Richard's Travel Journal, January 17th, 2009
OK, so I've completely lost track of what day of the week it is. I think it's Wednesday, but I guess that's not really all that important. I am able to keep track of the date with my camera, as each day it saves my pictures into a dated folder, which is great for a trip like this. I've decided to date my journal entries as to the date I am writing it, and as you may be able to tell, I haven't written anything for a while, including emails and postcards. I really have no excuse for not sending a card from any of the places I've been, but hopefully I'll be able to buy something appropriate for every body soon. One of the main reasons for not writing a journal entry is that the electricity goes out in most places in Ethiopia somewhere around 6PM and doesn’t come on until somewhat later, by which time, I'm usually (if you can count three days as some sort of trend) tired. I have been jotting down notes and I'll try to catch up using those for this entry, and hopefully it'll jog the sieve I have for a memory.
So, I guess I left it all hanging in Addis Ababa. I had thought that I would be able to book a flight to Gonder (I like using Gondar better because it reminds me of Lord of The Rings), but due to Timkat Ethiopian Airlines was booked solid until the day after Timkat, so I was somewhat dejected, not just because of that, but because Yemenia was still not able to confirm my flight to Yemen, or do anything about refunding the extra payment to my credit card. But the woman there let me use her cell phone to call Mastercard in Canada. Point for anyone coming here: Ethiopia Central Bank does not accept Mastercard, and, I never was able to use it in London for that matter either. There are no ATM's here, but the Lion Bank is in the process of installing new computer systems that will support ATM's. So here's what really kinda bugged me. I thought I might have to pay cash to get my ticket to Yemen, so I sent myself $900 at Western Union, and, I think I may have jumped the gun.
So, they wanted 27 Birr a minute at the Hotel, and I wasn't really sure I would get connected, so I thought I'd go to the Sheraton Addis. What a palace! They have armed guards at the door and one of those pop up steel barriers that could stop a tank at the gate. In most of the hotels, the locals are searched before they come into a hotel compound, but I digress (again). They wanted 37 Birr a minute at the Business Center there. The lobby was beautiful, and I felt as out of place there as I did at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. Anyway, I didn’t know how long I would be on hold at Mastercard so I backed outa there pretty fast. I went to Yemenia on my way to the bank to see what was what, hoping the post office might have pay phones. I’m not sure of her name, but the woman at Yemenia loaned me her cell phone. She was elecgantly beautiful and immaculately dressed. She seemed like a princess from the Arabian Nights and I was quite smitten.. Anyway, besides that, she seemed to be very competent and assured me they would refund the extra payment and get everything straightened out as soon as the head office in Saana (capital of Yemen) was open again. So I didn't actually need the money I had wired myself to Western Union in Ethiopia, and because of that, I am now trvelling with 11,000 Birr, which considering the value goodswise, means I'm walking around with the equivalent of about twenty thousand dollars. To make it worse, I don’t have the moneybelt Laurie gave me, so I have been keeping it all in my socks (the ones on my feet). Bad as that is, there’s so much money that it's chafing the skin on my legs as I walk. I had thought perhaps I could stick it in my underwear, but after stuffing my shorts full of bills and pulling up my jeans, a thousand 100 Birr notes fell onto the floor at my feet as I stood up.
Needless to say, having this much money is causing me no end of stress. I keep misplacing it! At least three or four times a day!It’s bad enough losing a sock, but hen you have 10 grand stashed in it, the annoyance is tending towards hysterical. I also can't find the inflatable pillow Diane gave me. Now I'm on the topic of things I don’t have but need, is a power plug splitter. There is only one plug in most rooms and on top of that it's only a single outlet. That means I can only plug one thing in at a time and precludes my backing up my writing and photos onto CD’s or DVD’s. I am backing up onto my 16GB USB drive every night, so I have a copy of the photos in three places: the camera card (8GB), my computer, and the USB drive. I am hoping I can find a place to upload my files to the net, but the internet connections here are sporadic and unwieldy.
Hotmail takes forever to download and very often times out. I am thankful there was a small window at the Internet place in Addis to do my banking. Everyone here uses Yahoo, and somehow they were able to get stuff done online, so I'm guessing Yahoo might have a server in Ethiopia and Hotmail doesn’t. Anyway Hotmail sucks bigtime here. I have a Yahoo Account that I've never used and I may have to switch to that to talk to everyone back home. Meanwhile, I'll just keep writing. I may have to wait until I get to India to get a decent connection.
Still, enough of the logistics. On the 15th I was pretty bummed out by the end of the day. I couldn’t get a flight to Gondar, and my credit card situation and ticket to Yemen was screwed up still, and I was carrying enough cash to attract an entire flotilla of Somali pirates (Somalia is on the border of Ehtiopia, and Ethiopia is in the process of withdrawing their troops from Somalia. I think the idea is to let the various factions fight it out there. Or they’ll stop shooting at Ethiopians at least. And I couldn't get Hotmail to work. I managed to read some emails and delete some junk mail, but I couldn't get my email group together and finally gave up. I bought some cream pastries and idiotically bought about seven different things cause all I had was a hundred (over a hundred hundreds in fact) and I didn't have the nerve to by something worth 5 Birr with a 100 Birr note. 100 Birr here is the equivalent of carrying $100 in the US or Canada. Getting change is pretty hard. I'm kinda like a millionaire here I guess, but I don't really want to keep flashing cash around. So I bought a bunch of cream puffs. 37 Birr.
So when I get back to the Taitu Hotel, the tour operator guy there by the name of Chanyalew (Chany for short) stops me and says he has a seat to Bahir Dar. As I had no clue where that was, I told him I needed to get to Gonder.
“Yeah, yeah!" he says "Bahir Dar! Gonder! I have one seat!"
Then he shows me on the map and tells me he can arrange for me to go to Bahir Dar on the shore of Lake Tana (the source of the Blue Nile), and go see the Blue Nile Falls, then go to Gonder the next day. He said he could arrange the hotel in Bahir Dar and Gonder. All for 250 Birr. As the airline ticket was actually 750 Birr, I couldn't believe my luck! Not only that, this mini bus does the trip in a day, when it takes two for the bus! Pretty good deal. So I hand him 250 Birr and find out the mini bus leaves at 3AM the next morning. This is at about 7PM. So I have 8 hours to get ready. I take my pastries to my room and decide I'd better get some sleep.
Then I remember I have to go back to Yemenia the next day and pick up by ticket for Yemen. I didn't sleep that well, and woke about midnight, tossed and turned for a bit, then read my Lonely Planet Guide until 2, then got up and pcked my things. Chany, the tour operator had stationed a guard in the hotel courtyard to look after me overnight, and even though I tipped him 40 Birr, he told me such a sad story about his three starving children, I ended up giving him 100 Birr, which in my world is only ten bucks, but it's still 100 bucks in Ethiopia. He was so grateful, he bowed and thanked me so much I had to put my fingers to my lips to sush him. I finally told him he should thank God for the money because that's who he had been praying to, and it struck me perhaps I should learn the Arabic for "I am a messenger from God." As well as the Amharic equivalent as well (Amharic is the native language in Ethiopia).
So the bus was late and when it finally did arrive, I was one person more than they had seats. We drove at a frenetic pace through the city and out into the countryside. It was a couple of days past the full moon, and from what I could tell, Ethiopia is a lot like Montana (for those of your who have never been to Montana, Montana looks a lot like Ethiopia). It was a long and uncomfortable trip. My bum hurt all the way there, and my legs were numb. Travelling by minibus is a very crowded experience. Sometime in the early morning we stopped in some town.
Most buildings in Ethiopia are made from daub and wattle. A framework of sticks is plastered with a mixture of dirt, straw and cowdung (the exact same stuff the Israelites were wallowing in to make bricks for the Pharaoh before Charlton Heston led them into the wilderness and Ed Robinson got them to bow down to the Golden Calf). Not many places are painted and some are only wattled. Only the huts in the countryside are round. Most townfolk live in square huts. And the café’s are usually plastered and covered in some kind of peeling or faded paint. There are donkeys, cows and sheep, as well as people, all over the road. In the middle of nowhere, there are people walking along the road carrying all sorts of bundles, or guiding unfettered donkeys, cattle and sheep.
Our driver honked as he approached everyone and it's apparent that pedestrians should get out of the way when a horn sounds. At one point I had nodded off (thankfully) only to fall out of my chair as the driver braked for a monley (baboon or mandrill, could have been). That was in the town we stopped at. Everytime a minibus stops, it's swarmed by kids (mostly) selling sugar cane, chewing gum and fig newtons or whathaveyou. So we stopped. We all got out to stretch out legs, and I stood by the minivan sipping a bottle of mago juice I had brought with me, and suddenly realized nobody I had been travelling with was around. It then dawned on me this must be a major pee break or something, but I had no idea which way to go. At that point another mini van travelling in the opposite direction stopped and the passengers all got out and walked down the hill. so I followed them. There was a bar down the slope a bit, and I went in, and everyone was having breakfast. The serving staff couldn't speak a lot of English and the only thing I saw that I recognized was scrambled eggs. So I ordered eggs, to which the waiter replied "Break-ed?" with the emphasis on both syllables. "Break Ed Eggs," I replied "and Chai" (Amharic for Tea) I'm glad I only had to pee cause all they had was a urinal, which was in the open just outside the ladies loo. I'm not sure why, but three girls passing by giggled at me peeing. Perhaps it wasn't a urinal after all. After a quick and tasty breakfast, we were back on the road, with an extra passenger. Some time later, we were stopped by a policeman. There are several such stops along the way, and I'm not quite sure what the criteria is for the detention of a vehicle, but there are always several trucks and busses pulled over at stops. This particular time, however, the policeman wanted us to give another cop/soldier guy a lift, so the little minivan became a little more crowded.
Before the trip was over I was determined to take the plane from Gonder the rest of the way.
Which leads me to Bahir Dar. We got there at noon. Although there are the same mud huts and chaos on the streets, the roads were quite a bit wider. At some point, the driver picked up a young guy, Abbi, who said he was my guide for my stay in Bahir Dar, so I guessed Chany must have contacted him from Addis Ababa. Nice guy with long dreads and a great tropical shirt with a print of Hailie Selassi on horseback front and back. He escorted me to the Hotel Ghion and told me he had arranged for a tour of Lake Tana and the Blue Nile Falls. When I checked in, I found out they had no reservation for me even though Chany had told me he had phoned ahead. They had a room for 300 Birr. It seemed a bit steep, but the place was so nice, I decided it was worth it (Mr. Cheapo here, 300 Birr is only $30. And I had my own toilet and shower AND the room was big and airy and looked out on a tropical garden with an amazing eating area under a large thatched roof facing the lake. The original plan was to travel to Gonder the next day and I told Abbi I was too tired to go looking at anything right away, and asked if he could arrange for everything the next day. I would have to stay an extra day to get the tour in, so I decided that was the best. Phoned Chany to tell him to phone the Meskat Pensione in Gonder I would be a day late (It turns out the name of the hotel in Gonder is Mistale Pensione, but for the life of me, it just doesn't stick in my head). I tried rectifying the Yemenia thing by phone but apparently every day is Friday in Yemen. I decided I would have to change my plane to Yemen to the 28th to give me more time in Ethiopia, so they said they could do that but they couldn't fix the overcharge on the credit card until Sunday. Or something like that. Still not resolved but I'm starting to get used to being absolutely unsure of everything that’s happening around me. So Abbi paid for my coffee (after I offered to pay for another beer) and said he’d be back.
I ordered a tea and chatted with a Scottish lady for a bit; she was visiting a friend working in Addis Ababa and had come to Bahir Dar for a change of pace. Think she thought I was trying to pick her up, so it took some chatting before she relaxed. A while later Abbi came back. Turns out the arrangements would cost 800 Birr. It seemed a bit much, but I gave him the money and told him I would be ready around 9. He left and I chatted with the Scottish lady then retired to my room. Fantastic! It had a mosquito netting over the double twin bed and with the flower garden and lke and palm trees, it was the perfect honeymoon resort. It even had candles on the desk with a book of matches. (I was unaware of the regularity of the 6PM blackout at this point. I woke around 7 or 8, and ordered Fried Lamb. The vegetables it came with was actually the same ingredients as cole slaw only parboiled, and oiled. Quite tasty! They served it with knives and forks (most food is served with bread or this mushroomy fermented pancake thingie that you pick up in your fingers and eat. This is one of the reasons you wiped your butt with your left hand. It's not that easy to do, and will require an extensive retraining program. It is doubly important because running water sometimes barely crawls from the tap. Only here in Hotel Ghion water was not a problem.
The people staying here though aren’t as friendly as the people I met at the Taitu Hotel in Addis Ababa, and the only person who talked to me was a nice young woman in a blue satin dress and high heels who asked me if I was looking for a girl, just as I was going back to my room (Alone).
Next day Abbi came for me and we walked to another hotel, the Dib Anbessa (upscale hotel, but I don't know the prices there) but the minibus that was supposed to have taken me had left already. For some reason the cell phones weren't working so Abbi(Actually spelled "Abbe", but if I wrote it like that, you'd pronounce it wrong) left in a little taxi (a three wheeled, mechanized version of a rickshaw, commonly used in some parts as transportation for postmen), and he came back for me and we hopped into this little contraption and headed out. We arrived at a dock and got on a canopied boat and headed for the source of the Blue Nile. Abbi had had a group booked for this trip, but one of their number git sick and the rest cancelled the trip. I commisserated with Abbi over his loss, as they refused to pay for the unused booking (10% charge) but reminded myself Abbi had 800 Birr of my money. (I found out later the hotel only charge 300 Birr per group for the same boat ride. I could have added myself to their group for 100 Birr).We disembarked at the outlet and visited Debra Maryam (Debra is Amharic for church), and even though it referred the Virgin Mary, I took that as a good omen as well. Speaking of good omens, I have always viewed a wolf or and eagle crossing my path as a good omen, and there are a lot of eagles in Ethiopia, so I have more good luck than I actually need. Took some pictures of three 14th century manuscripts that the priest or caretaker guy showed me. Most of the churches here are round same as the little huts, but inside Debra Maryam the actuall Holy of Holies was a square brick structure. Took a picture of the door that hid the Tabot. Only a priest unsullied by carnal contact with a woman could enter the sacred chamber. Which means not a lot of people could get in. I thought briefly about asking if I was a born again virgin saving myself for my second marriage, I could qualify, but realized the man was not fluent in English and the ensuing conversation would most likely result in refusal even if reinstated virgins did qualify.
So we sailed back to Bahir Dar, and Abbi tried to teach me the word "amasaginalo" which means "thankyou", but he agreed to keep sying it for me (the rest of the day) until I learned it. He left me at the hotel saying he’d be back at 1:30PM. I had a lunch of papaya and pancakes. Well, when I say pancakes, that was how it read on the menu, but it was actually a pancake. Not very big. I wasn’t too upset, because it was a tasty folded crepe with a delicious honey and lemon sauce inside and sprinkled with icing sugar (I ordered it for every meal I had after that). The waiter then used the word "Menemida" which is the correct response to "amasaginalo". I actually went to sleep after lunch and woke up at 1:40 Abbi was sitting having a beer with three friends, so I joined them. All three buddies were chewinfg Khat leaves, a form of stimulant that I think might be related to either the coca plant (it is used the same way in the leaf form) or perhaps tea or coffee. Anyway one guy offered me some and I accepted. It was bitter and sorta fuzzy tasting, and apparently it's eaten along with peanuts. I declined the peanuts because I have dentures. Abbi and I walked back to the Dib Anbessa Hotel, and through the courtyard to the back street and dumped me in a bar called Wales Bar and said he’d be back. I had Chai and Koffee and sat with a buncha guys chewing khat. As I had already tried it, I didn't want to overdose, but I guess the chances of that must be pretty slim cause these guys chewed it non-stop (and apparently all day). A kid came by and everyone bought scratch and win lottery tickets from him, and I got someone to take my picture beside the Welsh Flag in the Wales Bar, thinking Jeremy would love a copy. I joined another group in a mini bus, and away we went to the Blue Nile Falls.
It was fantastic! In retrospect I ’m not sure if the khat was affecting me, but it was an amazing experience! I paid 100 Birr at the entrance so I could use my video camera (there is an extra charge for video cameras almost everywhere). Abbi had said I didn’t need to because the falls were far from the entrance, but I didn't feel like sneaking around surrepticiously filming. Anyway, we took a boat across the Nile. At this point its only perhaps 50 meters across, and walked towards the Nile. A guide went with me, and I thought he was with the group who had chartered the bus, but he walked with me the whole time. I tipped him 100 Birr (you gotta remember, I had tons of money now) and he said a lot of people end up giving him nothing. His name was Kassa, and I found out Bahir Dar means “Near the Beach”. I took a picture of a cowherd playing the flute to his cattle, and when I gave him 10 Birr, he wanted 20. I didn't argue. At the falls I decided I would follow a cattle trail for a better shot and sunk halfway to my knees in the mud.
Overlooking the falls, sitting in a circle on seats made of stones cemented by dried cow dung covered with flour sacks, a beautiful and very gracious woman called Eniye Simie made coffee for us overlooking the falls, and I took some video and a couple of pictures. There was another woman, Yalem, there and a little girl so I showed them the video I had taken, and I stayed for a second coffee and Kassa the guide and I chatted with them for quite a while, (Kassa translatedfor us) until one of the boatmen came to get us saying the driver wanted to leave. I can't quite describe how wonderful sitting there on the hilltop under a tree drinking coffee made from an open fire beside the falls felt. I was very happy and could have stayed a lot longer. We set off and bundled back into the bus, stopping briefly to look at a Portugese bridge, built before James Bruce (credited with discovering the source of the Blue Nile) crossed it and found the source of the Blue Nile, so that the English, even though he was a Scot, could claim to have successfully found it. The Spanish had also been here before that as well.
Got back to the Hotel Ghion, and Abbi was there. He was ready to take me shopping as I had exressed an interest in finding a converting plug to supplement the one I had. I bowed out as I was tired and he said he would make arrangements for a minibus to Gonder. I dreaded the prospect of another mini bus ride, but it was the only way to get there for Timkat. As I was covered in mud, I showered and put on clean clothes. My boots were soaked, so I walked into the garden in bare feet. Three people asked me if the ground wasn’t too cold. It positively radiated heat from the afternoon sun. Everyone was horrified I walked out without shoes (even though a quarter of the people walking along the road (hot asphalt) were barefoot) Abbi sent a guy out to buy me flip flops. Abbi left and the guy he sent for flip flops came back with a blue pair. By then, the lights were out, so I sat under a sickly neon light in the restaurant powered from a small Honda generator, drawing the knotwork designs that are integral to the Ethiopian St. George’s cross from the example on the hand embroidered tablecloth covering my table. A guide I had chatted with on the veranda earlier had recommended the fish, but at the time I told him I wasn’t fond of seafood, but at the last minute, I changed my mind and ordered the fried Tilapia (same fish in Lake Tana as is found in the Sea of Galilee). It was excellent. On a par with pickerel, my favourite fish dish. Of course I finished with coffee and a lemon pancake. I plugged in my battery charger before going to sleep so it would start charging once the lights came on.
The next day (the 17th, today as I write) I awoke around 7. I think my Jet lag is starting to fade. I had until 12 to check out and figured I could pack and catch up on my journal, and as the bus wasn’t coming for me until 1:30PM I could have lunch before I left.
As it turns out, I was under the thatched roof and two Canadians around my age walked in and introduced themselves saying the owner had said there was a Canadian staying there. The man, Jeremy, Hespeler=Boultbee was designing a fine arts faculty at the University of Bahir Dar, and I can't recall what the woman was teaching. They were both from Victoria, BC. We were joined by an Englishwoman, and they had breakfast while we chatted. I thought briefly about having something to eat but knowing I had time to kill once I checked out, decided I'd wait for lunch. The two women left to have a cigarette and Jeremy and I chatted. He had originally studied Portugese history which is what had originally brought him to Ethiopia, but had also been trained as a stone mason (Portugese style and has written a book called A Story in Stone which I'll try and find once I get back home. He was quite excited to find out I was off to Socotra, as there is a Portugese citadel there. I promised to seek it out and take photos if I could. His grandfather was the Hespeller that the avenue is named after in Winnipeg.
Needless to say, by the time they left and I went back to my room, it was past 11 and I only had time to pack. To make things a little more tense, Abbi showed up and said he had a minibus ready to pick me up. He gave me 20 more minutes to pack and said he’d be back. I also realized I hadn’t backed up my photos to my USB drive so I got that in motion, lost track of my immense fortune (again) and realized I had lost the piece of paper Chany had given me with the name of the hotel in Gonder. So I found my money (in a muddy sock) , remembered I'd left my jeans drying on a chair outside (not quite dried yet), and after putting them wet in my pack decided to bungee cord them to the outside of my pack instead, wrapped up my computer, zipped everything up and headed to the lobby at the crack of noon. I made a quick telephone call to Chany in Addis and got the name of the hotel in Gonder (Misrak Pensione, mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide, though I still keep calling it Meskal for some reason. In fairness to the Lonely Planet guy, I am using the book more, and it kinda acts like a safety net as I work by the seat of my pants). Abbi hadn’t showed, so I ordered a tea, but by the time it came he showed up with the bus, and I had to leave it.
And, miracle of miracles, I got the front seat! It was vastly more comfortable than the previous van, though by the time we cruised the bus depot to find people to pack in the back, it was, once again quite crowded. Abbi hit me up for more money which kinda spolied my experience a bit, but I gave him 100 Birr. At the time I was a little put out cause I'd already paid him 100, but he probably took a hit from the other group backing out. Still, I told him I'd email as soon as I could and send him some pictures. Then the guy taking the money for the trip asked for 85 Birr for the fare, and only returned five Birr from the hundred. I was OK with that (it’s a dollar), but then he had the gall to ask for a five Birr tip which he refused, and then he intimated that my bag might burst open on the trip if he didn’t get it, so I pointed out he already had ten Birr tip cause he only gave me five as change for 85 from a hundred. Before he could go any further, the driver started off. I moved my seat forward to give the guy behind some room, and even though I felt guilty about having the front all to myself, the sheer pleasure of having a soft seat beneath my butt was more than enough to risk an extra few millenia in Purgatory while the aangels sorted it out. The road between Bahir Dar and Gonder was way better and with the exception of one bumpy bridge, the road was smoothly macadamized.
And the trip was very pleasant. The only thing that spolied it was the fact I had left my memory card for the camera in the computer, so I would have to use some restraint in taking pictures. As the stills from a moving vehicle have never been very adequate, it wasn't too big of a deal. I took some video but not much. It was sometime on the trip I realized, to my horror that the video I had taken of Eniye the coffee lady by the Blue Nile Falls had been overwritten because after I showed them the video, I hadn't rewound the tape before I started shooting again. The best part of my holiday so far, and the record of it gone! Such is the tyranny of the camera. It reminded me of the time I was driving east on the Number One Highway in Saskatchewan just before the Manitoba Border. The sun was just rising, and mist was lifting from a small pond. I stopped to take a picture. One of the most idyllic scenes I have ever experienced, and as I wound the camera to take a photo the film jammed in the camera. A perfect moment suddenly became a maddening struggle to correct the problem before the sun rose too high in the sky. The moment passed, and all I was left with was an intense frustration, that I knew should never have been, given such a beautiful sight. Still I am compelled to take pictures, and can only berate myself, because it's mostly ego that drives me to prove through pictures I've been somewhere different. The only boon will be if I get Alzheimer's, the nurses will be able to show me my photos, and I will wonder at the beauty of it without knowing I had been there.
So anyway, the trip to Gonder was an interesting one, more importantly, comfortable. We stopped along the way to buy sugarcane and sweetgrass, and I bought a vastly overpriced bottle of mango juice from a little kid hawking drinks. In retrospect it was cheaper than home, so I didn't bother to haggle. These kids were quite determined, so we exchanged product, geld and a smile. Got into Gonder around 5pm and took a taxi from the piazza to the square. It was only 20 Birr to the Mistale Hotel, and the guy was pretty nice so I gave him 25 which made him happy, and what more could you ask?
The girl at the Mistale (my new word for Misrak) gave no indication I was expected. The room is small but nice, with a private shower and toilet. The regular price (for today) is 150 Birr, but for Timkat it's 300. As no one I spoke to in Dahir Bar thought I would get a room I think it's pretty lucky. The power just went out again, and I can hear people still arriving. I had the ceremony mixed up as I thought the procession began on the 19th, but it starts from the churches I'll have a room the next day. As far as I know the return trip to the church is around 5AM so I might wanna nap by then.
The power just went out again, so I guess I'll have to shut down. I'm just writing from memory, and it's too dark to read my notes, to add details and correct the names. Day after tomorrow I guess, though by the time you read this, it'll be edited and finished. It's weird. I keep getting these weird things about whether what I'm seeing is relevant to my book, but the details are beginning to account for something. Little bits like seeing people out in a field winnowing, throwing harvested wheat into the air to blow away the chaff, the fact that hardly anybody tethers their donkeys as they travel, people walking along the road with huge bundles of wood, sugar cane, fodder, and whatever else they have. The mixrure of people and animals on the street, and people cooking from open fires outside their houses. Women carrying cement up a ramp at a high rise construction site, and rough wodden scaffolding everywhere the buildings go over one story high.
And having coffe served under a lone tree on a mountaintop overlooking the cascading River Nile...