Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ethiopia: Day 5

I got some sun yesterday outside with the kids at Kind Hearts! I had sunblock on my face, but my arms are pretty red and I have a nice farmers tan.  

Went to bed late again (11:30) and got up at 4:30. Several of us girls sat around talking for a long time. It's really refreshing to be with people who are on the same page as you with the importance of loving children (orphans) and spreading God's word. Lots of good conversations last night. We all talked about how crazy a lot of people back home think we are for "wasting" our vacation time working in Africa, but we all definitely agreed without a doubt that we get more enjoyment and satisfaction out of the work we are doing here than we would from laying on any beach in the world. It's just hard for most people to get that or really believe it...

Wifi wasn't working this morning at the guest house, which really sucked, but I did manage to get one email out from the little computer in the lobby. Better than nothing!  I'm really hoping Lalibela will have some wifi, but I'm certainly not holding my breath on it. 

Grabbed a granola bar and was out the door by 5:30, after waiting in line for a bathroom for 20 minutes.  People working out in street again. Took about 30 minutes to get to airport. Domestic side was pretty busy. Had to go through security check twice, but it was pretty quick and easy.

Julie and I went first and kind of separated from the group (not everyone came on this trip).  They were all surprised when they walked up and saw us already sitting at the gate.  Sat there for about 30 minutes, then got on a bus that took us to little prop plane.

This dude was sitting at our gate...

Flight took off just a few minutes late at 7:35. I forgot how loud prop planes are. Slept for all of the 50 minute flight to Gonder. I don't know what that place was (some people who got off said they were climbing the tallest mountain in ethiopia) but it was tiny and we were the only plane there. Some people got off, a few more got on, and we kept going another 25 minutes to Lalibela. 

Gonder Airport

Lalibela Airport

Tour guide, Mario, met us there at the airport with a sign (with Karen's name spelled Carren). I quickly battered for an awesome scarf I saw and just had to have - got it for $6 down from $10 and I know I could have gotten him lower, but I felt bad. Will try and buy more as gifts on the way back tomorrow.  


Airport out in the middle of  nowhere (for real this time).  Beautiful landscape.  Crops: sunflower, teff, barley and corn. Elevation was 1800 meters at airport and 2600 meters in Lalibela.  Takes 20 hours to drive to Addis on public bus.  Saw second tallest mountain in Ethiopia. Stopped at top of mountain for pictures and took panoramic video. Just gorgeous.  Kids up there trying to sell little dolls.

YouTube Link:

Mario, our guide


30 minute drive to town of Lalibela - 34,000 population. Little mountain town. Feels more like "Africa" than the city. Loving the wide open  country and fresh air. Kind of looks like the grand canyon, but more green.  Lots of little huts.

New section outside of town

Drove through Lalibela - Pulled up to Mountain View Hotel and all of our jaws dropped. It's nothing but windows and 360 degree views of the amazing mountains. Its nice, but SUPER nice for Ethiopian standards. And it's only about $25 per night. Known for its restaurant and Jamaican chef. Took lots of pics from our deck and around outside.  So cool!

On deck to our room

Our room:  me, Julie, Juree

Left hotel right away (after checking in) to visit churches at 11.  Only a few minutes from hotel.  Funny little "security check point" before we could go in.  Had to pay around $10 and they checked our bags.

5 churches in first group. All chiseled out from giant mountain by hand in 12th century. Very unique - not anywhere else in the world.  Largest hand made church in world (thats what he said) is still actively used and has been for over 900 years.  Could hear people singing.  Ethiopia is first African country to have a Christian church. Lalibela means honey eater. European Union added roof/cover to protect churches in 2008.   Unesco in 1954 restored some pillars - can tell difference in restored  vs. original ones. Lalibela has been UNESCO world heritage site since 1978.  Big hole in ground at first church for baptism. Caves dug out of walls for burials. Most sacred room is called Bethlehem. 'Bet' means house and 'lehem' means bread. Symbolic of birth of Jesus. Bakery during mass on Sunday's - holy bread. When we went in we had to hire a shoe bearer to carry our shoes. Replica of arc of covenant there. Three holes in ground (like graves) represented isaac, Abraham and Jacob. Whole place is one giant rock. All connected. Really amazing to think about how they did that.  Thousands of workers for over 60 years. 


Used for baptism



Next church: church of Mary. First project of King Lalibela. Downward window represents hell - up one meant heaven. 9 meter deep hole fertility  pool.  Women are lowered in with rope at Christmas to time to have children the next year. Second floor in this one with 7 rooms. Only priests allowed up there  First built and most decorated/beautiful because Mary is most important to them. Double headed eagle some say means actual Arc of the Covenant was there for awhile. 





Fertility pool


-- Okay I give up for this morning. I'm just going to take a bunch of pictures and hope they spur my memory.  There is just too much history and information here to even think about typing out. It is really amazing and something to see! The people here are VERY Orthodox Christian. I wish I would have recorded the whole day actually. Our tour guide was amazing - has lived there his whole life and knows everything there is to know about it and it's history. I'm going to have to do some more research on it when I get back... Very cool to learn more about early Christianity. I definitely need to read more of the Old Testament. --

Church service going on



Separating kernels for the Holy Bread for Sunday mass

YouTube Link for church service:

Went back to hotel for lunch at 1. Had spaghetti stew with spicy meatballs. It was edible, but not very good. "Dessert" on the menu was a banana! 

Just stepped outside from where we were eating lunch.  This was the view.
Back to churches at 2:30. On the way, noticed something again I keep forgetting to mention: Ethiopians are very friendly and even the men walk with arms around each other or holding hands.  Totally normal and acceptable here. 

All churches connected through underground tunnels and ravines.  Had to hike to second group of churches. Bridges recently built  by UNESCO.  Most decorated - named after arch angelsGabriel and Raphael.  Built out of softer rock. Unique feature is water well, so it might have been built for special purposes.  Walked out on balcony/ledge.  Could really see chisel marks in the wall. Just amazing how they were built!





Underground tunnel to next church. CRAZY experience. Pitch black. Had to walk with right hand on right wall and left hand on  ceiling to keep your  bearings.  Only took a couple minutes, but heart was racing! Such a weird feeling. Tour guide used to play hide and seek in these tunnels when he was little. They have trap doors that pop up in different churches. 



Trap door on the floor (covered up by a rug)
Only free standing church in second group was Emmanuel. Largest church in that group. Took picture on steps of this one. Three windows for ventilation. In 1954, European Union restored. 9th church of king Lalibela, so more architectural structure. Perfection came with time/practice. Priest showed us 900 year old cross.




Passed through ravine "needles eye" to last church in group - house of Abalibanos. Dedicated to the queen of Lalibela. Deteriorating. Hidden picture of saint George killing the dragon inside. 





Long walk to last church:  called House of St. George. Amazing view from up top. Took lots of cool pics.  St. George is more respected than any other saint in Ethiopia, even though he is from Palestine. Last and most elegant church of King Lalibela. Dedicated to Noah - windows for his family and others for the animals. The wall is thicker at the bottom and gets thinner at the top. Climbed out up the wall like rock climbing instead of taking long ravine back. 


 Those are real bones (legs and feet).

(All of the little historical facts are just for me to remember ... and so I can tell which pictures are which church! I know they're boring and probably don't make any sense to anyone else.  Sorry!)

Stopped at little juice bar in town. I ordered "spree" which was a combination of  banana, papaya, and avacado juices. If was pretty gross - thick texture and weird favors!  I about gagged! Pics are funny...  There was an Internet cafe  next door that I was DYING to go to!! Just want to be able to text or email or Skype!!

Walked around town and bought some things... A couple traditional Ethiopian hand carved wooden crosses and some little silver cross necklaces. I bartered pretty hard. All the other girls were impressed (either that or just figured out how cheap I am).  I kind of felt bad. Should I just pay full price even though I know they're working me over!? I just can't do it! Saw an Obama souvenir shop. They all love Obama and as soon as you say you're from America they say, "Obama! You from Washington DC?"  Every time. And they point to their skin and say something about how they're both black, ha. Most of the young guys here in Lalibela speak decent English. 

Walked to Seven Olives hotel and restaurant after shopping - first hotel in Lalibela (built by one of the kings granddaughters). Was recommended.  Candles and white table clothes again. Passed out a pancake kind of thing made from oats that was thicker than injera but thinner than bread - called kita. Really good!  Ate mine and Sara's! Mario talked me in to trying spicy sauce on it.  My mouth was on fire!! He said it "wasn't that spicy."  Yea, right.

Saw the most amazing thing on the menu: toasted cheese sandwich! Bread and cheese?! Heck yes!! (Really branching out, I know...) I was a little disappointed because it had tomatoes and onions (yuck!) in it, but it was still edible! I always love cheese! 

Talked to Mario at dinner about tourism in Ethiopia. Lalibela went from 18,000 tourists to 49,000 tourists in one year. Poor advertising has held them back, but working on that now. And word of mouth is obviously important.  Mario said Ethiopia has a low crime rate and is much safer than Kenya.  ( Oh, and he said we are at too high elevation for the malaria mosquitos, so I'm all good without medication! (Forgot to mention that a couple girls got bit last night at the Italian restaurant!)

Went back to hotel around 8. Stars are so amazing here. Wide open sky, no city lights (hardly any electricity) and high elevation.  Nothing but bright stars for as far as you can see - can't even describe it - just beautiful! 

Still no Internet and I'm going crazy! 8:30 now and Julie and I are already in bed. Have just been SO exhausted the past few days. Not much sleep and the kids hanging on you all day (and the African sun) really wear you out! 

Flying back to Addis tomorrow and heading straight to Kechene orphanage from the airport.  Meeting the rest of the team there and will be delivering school supplies and playing with the kids all afternoon.  Excited to get back to some kids, but all the history today was awesome! Lalibela is of the most interesting places I've ever seen. 

Good night! 

(Picture from phone for today is me above House of St. George.)

Sent from my iPhone

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