MESSAGE Ethiopia *Videos*

Ethiopia is a country that marches to the beat of its own drummer – or at least its own clock! For instance, Ethiopia runs on “Ethiopian time”—a variance of 6 hours from the rest of the world’s “International time.”

Dates are also 8 days and 8 years behind the international calendar, and their calendar has an extra month between August and September. This extra month consists of4 days, except in leap years when this special Ethiopian month has 5 days. And the Ethiopian year starts on Sept. 1 (vs. January 1 for the rest of us). Let’s just say it can be confusing when you’re buying a bus ticket.

But this is a country unique unto itself –its own language, its own religion and the only African country that wasn’t colonized – all of which makes it so special. I’ve been dying to go to Ethiopia for some time, and now I know why – it’s amazing!

Here’re my 7 insider tips on the country:

MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Lake Tana Beach Bar. The town of Bahar Dar has been compared to both the French Riviera and to the city of Miami. I can unequivocally tell you that it resembles neither. It is, however, a sweet little town that sits on the edge of Lake Tana, which is famous for its island monasteries.

After an afternoon island hopping and checking out the source of the Blue Nile, my friend Ricardo and I found this prefect spot to kick back and enjoy a few St. George’s (the local beer). At less than 60 cents a pop, we had to have a few to toast the sunset — Happy Hour at its finest!

EAT (Tasty Eats) – Injera. Ethiopia’s national dish is injera (እንጀራ) is a thin flat pancake the size of a hubcap. It’s made from the cereal teff (meaning “invisible” since it’s so tiny, it’s impossible to find if you drop it). Teff is only grown in Ethiopia and is supposed to be full of iron. To make injera, the teff flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment for several days, giving the spongy bread a slightly sour taste.

Injera is eaten for both lunch and dinner. It’s served communal style in a large plate in the center of the table and you eat it with your right hand (only). The injera is used for scooping up various spicy stews and salads, including kitfu (raw cubes of beef). It’s often served with berbere – a spicy red chili sauce that puts Tabasco to shame.

Ethiopia is also the birthplace of coffee, which hails from the region of Kaffa. Ethiopian coffee is served Macchiato / Turkish style, thick and black, with a little sugar on the side. The coffee nearly sprouted a few hairs on my chest.

SEE (Must-see Sights) – Churches of Lalibela. The 11 churches of Lalibela are famous the world over. Six of the 11 churches are free-standing, completely chiseled from the solid rock surrounding them. The churches were all created within 23 years by Saint Lalibela using only basic tools such as axes and chisels. Most of the churches are still in use, holding masses several times a day.

Check out this video of one of the church edifices:

Can’t see this video? Click this link: Erin in Lalibela

SHOP (Gotta Have) – Shemas. Ethiopians –men and women — all wear a white shawl called a shema. The shema is ubiquitous since according to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, one must wear white to church (and many Ethiopians attend church 3 x a day).

Shemas come in all sizes and several thicknesses (sometimes 4-ply). The women’s shawls have a colorful border, which has no significance other than being pretty. I wanted to show my respect for Ethiopian culture while giving a fundraising workshop so , of course, I had to buy one. It has a teal green and gold border.

ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Simian Mountain Climbing. One of the reasons I wanted to come to Ethiopia was to climb the Simian Mountains, which I did. However, I didn’t get to see much, since most of the time it was pissing with rain and we were enveloped in a misty cloud. During our 2-day hike, we’d walk up to the edge of the cliff and look out, only to see a grey vapor.

Wet miserable climbing aside, we did encounter the famous grass eating baboons (which are actually not baboons, but monkeys). Here we are in a crowd of them, watching as they eat, play and mate all around us. Pretty cool stuff!

Can’t see this video? Click this link: Ethiopia’s Grass Eating Monkeys  

GIVE (Greatest Need) – Drought and Famine Relief. As you all know, the Horn of Africa is experiencing a severe drought which is leading to a famine crisis in Somalia, Djibouti, southeastern Ethiopia and northeastern Kenya. Last month, the UN declared that the famine conditions are threatening more than 10 million people.

To help support famine relief efforts, the GoErinGo! Fund will make a $250 donation to ActionAid to delivery emergency food supplies and water to East Africa. A famine is declared when acute malnutrition rates among children exceed 30%, more than 2 people per 10,000 die per day, and people are not able to access food and other basic necessities.

Care to help? Check out UniversalGiving’s vetted famine relief organizations

ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Ethiopian Shoulder Dancing.  WOW! Ethiopian dancing is so absolutely fabulous! I had never even seen Ethiopian dancing before visiting a traditional dance club and bar in the northern city of Gondar. It blew me away – the singing and the comical commentary and the shoulder dancing.

Ethiopian shoulder dancing is called Eskesta in Amharic. Energetic head and shoulder movements make up the basis of this traditional dance form, with very little lower body movement. I gave it a try (everyone did – it is a very communal dance) – -and it’s much harder than it looks!

Be sure and watch these videos:

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This entry was posted on Saturday, September 10th, 2011 and is filed under Africa, Messages by Country.

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