Saturday, 1 October 2011

Enchanting Ethiopia and Addis Ababamamas

Barrelling along the road from Awassa to Addis Ababa at 5:45 am, the sun rising over lake Lagondo (Italian?), we're high, seven and eight thousand feet, just north of the equator, but it's cool, crisp, in the early high morning.
We're surprised, Gordon and I, thinking Ethiopia would be arid or semi-arid, like the rest of High Africa, that we've been on since early September.  It should really be High Dry Africa, as it's been arid scrubby trees, and grasses, ochres and grey-browns, the occasional deep red sand desert black-rocked like Mars.  
But here, as we motor along in the magic 'Stang, it's green, green, green, crops of corn, new wheat, barley, millet and guys leaning onto the road, arms outstretched, offering coffee beans, cobs of cooked corn, and wrapped watermelon-sized bunches of grass, which turns out to be Qat, a stimulant, illegal everywhere but here.  I'm thinking to try a bit, in the interests of cultural research.
It's like no other land we've seen in Africa so far: high meadows, spotted with grazing cattle, a mix of antipodean flora -- gums, casuarinas, bottlebrushes, wattles --  has taken good hold in forest-lets set in wide vistas of crystal air, to the cerise horizons.
Enchanting.  Ethiopia.
There's business on the land, as well: vast acreages of greenhouses, producing for European and African markets.  At six in the morning, the workers trudge along both sides of the road; this is Trade at work, better than aid, surely.

[There's an interesting article in Time of September 26, "Epidemic on the Run", which asks: "Does aid work?" and says that donors and recipients are increasingly saying "no".  A typical mid-ranking U.N. manager costs $US 500,000 a year!  And all over these parts we see new Land Cruisers, with UN on the side, and little visual evidence that the various projects signposted all over the continent are doing any good at all. And what does the individual do?  For us, we dole out bits of money... Others opt for a life of charity in-country.  The article concludes that in the end it's an African problem and that aid may simply perpetuate a dependence mentality.  Not going to solve it here, so enough for now....]
[Update 27/11/11: "Lords of Poverty" by Graham Hancock is an interesting book on the aid issue. Some criticise it for being a polemic, but Hancock is up front about that at the outset. It's really an extended Pamphlet. But there's nothing wrong with a bit of passion. After reading it, I realized that a lot of Hancock's criticisms have fed through to the article above. So even though he wrote it twenty-odd years ago, it would seem to be quite influential.]
Update 10/1/13: Along similar lines, "The great aid mystery" in The Spectator.
The night before, we'd stayed at the Haile Resort, owned by Ethiopia's famous son, Haile Gaibreselassi, the world-champ marathon runner. Ethiopia's most famous daughter, at least that I can think of, is Ayan Hirsi Ali, who has fought for women's rights, now from her new home in the US, though I doubt many Ethiopians would know her, at least as well as Haile.... My dad swore to a story about King Farouk meeting Haile Selassie, the latter saying "How do you do, I'm Haile Selassie" and the King answering, "how do you do, I'm highly delighted"...
High country Ethiopian meadows
Crystal air, neat huts, 8,400 feet.
Wherever we stop, kids or adults crowd around. Up to here, everyone speaks
English, but in Ethiopia maybe one in ten.
Still, it's good, surely, to have a global language.
The Haile Resort, owned by marathoner Haile Gaibreselassie

From the Haile Resort over lake Awassa. Boating or fishing available.

At the Yod Abyssinia last night, a great show, and *interesting* food
This is the lady I call the Addis Abamama...
Not only have we heard of it, we've now been there!