s gotten really good with the camera and this place is a photographers dream.  First, here are some pictures of the photographer herself!

Carly’s Photos

The Afterlife

Soon I’ll be uploading posts from the past month. Stories that have been pushed back to the far recesses of my brain while I focused on making sure my loved ones survived.

I wanted them to not only survive, but to also experience Ethiopia as I know it. The good, the bad, and the ugly; the beautiful and the bleak. Overwhelmingly, they did.

But first, while its still fresh in my mind, I’ll tell you about tonight.

Right now she’s packing up her things from my house. If you know her, that means she is cooking spaghetti, painting, uploading pictures, editing videos and occasionally putting things in her duffel bag.

We had a simple night tonight. The power was out. So was the running water. Such is life in Bonga.

These circumstances force you to live life as it once was lived. As it should be lived. And how it has been lived for thousands of years. Cramped, sticky, sun burnt, thirsty. Stuck in a single room and forced to learn from each other. Privacy becomes a foreign concept. In places and times like this, the individual fades and a collective identity forms. Family is everything, friendship is real and selfishness is not an option.

It was a perfect night. Nothing happened. Nothing insightful or profound. It was an average day in my life, spent with someone far from average.

Carly sketched a painting. I took a nap. We cooked a homemade spaghetti sauce from scratch. We used Olive Oil and spices from my brothers town in France. We used tomatoes and Garlic from my neighbors garden. We watched the sun go down from my window.

I remember a scene from the Green Mile. Tom Hanks, a prison guard was talking to a Native American about to be executed. The prisoner told Tom a story about his perfect day. He asked him if heaven meant living this day over again. Tom (as only he can) replied, “I just so happen to believe that very thing.”

Today was that day. We hiked through the rainforest to the waterfall. The sun lighting up my room and some music gave my house perfect vibes. Home-cooked food, the feeling of home, and hugs. It was a timeless night. It still is. I wish today lasted forever. Its my heaven.