“It’s good to be tired”, Konso Dec. 24th 2010

It was not the sound of my stomach coping with the Pasta from last night that woke me up but the lady wiping the floor right in front of my room at 7am in the morning on a Sunday (December 19th, 2010). Not that she was in stress, no, she would do that till about 10am, then take an extensive break, and start over again from 2pm to 6pm before going home. But for more on Ethiopian work efficiency and attitude look into my separate story called “Adapt or get crazy” within the “funny” category. For now I was just happy that I slept well and felt good. So I could go for the egg and pan cake breakfast with the 3 Belgian before placing myself in the garden. Here I wrote on my diary and the “Let us change” report while watching TV. This sport channel is great, I love it, but after repeating 20 times within one hour that Hamburg won in Gladbach in yesterday’s evening match even I got tired of it. So I walked into town and found, believe it or not, Schoketten, the famous German Chocolate from the 80’s. I did not know that they are still being produced but here they are, from plain milk to marzipan, for “only” 1,50€. Great. Also great that the internet worked well and so I spent 3 hours here working on the report while getting live data from the afternoon Bundesliga matches. The attempt to get a shave failed twice as they indented to do it with a 50cent regular shaver instead of a blade and just the thought of the pain made me run away. After Spaghetti I watched “Benjamin Button”, could not sleep and took night pictures till 2 am. Oh well.

It’s Sunday so I need to be good looking. I shaved, cut nails and took an extensive shower before having, guess what, 3 eggs and a pancake. Then I visited Christophe’s house, a comparatively nice one before finishing the interviews with Aynalem and Johan. After again 3 hours of internet (the video upload takes forever) I happened to sit in the hotel garden again watching a football match live, Stuttgart – Munich (3:5). That would not have been possible in Germany (at least not at home) as live coverage is exclusive to pay TV. Life could be worse. (pictures for the above already in last post)

Against the advice from all I did not take the 6am bus to Arba Minch. Instead I slept till 7:30am, got cash from the bank and took a later bus to Sodo as a first step. As I watched “Philadelphia” till 2am in the morning I was tired but, on purpose. When traveling long distances on short seats and bad roads without breaks in full buses you learn quickly that it is good to be tired. It gives a certain lethargic attitude towards the bumps, the hassle, the pain in the butt and the waiting before you actually take off. After 2h of waiting and 4hours up and down, back and forth in the seat I reached Sodo. The first promising attempt to catch right the next bus to Arba Minch turned sour after one hour of waiting. They seriously wanted me to have my back pack (the big one) on my lap. Plus squeezed within 6 people in the back road and hitting 4pm (it would be dark on arrival) I jumped out and found a nice hotel in Sodo. A wonderful rice with fish dish and a hot shower proved my decision to be right. Also I found the only to the net connected computer in town, within a cloth store, hidden behind jackets, slow but great.

The next morning, Tuesday Dec. 21st 2010, I made sure to get the front seat in the bus with the excuse of taking pictures and so my ride to Arba Minch was comfortable and easy. Only worth mentioning is the amazing competition the banana girls have. When a bus stops along the road, around 10 young woman with bananas would “take over” for 5 minutes. Doing so they push each other away, scream and lower the price constantly with the view minutes they have. Waiting long enough and picking the weakest girl, usually still outside looking sad, you can buy 4 bananas for 10 cents. If it wasn’t so cheap I would figure it is a smart strategy pretending to be weak and staying outside selling through the windows.  Also I met Abiato, head of the management department at the University, and got an invitation for the next day. Wondering through town I met Pete, who cycles from Captown to Kopenhagen, and we had dinner together. His intention is to find out what to do in life. After 11.000km and 9 months he has no answer yet. Well, I am happy to have left a happy life, searching for answers on questions I do not have instead of running away from something.

Wednesday morning I met with Abiot to got to the University and onto his lesson of “Pricing” from 8 to 10am. In the middle of it he asked me to contribute my experience and uuuuppps, here I am in front of 40 students, talking about potato prices (McCain), Aldi and price barriers of .99 and so on. I guess I was not at the top of my possibilities but ok. They appreciated I think. It was good to see how they learn, with very basic resources, trying to prepare for a modern, western future in Ethiopia. When checking the campus I ended up playing table tennis against the 2 top players of them and lost 3:1 in sets each match. That was ok, but the 3 sets I lost 19:21 really border me. On the other hand they were supposed to be the best players. I noticed already in Awasa that within Sports (table tennis and soccer) they have such great talents, really doing good, but they are not coached. They only play. If someone would teach them in tactics, or the variety of options to play they could do soooo much better. Only in running, where tactics and techniques are of less importance, the Africans can compete on world class level………….   .

The 4 Germans I met in the Hotel let me jump on their boot tour in the afternoon and so I got my first little African safari, to the crocodiles and hippos at the nearby lake. It was great, the weather fantastic and the crocodile were really big suckers, 6m I guess. Then I served the internet for the last time for some days to come and had a nice fish dinner with Pete again.

Thursday, December 23rd 2010, I took off hitting south, entering the Omo Valley. Getting more remote, busses do not go anymore but with the routine I have developed I managed to get the front seat in the mini bus as well. The drunk guys trying to make fun on my expense and impress their friends or get some of my cash I can handle by now. In this case he left with the remark “no money no funny” and the others respected me well. Little things like buying nuts from the children and sharing them usually turns the sceptics into friendly smiles. Another chance to make friends came soon. After the street police control they always squeeze more people into the car as allowed. Worth mentioning that this happens about 50 meters after the check point still within sight. So besides men this lady gets on after hard work collecting the honey into here big leather container. After 5km a big scream. The container broke and spilled sticky honey all over the car. After trying to rescue any drop possible the woman was close to crying but for children it was a holiday. They eat the honey of the car, the dust included. For me it was a great opportunity to look at the landscape, take pictures and offer my water to wash hands which makes friends.

At 1pm we reach Konso, the first village of the Omo Valley, and yes, it is much warmer and much smaller than Arba Minch. People are more reserved, children a bit more aggressive and I see first tribe people in local clothing. Reaching the “strawberry farm”, advised by the Christoph, I know immediately that this is the place I want to spent Christmas. It’s the last location with phone reception, has good food, clean and local style huts / beds, a hot shower and friendly staff. Teddy, the manager, advises me to go for the market. Every time entering a new town or village I walk around without camera to get a feeling on safety and to concentrate on infra structure, were do I get water, were to find biscuits, were is a place to eat ok and were would the busses leave. I regretted this that day as the market was really nice. Especially the meat market where children would chew the raw meat off bones from just minutes before slaughtered cows I would have liked to capture. Back at the lodge a French couple has arrived and so we have dinner together. I do not like to eat alone, especially around Christmas. For French they speak really good English and we chat away on bird watching (he has got a 500mm lens worth a small car) and politics in Africa. At 10pm we all go into our huts, under the mosquito net and fall asleep.

I have to admit that I purposely slowed my speed of travelling as the Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7th while the Kenyans (my next country) have the western calendar. This way I would not see others celebrating and get not more melancholic as I already I am. The morning I used for a fantastic shower and washing clothes while the afternoon was reserved for some Konso observation and bureaucratic act. The guide book emphasizes that without a “letter of authority” independent travellers might be returned at later stages within Omo Valley. The problem is, that in Konso nobody knows about that. At the tourist office I explained my situation. They got confused as usually white people only come here with organized tours in 4x4 jeeps and those who do not come in jeeps, come by bike, motor bike or their own vehicle. Plus, 99% will come out of the Valley the same way they got in but do not intend to leave from here into Kenia. So they take me to the Head of tourism. Here I explain again, then one more time for the colleagues and once more when all are in the room together. Finally they right something on a paper, pull out big (big = important) stamps and even make a copy of it. I got what I wanted, my first Christmas present. Then I take pictures people making stones to built houses. It looks like hard work and therefore a lot of women are involved. Yes in Ethiopia it seems that physically hard work is done by woman more than men, sometimes carrying children on the back.

The French have moved on and I expected to celebrate Christmas alone, treating myself with the last Mars Mini bar I reserved. But then a finish couple and their son show up and we have a Christmas dinner. That means they pull out dry meat, a cake, biscuits and I invite them for a papaya, mango, avocado salad. Fantastic. But my really nice presents are not tangible. It’s the calls from Daniel, Thomas, Mom, Sister, nephew and, saving the best for last, Angi. Now I am ready to go “offline” and hit the inner Valley. The offer of a ride by the Finish for the next day makes it easier as well.

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