Monday, August 23, 2010

Ethiopia Travel Journal - Part 2 - Awassa to Yirgalem

July 23, 2010
From Awassa, we continued south to Yirgalem. Without going into too many specifics (because it is Des and Bri's story to tell one day and not mine), Yirgalem was the closest my mom and I were going to be traveling to where the girls are from. I'm not sure, but that may be the reason that I absolutely loved the area south of Awassa and around Yirgalem. Though I hadn't met Bri and Des yet, I could imagine them being born and living here.

We stayed at Aregash Lodge which I highly recommend and plan on taking the whole family to in 10 years or so. The rooms are individual bamboo thatched 'huts' for lack of a better term and are arranged in the style of a traditional Sidamo village. Of course, they are completely modernized with very nice bathrooms and comfortable beds. The walls are beautifully woven and the high ceilings have a calming pattern of concentric circles. During our night stay, it rained and the sound on the woven roof was amazing.
While at Aregash Lodge, we took a walk through the surrounding 'neighborhood' with a lodge employee. This, by far, was the most rewarding part of my whole time in Ethiopia before meeting my daughters. Once the mud road ended, we followed little paths between many homes. I was amazed to see so many varieties of fruits and vegetables growing. And lots of coffee (much sold to *bucks).

At one point, with our guide in front, my mom in the middle and I bringing up the rear I turned around while walking on a narrow path to find a handful of kids quietly following us. Awhile later, I turned back around and to my surprise the silent group had doubled. The kids giggled and smiled and continued to quietly follow us.

I think from my photos it is easy to tell how lush and even tropical this area is. It definitely helps to erase all the pictures etched in our minds of the parched and dusty land of Ethiopia from the mid-1980s.

Our guide asked a teenage girl to show us how the locals harvest, process and cook enset (also known as false banana). The girl took us in the enset forest and began to chop at the root of an enset plant using the shoulder blade bone of a cow. This pulp was in a container of enset leaves on the forest floor. There was also a shallow hole lined with enset leaves where the pulp was stored under a layer of water. I think this was used to make porridge after being left for a month. The girl eventually began scraping the leaves with a long metal comb to make more pulp.

Thank goodness that I had seen a Travel Channel show showing the different ways to process enset so that I had some idea what she was doing. The girl then graciously invited us into her home to show us how they use part of the pulp of the enset plant to make a flat bread. Sitting on a wooden bench in her home we watched the teenage girl (the youngest of her family and the only child still living with her parents) start a fire. Using a huge wooden bowl, the girl wrung out the wet pulp and manipulated it until it somehow turned into flour. Using a basket, she then sifted it over the wooden bowl. She patted the flour directly on to a pan on the fire until it turned into a very dry flatbread. The end result was not something like I've ever tasted before and certainly not the highlight of the experience. Instead, seeing how this girl spent her days and seeing her house and family was a wonderful opportunity.

The guide, my mom and I made our way back to Aregash Lodge. There we witnessed an Ethiopian coffee ceremony. I'm not a coffee drinker (don't even like coffee ice cream) but I thought "when in Rome Ethiopia, do as the Ethiopians do." And the Ethiopians are serious about their coffee. And anything served with popcorn sprinkled with sugar is good with me.

After a nice dinner, we retired for the night to our 'hut.' In some ways, I wanted to spend so much more time in Sidama. But I knew that leaving meant I was closer to meeting my beautiful daughters.


  1. That lodge looks amazing! I'd love to stay at something like that when we go back *someday*.

  2. Beautiful---what a great job you are doing writing this all done! Great pictures!

  3. oh, I just loved reading this. dying to go back. we weren't able to take the walk you did. horrible downpour during the time we could've gone. thanks for sharing your story (and beautiful pics!). wasn't the aregash amazing?

  4. interesting and impressive. Beautiful...dreamy...

  5. What a beautifully natural way to live. No materialistic excesses...simple...people look it. That hotel is gorgeous!
    Waiting for part 3, Carey. When you get a much needed break...

  6. What an interesting look at the lives they lead. The flowers and greenery are surprising for sure. Beautiful.

  7. amazing journal and photos. thank you so much for sharing this. love aunty dona

  8. What an amazing experience! I love your pictures. You'll be so glad to have those in years to come to share with your daughters.

  9. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your pictures and story. I think this is definitely something to put on my "to-do" list while there!

  10. Wow, what a wonderful place to stay and a wonderful opportunity! When we were in Ethiopia last year, we were only inside Addis, and actually did not get to see much more. Just lovely. I'd definitely like to stay there if we get back.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Oh, and I love your name! =)


  11. beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing these.

  12. love the pictures.. I was born and raised in Awassa and have family in yergalem area.. I live in the US now.. brought back a lot of good memories. Thanks for sharing!

  13. OMG! Your pictures and journaling of Sidama (that's the Abesha way of saying it) are/is beautiful! The Aregash Lodge (Aregash translated into English means "settled" like when cheese settles from milk) photo makes me want to travel back home to Ethiopia. Thank you for sharing your experience. Thank you for loving your children with your whole heart!

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