Sunday, July 26, 2009

Route for August 2009 - 2101.58 Miles Through India

Ok, the distance is an estimate, but that's at least the destinations planned so far. Let's see where I will end up in reality then :-).

View India2009 in a larger map

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Ethiopian Baptism and Wedding

So how happened to this fellow ....? Just read on and you will find out :-)

Finally the day came - after a few days of looking around 'Addis' the big day was coming, the baptism of Mathilde, Marco's and Hermela's daughter, Mathilde, was about to take place! It was a Christian Orthodox-style ceremony in church, followed by a proper celebration in a golf club in the countryside.

As always, one needs to dress appropriately for the occasion - so if you ever go to a baptism in Ethiopia this would be considered just fine:

And where it happened:

Actually, not just our baptism was taking place on this day (in a small room next to the main chapel), there was also a huge three-hour or so wedding going on in the main hall which looked pretty impressive. But what was actually going on on our end?

The officials prepared the bath and checked the temperature to make sure it's freezing cold... yes, just fine!

... a final kiss on the cross...

... and what will happen to you, my dear fellow ....

... by the hands of this man ...

... will make you scream, so happy are you, little Mathilde :-)!

So much for church, next day we went to the golf club to celebrate appropriately. Not just the baptism, also that Marco and Hermela got married just a short time before, but back in Berlin.

Everyone's joining the party...

... maybe 200 people or so attended in total, in a beautiful location as you can see.

Of course, the newlyweds have their special table (and are allowed to eat first)...

... while other couples with their children had to wait.

(Alternatively, beer was always available.)

These gentleman have been looking forward to the party, I can tell! The first bottle of Johnny Walker was done in 30 minutes.

Well, but the second one was open quite soon afterwards anyway, so noone got thirsty here.

This looks like raw meat. But it's actually kind of a vegetarian dish (I think).

The musicians on their way to the food...

... ah, and there our friend from above is again! But he's eating salad, probably hoping that vegetarians have a long, healthy life. So much for the plans you make!

A first dance...

... and the party continued in the house of Hermela's relatives. Quite an upscale place as you can see:

And after cutting the cake...

... and having a drink ...

it was time for a kiss :-)! (The careful observer can of course see the three layers of the pictures, as intended by this expert photographer - a friend of the bride in the foreground, the couple in the middle, and the father of the groom in the background. Happy? Embarassed? Impossible to say...)

That was it for today - looking forward to August 2009 in India, with two weddings coming up and about 10 cities in the whole country on the schedule it should be quite an adventerous trip indeed!

Trip to Addis Ababa - Merkato, the Largest Market of Africa

Here in The Hague (where I am living now) we have what is supposed to be the biggest open air market of Europe. In Addis Ababa there is the biggest market of Africa. Obviously they are ... not quite identical.

So, on the first complete day of my stay in Ethiopia we made a trip to this market, called 'Merkato'. It was a pretty intense experience - I guess the average guy from the west, like me, is simply more accustomed to taking some cheese out of the fridge in a supermarket than to inspecting the eyes of a live quicken when he needs some food. Still, that's precisely the point of traveling, so it was a very enjoyable stay at this market. Some impressions:

One man's trash is another man's resource - recycling is one of the major businesses at the 'Merkato', not unlike similar places in for example India; also involving quite a lot of manual labor. I guess that's a pretty obvious consequence of the prevalent consumerism of 'the west', plus of course middle/upper class people in all countries - lots of everything gets bought, lots of everything gets thrown away, resources (metal, paper, etc.) become available cheaply from scrap, so it's worth doing recyling. Personally I even think that those recyling shops keep cities alive and (relatively) healthy - otherwise they would probably get smothered under all the rubbish they produce every day.

In the next picture: Marco negotiating the price for 100 tons of iron. He wants to build a ship by himself. I told him it's not such a good idea. He finally agreed (and bought aluminium instead).

Show us your knife ...

Women selling vegetables.

That's quite an amusing picture - delieveries from USAID (I guess it was canola oil) recycled into sieves.

The US, recycled.

She found a chicken that pleased her...

... but no worries, there are still some left for you and me:

Lots of impressions, I had a sound sleep that night!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trip to Addis Ababa - the Trip, Impressions of the City

Alright then, time for a new post I guess :-)! My next trip to India is coming up next month, so I though it might be a good idea to post some earlier travel pictures here before they gather too much dust laying around completely lazy on my hard disk...

So, what happened recently? Shortly after New Year my close friend Marco was celebrating his daughter's baptism in Addis Abeba since this is where his wife's family is from. So obviously a perfect reason to visit not only a new city, but also a continent entirely unknown to me until that stage. (Well - no comments here please, I was well aware of the existence of this continent of course; but having been only to Tunisia before which might be geographically part of Africa, but by no means culturally, I really was quite the dumbass European at least when you look at first-hand experience of the continent.) A trip of 7 days, taking Turkish Airlines via Istanbul to Addis Abeba. To set the stage a very formal picture: The Semien Hotel where I stayed for a week. Nothing spectecular you might say; but after getting familiar with the hotel staff after a few days ('a cold St. George's beer like every night?') a place that actually felt very warm and welcoming.

It's a very friendly atmosphere for a foreigner to come to Ethiopia - the country was never occupied by foreigners, so no grudges whatsoever against white people. (Okay, the Italians tried to colonize it but it failed quite quickly, so the funny thing left over is that you can still get terribly bad spaghetti and other pasta at lots of places in Addis Abeba even today.) One thing to learn though: The clock has a 6 hour offset - so what we call lunchtime, 12pm, is called 6 o'clock according to local time and the short hand of the clock really points downwards at that time. Takes a while to get used to - at the picture below it's actually 6am (European time) and we are having a good-night beer. We were simply convinced that it's just midnight so please don't blame us for it :-)!

After not-sleeping a single minute breakfast at the house of Marco's wife followed - we actually wanted to have some nice sheep's head, but it seems Berta (or whatever his/her name was) had different plans:

Everyone who knows me is aware that no trip for me is complete without meeting local academics, so in this case I visited Addis Abeba university, the oldest and most reputed university in Ethiopia. A welcome lunch by Professor Ariaya Hymete (to the left) was provided for me:

Well .. of course one has to sample local culture to the utmost extend - in particular in cases as appealing to a chemist as this one! In the test tube you see fermented honey, meant to be low in alcohol ... which quite obviously was not the case (in the background, St. George's Beer, quite a good brew and easy to drink also for the European/western palate). The typical bread ('injera') is shown on the table - to be eaten together with meat boiling in a small frying pan (looks like a stove) on your table. I have to say: The meat in Ethiopia was simply *fantastic*!

In the days during my stay I really enjoyed just walking the street next to our hotel up and down - while I have been traveling a decent number of times in my life, I am actually still most curious about 'street life', the average person walking down the road during daytime, and maybe even more so at 3am when decent people should be in bed to sleep.

The road next to our hotel:

So let's see who's around then...

Little Santa, sleeping on his mother's chest. (It was also Orthodox Christmas at the time which might be related to the dress of the little chap.)

Couple of locals (1)

Couple of locals (2)

Couple of locals (3)

I noticed that, overall, Ethiopians don't like getting photographed as much as for example Indians. (However, that didn't prevent me from trying of course.) Indians even beg you to take pictures of them and are fascinated by the result (of course, also due to my incredible abilities as a photographer). In Ethiopia it's different, kids liked being photographed - but adults not so much. No, but to be honest: I sincerely apologize for the kind of intrusion of course, but I simply cannot leave a place without taking some impressions home with me as a memory. Pictures like the above may seem trivial to most, but they mean a lot to me since they are part of my memory, and even a quite one intense in places so different from my own.

As I said I was walking around town a lot, and even the streets adjacent to the hotel were so lively that I spend several hours a day there, day and night. (Difficult to capture in the photos though... I apologize!) In particular one street fascinated me - since the street at day, and the street at night, looked like completely different parts of the 'street universe'. It's the same street as above (different part though):

During daytime it looked like a regular shopping street - people selling chicken, food, clothes. At nighttime though a few dozen 'bars' switched on their neonlight - places that during daytime are virtually invisible since the food/shopping stalls catch all of your attention. At nighttime, the stalls are gone, the lights are coming up ... and this shop...

... and this shop... (and a few dozen others)...

which are invisible at daytime are the source of reggae music and all the vices one can imagine. Fascinating street, really! At maybe 1am I went to a bar (not pictured, but looking virtually identical to the ones above) where only three locals were having beers - with live music though, one drummer and one person playing a string instrument. Two little girls, maybe 12 or 13, were dancing to the music in what must have been some traditional way. I ordered the ubiquitous St. George's for everyone in the room, listened to the music for an hour - I will certainly never forget that night.

Two more random pictures from this street:

Prefer meat?

Or vegetarian?