“Curing my addictions”, Turmi Dec. 28th 2010

Its Christmas morning, Saturday the 25th, and I wake up with sun rise. Even though the Finish told me they want to leave early I did not prepare my alarm clock, an impossible idea for Frank in Germany. My first addiction being cured it seems, not feeling to miss something, relax and let it go. I am the first one up anyway, take a nice shower and pack my rucksack. I have my rhythm packing now and actually enjoy doing it. Teddy does not really enjoy. He sits behind the receptions ready to service his guests. With 1.400 Birr / month (70€) he makes about 4x more than the average Ethiopian but he is not happy. The strawberry farm, my paradise, is his prison. He misses his family, feels lonely in Konso and will quit his job soon. It happens all the time. People go for the money and soon quit as the work is too hard or they can not handle being away from friends and family -- which ties are still very strong here. It’s difficult for businesses to find good and consistent staff. Teddy really appreciated my invitation to join the “Christmas dinner” yesterday (including a mars bar for him) and so my breakfast has almost twice the size from the day before. The little cat also sees that and wants its share. What follows for the rest of the day I call “fascinating and sad”. We (3 Finns, a guide and I) take off and need 90 minutes for 13km (the road is extremely rough) to a village called New York. All along the way kids, partly in traditional clothing, would either scream / begging directly at us, run next to the car or do a funny dance and then ask for money or highland (the water brand here). It’s not the water they want but the empty bottles as their parents use it for the local beer which they start drinking at 7 in the morning. Once out of the car they ask straight forward for 1Birr and the moment you pull out a camera they go wild. Each picture they want 2 Birr and trust me, they count the clicks. I refuse to support that. I only give to handicapped and blind, never to children, not even pens or candy. The learning would be that begging is successful and it should not. Therefore my pictures are either taken by distance or hidden. The landscape is nice and when the guide takes us to his own village it also becomes very interesting. All adults are out working in the fields, they really still live the traditional way, the woman are inside the houses and so again just the kids or nobody is visible. Talking of tradition I learn about the “honey suite” ritual. After the family has chosen the wife and the wedding is celebrated, the couple goes into a small hut “nicely” decorated and stays inside for 3 months. Only toilet and food are reasons to come out. Then she must be pregnant. If not, the time is extended to one year and if she still has not become pregnant he can choose another wife. Again, fascinating and sad. It is truck and Land Cruiser country meaning diesel area but Noel´s Jeep takes petrol. That you can only find on the black market for double price, if you can negotiate well. It comes in Fanta bottles by 1l at the time. Having filled up and taken some bananas and bread we take the fairly good road to Weito. The valley really starts here as it becomes extremely hot. I would love to say 40 degrees but it was only 37 to 39. Supposedly it is that hot all year around but never touches 40. I believe they say that to not scare tourists. Anyway, Weito is just a t-junction with a bar and a small market. A lost place reminding me of the movie “From dust till dawn”. Noel does not feel comfortable leaving me here alone (they want to go on to Jinka while I want to go to Turmi) and so we have a drink first.

I already negotiated a bed outside, a place to put my bag safely and a man who will negotiate a truck ride within the next days when a land cruiser shows up. Ali, a Spanish tourist, his guide and a driver, also want to go to Turmi. Ali is fine giving me a ride but the driver wants money. I am tempted to stay here, he feels that and goes down to 300Birr. That really is cheap as normally I would pay at least 500, 200 for the ride and 300 for the fine the truck drivers have to pay to police. It is forbidden to take tourists on trucks. On the stretch from Weito to Turmi we pass some tribe villages but do not stop, the car breaks down and I see my first rain on my entire trip. Notice, I see it, in the distance, I do not feel it. Turmi has a magnet, called tourist hotel and I start really to feel like in “dust till dawn”. All come together here, the German family from Arba Minch, the French couple from Konso, the Spanish also stays here, me and lots more white people, waiting for the Monday market. The car park looks like a Toyota Land Cruiser show room. A short walk, a kicker round with local kids and Spaghetti finish the day. Falling a sleep it starts raining, wow. Sunday morning and it still rains. Fantastic as it is less hot but more important it gives me a good reason to do nothing and to reject all the offers of joining others on their tours. The guides in cooperation with the locals really know how to squeeze every cent out of their guests: “you are lucky, today is the ritual of bull jumping with the Hamer tribe and you can join it, its only 250 Birr per person……..”. Funny, I spent 3 days in Turmi and everyday the tourist were lucky…………(bull jumping is the ceremony of young hamer boy becoming adults. They jump over bulls and get beaten on the back till it bleeds badly but this part is skipped when done for tourists) In the afternoon I take a walk into town looking for a contact I got from Pete and really find the guy, called Getty. That is nice but for other reasons than expected. He also wants to sell me tours, I reject but I do buy a book from him, in German. The author was here, had Getty as a guide and upon publishing the book he send a copy to Getty as he is mentioned on page 106. He does not care, rather takes my 500 Birr for it which enables him to chew more chat. Fascinating and sad. Then I walk to the edge of town and meet a Hamer family. They are nice, do not get disturbed in their daily business by me and invite me to walk to the water pump for washing – themselves. A further walk to collect fire wood I turn down and go back to the tourist hotel to chat with all the people I know by now. It’s interesting, most tourists are on a 2 or 3 week trip, long planned and looked forward to. Plus having paid lots of money they sub tile force themselves to like it. Back home most of them will not tell that they paid for the photos when impressing their friends. When I openly say that I do not like the rip off mentality here in the south of Ethiopia they all come out from the hidden and complain themselves, the bull jumping was a fake and so on. There are only 2 exceptions. Those who create the problem by behaving like colonists giving money to everybody anytime thinking the locals really like them and those elderly or experienced travellers who do not have to prove anything or have seen the place years before already. Fascinating and sad. And of course there is me, so young but still seeing the full picture, smile……………..

Monday, December 27th 2010, market day in Konso, everybody is here, great expectations. I walk there with the 4 Germans I met in Arba Minch. They will leave today to go north and I will miss them. The son is a passionate traveller himself, gave me good advice on Uganda as well as Pakistan, the daughter, Nepalis by origin, down to earth and appreciative and the parents are admirable. Travelling aged 60plus, using budget accommodation but not forcing to be something that they are not. We had good talks on “Stuttgart 21”, on travelling and he made me laugh with his dry humoristic way of perceiving the events (“the first 3 hours of bull jumping I was bored to death…..”). I wish them well and will stick to my promise of sending pictures. Anyway, the market picked up slowly and as expected it was difficult to take good photos as they are either taken from the distance or people pose for money. On the other hand the hassle was not as bad and there were really a lot of Hamer tribe people with original clothing and rituals. I actually enjoyed walking through the market until all the land cruisers pulled up early afternoon. Fascinating and sad.

I took the afternoon to walk through Turmi some more taking a couple of nice photos. On some houses a stick shows a can and or a plate. It means they serve alcohol and or food. Going up the sandy street like so often a young men in red shirt came towards my direction on a motor bike, as always without helmet. I am thinking wow that guy is fast and I turn to see him longer. There is this boy crossing the street, I think oh no and then, oh yes, I watch a full speed crash of the motorbike with this boy about 70m away from me. The boy was flying through the air. Screams of people and an immediate crowd of about 30 around the two. I thank God to be 70m away and therefore not obliged to help. I turn away from the scene in shock walking up the street. I hear somebody running behind me, it’s the boy from the bike in his red shirt, paranoid eyes, running away. The Hamer man, following him with a gun is stopped by a local. Later I find out the parents took their boy to the police but the destiny of the other boy remains unclear. They say he is in the hospital but there is no real hospital here. I need to talk and so I search for the Belgian photographer (I met earlier in the hotel) who lives in Ethiopia since 10 years trying to preserve the traditions at least on pictures. By now he knows more about the local history than the locals and he of course knows the people. So he tells me all about it and I am listening carefully to learn and to get sidetracked from the accident pictures in my mind. Then he takes me to a Hamer lady / house a bit outside for a traditional coffee ceremony. Its pitch black, only the stars are bright, and so I have my first coffee in my life but I do not see it. It tastes ok, a bit burned from the open fire it was prepared on but I can not finish it all. Later we have a self cooked dinner at the hotel room. This day again went so different from expectations and just a view steps away from the tourist tracks you can still experience original tribal life. I also notice how I cope easily with the conditions of no phone, no electricity, no internet, no hot showers and no chocolate and how I was addicted to some of those. The first days without internet I was really nervous. So I learn about myself and cure my addictions. Instead of internet I now worry about a ride to Omorate. The Italian and Belgian might take me but that is not certain yet. I will see in the morning …………. .

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