Voluntourism Trip 2012 - 5/21


Today was our first full day in Addis Ababa. We started the day by leaving the Kaleb Hotel (which unexpectedly tripled its rates since the last time a W2T group stayed here) and moving next door ino the Beer Garden Inn, a combination microbrewery and hotel established by a couple of expatriot Germans. After breakfast, the ODA (Oromia Development Association) drivers arrived to take us to see three of the wells that are under constuction thanks to W2T. Riding in a vehicle in Addis Ababa is an exciting experience. The only operative traffic law seems to be "blow your horn and keep going." Imagine if all the world is the passenger pickup area at the airport. Cars park two deep anywhere, cut in and out of traffic, and mostly (but not always) drive on the right side of the roads, all as fast as possible. Cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, and fearless pedestrians walk right down the middle or cross at will, sharing the streets with cars, trucks, busses, and vans, many of them spewing black smoke. All of them tap their horns constantly, not so much as a warning, but as public notice of "here I come." We've seen three traffic lights; only one of those was working, and not a soul paid a bit of attention to it. Every direction enters the intersection at the same time, and works things out with a combination of gestures and horn honking. We finally left the crowds and traffic of the city, and went out into the country on on a surpisingly modern and well-maintained highway. The driver of the truck I was in was Jihar. I asked him if he had ever heard of NASCAR. He hadn't, but liked the sound of it. Lane wanted to know if they had speed limits in Ethiopia. Jihar understood the question, but not the concept. (I did later see a "40 kph" sign; we were doing about 90 at the time.) About 20 miles outside Addis Jihar pulled off the road and fastened his seatbelt. We all decided that it must be a REALLY good idea to do likewise, and it turned out to be true. Entering the villages of the Sendafa region, there were only "implied" roads; without being strapped to our seats we would literally have been bouncing off the roof. The "villages" we saw consist of maybe a dozen houses each, small round buildings maybe 20 feet across, made of mud slathered over wooden poles, with a thatched roof. Most of the families get by on subsistence farming of potatoes and grains, although rocks seem to be the biggest crop; it's ing that they are able to plow their fields at all, especially with only hand tools or ox-drawn plows. They also raise cattle and goats, which roam freely though the pastures and fields. The cows do lead to one small industry that would surprise a lot of Texas ranchers: cow pies. Cow manure is collected and placed in large holes dug in the earh, and allowed to ferment for a few months. When good and ripe, it is taken out and mixed -- by hand -- with straw, and spread into a flat patty aout the size of a dinner plate. Once dried by the sun (still with hand prints visible in them) the patties are stacked in piles as much as 12 feet high, until they are taken to town and sold for fuel, three for one "bir" (about 2 cents a cow pie.) Some of the housing compounds had ten or twelve of these giant piles outside their fences. We visted three wellsd in various stages of completion. They are placed with the help of a hydrologist, who determines whether there will be sufficient water. Another factor in their placement is to make them relatively convenient to as many of the compounds as possible. Once complete, not only will cleaner water be avilable, but the trip will have been reduced from an hour-long walk (or more) to just a few minutes. The three wells of Sendafa (named for the nearby river) are all hand-dug wells. Mike and Meredith explained that these are much more economical than the bored wells. Also, the people who will take advantage of the newly-available water are able to help more in their construction, digging by hand about 15-20 feet down, until sufficient water is there in the bottom. One of the wells is only a few feet away from one of the present water-collection sites. It's fed by a spring, and flows into a depression at the bottom of a wash. Cattle and donkeys drink from it, tromp right through it, or "do their business" where it can run right into the water. And this is best source of water the people have; the river was even worse. The wells we saw today are nearly complete, fully dug out and lined with concrete culvert pipes. Two of them had fresh flat pads constructed of concrete and the easily-avialable rocks, but for the third, we helped by gathering rocks out of the field and mixing the concrete with the local men and children (later we heard that most of the women were attending the funeral of one of the village people.) I'm sure they all got a kick out of my "Little Engine That Could" impression as I huffed and puffed. I was going to write it off the being in worse shape than I had thought, but Mike explained that since we're at a pretty high elevation, it would be a while before we would have any endurance (I like his explanation better.) Eventually I joined Jo and Bobbie, who had decided that "supervising" from under the tree was a better idea. Meanwhile, Lane was the toast of the town. Every time he took a picture of the local boys, they would cluster around him to see the result. Sometimes all you could see of him in the pile of excited boys was his ever-present hat. Nazif, our host, explained that the school is too small to accomodate all the kids at once, so the older ones (5-7th grade) go in the morning, and the smaller ones in the aternoon. It's about a 45-minute walk each way. In town, the youngest ones would also attend "KG" (kindergarten) but not this far out. We weren't quite able to finish today, as the owners of some of the tools we needed were also at the funeral, but tomorrow we'll help set the pumpheads, and construct fences around the wells to keep the animals out. After lunch (and naps) Nazif took us to his favorite coffee shop (passing probably 50 more on the way) where we drank the stiffest coffee I've ever had. Espresso is weak by comparison. We then went to the rustic Taitu Hotel, the oldest inn in Ethiopia, built in 1898 and named for the wife of the emperor at that time. Nazif said it's one of his favorite places to come and think and study (he's working on his MBA.) Well, I see that the heavy dose of caffeine has led me to write WAAAY too much, so I'll close for now. We are all falling in love with this country and its beautiful people, and are grateful for the chance to have experienced them. Dohna'hun (good bye), Larry

Voluntourism Trip 2012 - 5/20


Well, we made it. This morning (at least it was morning where were at the time) saw the sun rising over the desert of Egypt for the last few hours of our twelve-hour flight into Addis Ababa. We’re eight hours ahead of San Antonio here, so there’s quite a bit of adjustment, but in the end everybody decided to just stay up and tough it out for the rest of the day, to get ourselves on Ethiopian time as fast as possible. Fortunately, Ethiopia coffee is the strongest in the world. After lunch and a couple of espressos, we spent the afternoon touring the national museum, as well as a larger museum at the university that’s housed in Emperor Haile Selassie’s old mansion. We enjoyed meeting many of the local people, who are wonderfully friendly and hospitable, and obviously very proud of their country and its heritage. After an hour of shopping in one of the local markets (and another harrowing ride in town, where traffic rules are nonexistent) we all got cleaned up for dinner. The Oromia Development Association, which is working with us in some of the nearby villages, treated us to an authentic Ethiopian dinner, right down to eating raw beef with our fingers from a communal plate. A band played upbeat music on traditional instruments while dancers with no sense of fatigue at all delighted us with their energetic moves. (Some local beer was instrumental in getting a few of us lumpy Lutherans up to try it too; video will be online soon unless we can raise enough bribe money to stop Lane from posting it.) At this point we’ve each had less than an hour of sleep in the last 30+ hours, and are riding on enthusiasm and caffeine. But after a long-awaited night’s rest, we’ll be ready tomorrow to get in the field. Once again, let me express my gratitude, and that of the rest of our little group for the wonderful opportunity APLC’s generosity has afforded us, to represent you in this good work. Warmest regards, Larry Cline

Reflections on the Trip


Notes by Joyce Moeller

We flew on Ethiopian Airlines from Gondar, where we visited the ancient castles of 17 kings, to Addis Ababa, the capital of this country. We held several Water to Thrive meetings with NGO's (non-government organizations) that implement water projects. 

We said goodbye to Kattie Somerfeld of Lutheran World Relief, one of the W2T travelers, who is flying to Kenya to visit a friend who is working for the United Nations in the Somali pirate trials. They are flying to a beautiful we are wishing we were going there too. Tomorrow we will be sightseeing in Addis and then departing for the U.S. Sunday evening. 

At the moment, we are in our hotel room after a tasty dinner at a local Mediterranean restaurant. There is a wedding on the 2nd floor and we're on the 3rd floor. Loud music until about 11:00. For dinner, we enjoyed the company of Alem Tesfay of Diversity Tours. Alem assisted in the planning of the June 2011 trip and served as our guide for the trip. We spent time mapping out possible itineraries for another similar tour in May/June of 2012. 

Ethiopian food is good, especially the lamb. It tastes more like beef. In Addis, one can find any kind of restaurant you can imagine. I would compare Addis to NYC...many people (6-7 million) and a lot going on. Clothing is modern (like skinny jeans) and the women wear makeup and they are very attractive. In the countryside, life is like it was 1,000 years ago.

This is my first trip to Ethiopia and Dick's 6th. I have taken about 2,000 photos and I've kept a notebook of thoughts, too. It is sad to think about leaving the friendly people that we have met along the way. They are so kind and gentle and have big hearts. Many speak English well enough to converse a little and others are fluent. The children learn English in addition to their own language. After a good grade on the national exam, kids can go to government universities free of charge. I am very hopeful for this nation and the people.

As far as the well projects, they are a very good way to help the neediest people in the world with one of the basics of life...water. We saw the joy that comes from clean water being pumped as well as communities where they are still desperately awaiting clean water. I understand so much more about the need now. Most Americans can't grasp the need because we've simply not seen these remote communities and their incredibly difficult circumstances. Brown runoff puddles and contaminated springs with leeches!


This is a life changing adventure.



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