On on my own

Well….with my tent and the cutest dog in the world…

Here I go

I really-really-really am traveling on my own through Africa. On the tractor, with the dog.

The total un-reality of the moment is starting to lose it’s grip on me. Three days ago I still had cold feet. (What am I doing…! This cliffhanger has been stretched for so long even I almost forgot what is was all about )
But this morning I dived head first into it. I went to do shopping. In North Kenya there is a long ongoing drought and a famine. But I cant’t circumnavigate the area, I have to pass right through. And it’s a little daunting. During a spell of food poisoning two weeks ago I think I lost most of my fat reserves. Fat-level wise I’m ready for a Miss-pageant. But for this leg of the journey, adding some internal supplies is wiser.

So I’m happy with the Nutella I find, the cans of tuna, and hey, even some Vegemite! And here in Awasa they have fresh fruitjuices; I just ordered my fourth mango-avocadojuice. Jummy.
I’m on the tractor, behind the wheel, with the laptop on my…lap but I can’t send my message yet because it’s raining. A curious contrast to further down the road. Why relief-organisations did not act sooner to avoid this disaster 446 km from here I don’t know. I’m assuming it’s political but, whos politics? I see foodpackets along the roadside. (Even though there’s water and food here!)
People sell them…..The bags that read`: ‘Don’t sell, donation food!
But let us not get too cynical…

One thing I do want to say, because it is in my face all the time here, is this. To all people who want to do good. To everybody who wants to help others: Think what you do before you start on a journey through Ethiopia (Or any country for that matter). Realise what you are actually doing by simply handing out pens and t-shirts. You will see a happy face for a few seconds. But this country has become a place where as a foreigner you cannot walk around without being hassled. All the time. Everybody only wants money off you. Children with icecream in their hands, the old people, the horse taxi with eight passengers…the only thing they can think of when they see a white person is; ‘Hey you, give me money.’ In Sudan the police would even forget to ask me for my passport. They’d be so surprised to see me and my tractor that all they would utter is: …..cup of tea..?
Maybe Ethiopia is the ‘end of the world’ and not Sudan. If people can’t see you as a human being anymore but only as a walking wallet. If begging has become a Pavlov reaction and has little or nothing to do with poverty. I know. It’s hard to blame them. It’s also us, us stupid people from the west that can’t handle our feeling of quilt and start handing out stuff as if it’s nothing.
I try every day with all the positive energy I have in me to start with; ‘Hey hello, how are you?’ And sometimes, just sometimes, it works. But every time it doesn’t, it cuts into your soul.
If you would like to do something. Drop it of at a school, donate to a local project, buy their coffee, sweets, souvenirs. But don’t make them dependend on begging. Ultimately you undermine and take away their dignity. And block them from having a funny or valuable time with other people from other parts of the world.

Now I’m travelling alone, life has become a litle more simple. I don’t travel with a following and a lot of bombast. I am genuinely a little girl on a big tractor. Discovering the world, and it’s beautiful and less beautiful ways. The funny thing (tip of the day!) is that being well-rested works so wonderfully. The world seemed to smile back so much more easily to me today. It really works both ways.

Latest doggy news: Kosovo has Mick Jagger lips! All of a sudden a doggy stood in front of me that I hardly recognised: ‘Kosovo, you look like Mick Jagger!’ The doggy pondered on this and scratched his mouth with his paws: ‘My god, she’s right!” He stretched himself on the floor and buried his face with both paws. “Oh no, what’s happened? Auch, it itches too!’ He tried quietly to console himself in a corner. But a little later when I took him, in a car, of all, he was already curious as to our direction: ‘Where are we going?’ What’s that smell?’ Is that donkey I smell?” Hey don’t worry about me,…those lips are very normal for doggies my age its..ehm part of shedding, yeah that’s it, part of shedding, nothing more…I’ll be fine.
But there it was, the injection. I had no idea either but you know what, even though the dog didn’t like it a bit, and tried to crawl away at every opportunity, I was very thankfull to the vet. That he did not only care for the wellbeing of cows, donkeys and horses but also about little doggies. I’ll see it as a sign. A good one. This man (or I should say boy) is the first vet on my travels so far that actually has something for this travelling dog. For when he gets parasites, or bumps into a scorpion. No those jaggerlips weren’t so bad. We’ll head off, heads up tomorrow. But first we get some more beautysleep. Goodnight.

Where do you find the courage?

Last weekend I was ill. For the first time in eight months I had upset bowels. I didn’t eat for three days. I felt like a rag. I thought; ‘well it had to happen sometime’. But the timing is suspicious to say the least. Sarah has just gone home by plane, Geert went his own way to see some more of Ethiopia. And this week I’ll really build myself a tent to fit my tractor and fly out. With my dog and tractor, towards the south. And this time on my own, really on my own.
I keep thinking of home, of all my friends. Do they really understand how much I miss them? Maybe they all think I really enjoy being on my own. What if something bad happens? They say North Kenya is the most dangerous zone I’ll need to travel. I want my friends to know I think they are far more important than North Kenya. Who’s going to believe me when something happens? Didn’t she want to be alone? I tear myself from these thoughts and start packing my bags….rearranging my tractorbox.

Photos from the road to Addis Abeba

Along the road; children, children and more children. And no evening camp without visitors. My visitors don’t say much and only stare or watch mesmerised. Sometimes we try a little Amharic. But more often than not it is, for the first time this journey, annoying. Because they beg and ask for pens, bottles, T-shirts, and money without any concern for respect or their own dignity. Sometimes even in an agressive way. It’s hard to keep down the anger that sometimes arises from deep inside of me. And one time I can’t help boiling over; a man at the roadside picks up a rock and pretends to throw it at me, and after he sees that it scared me he starts to laugh. I jumped from the tractor, grabbed him by his shirt, and shouted in his face, ‘Don’t you ever do that again, who do you 8u4uthr think you are, grow up!’
But sometimes, like on this picture, it’s fun. And I get a glimpse of the whole village, in the middle of nowhere.

I keep believing it is possible to keep my open attitude.
When I wave or make a funny gesture I sometimes see a child in the middle of his shouts stop and fall silent and then smile: she looked at me!!

Hitch hiker on the tractor / visitors in the morning

I took a man with me on the tractor, just a little ways, three kilometres. He was on his way to the market with his chicken.
And the morning I woke up to find two beings huddled in blankets sitting at a little distance from my tractor. First contact went like a mime-class on surprise from my first year at the theatre school. (Sorry, maybe only for the incrowd;-)

A special village..

Welcome to Awra Amba.
Here the roles of men and women are different. They have been for almost thirty years. A dream of a man came true here, and especially for the women it was a relief. The neighbours are jealous or afraid and fought, bullied and discriminated for twenty years. Even posted death threats. But to no avail. In Awra Amba they live differently from the rest of Ethiopia. They might not be much richer but they definitely seem happier.
And for the first time I am not besieged by hordes of children screaming for money. The children here are friendly, shy even. What a difference to just down the road. What is the difference?
In this village you could say that the traditional roles of men and women have been turned upside down. Women aren’t circumcised. Nobody is forced to marry. You do the work that suits you. And everybody works. A lot of men work at the weaving, or make injera (the Ethiopan ‘pancake’) The whole village works together as opposed to every man for himself and God for the rest. A whole shopping list of differences. Our most important conclusion after a two-day visit: what a nice, friendly, quiet, funny village. May they live in peace these people.

How it started..
I spoke with the man who founded this idea and village. He told me he grew up with his mother, his father died when he was still young. He saw that his mother, like most of the women in Ethiopia had a very hard life. And he decided it was not fair. So as a child he developed an ideal of how things could be different. More equal. How the tasks could be devided better. At an early age he already got this idea going. Most people thought he was crazy, called him a ‘girl’. But he persevered. I thought the place was an oasis, and I loved it. And I don’t think I was the only one.

In Awra Amba the roles of the man and the women are very often turned around. Here they do what suits them (within the possibilities). Don’t forget, in the rest of Ethiopia the roles are strictly devided.