Ra-Ra Skirt Houses and Terri's Ph.D.
Sep. 22nd 2004
The day didn't start particularly well. We went to have some cakes at a local bakery for breakfast. It was Rob's birthday today and this was a little starter celebration. I like cake. I like cake a lot. I took a look at the cakes on offer and decided that I wasn't going to bother. Cakes in Ethiopia are made to a different recipe book. I think it's one where there weren't sure whether the measurements were metric or imperial but just said that they were metric anyway. As a result, what could be a nice, moist sponge cake is normally a dry, tasteless affair more often than not speckled with some random food colouring. I have speculated why the food colouring is used but I didn't like where that line of thought was taking me so I stopped. Liann thought that it was a bit odd that I had not eaten a cake but I watched her face as she bit into hers. Not a happy camper. Many of the cakes were left in fact.

That wasn't really the problem at the bakery though. The problem was the jerk who had told the serving staff to charge the ferenj ten birr per cake. Firew wasn't there at the time but Liann and Daniel were and they speak good Amharic. He was quite surprised that they could understand and probably wished that he hadn't stood outside afterwards where we could see him. Ethiopians like staring at people so I decided to stare back, continually, while still talking to the others. Some of them seemed to be enjoying this game and we made sure that we were talking in the right way to include words like 'jerk' in Amharic.

As we left Jinka, we stopped off at the roadside to look at a blacksmith working. The blacksmith was working under a low hut without sides. Single-handedly, he would raise the temperature of the fire with a set of basic bellows and then take out the piece of metal quickly to hammer it on a stone anvil. He had about one minute of hammering for every five minutes bellowing. Blacksmiths are not trusted normally so it was a surprise to find other Ethiopians coming over to watch what was happening. What was annoying was that they would stand directly in front of us to see what we were seeing. Why did us looking at it make it any more interesting. Today was shaping up to be an annoying day.

The road then took us to Key Afer. We stopped to look at an Afer village but it was becoming clear that we were villaged out and although we were pleased to see people it was a bit tiring. The cameras were nowhere near as active.

Our journey then took us back to Weita. We had been here previously for the great Tegamino and we were not disappointed this time either. It also marked the point where we knew that the holiday was coming to an end and that we were returning. We were due to arrive back in Addis in three days.

After lunch we went to a Konso village. We had seen the villages from the road on the way to the south. An interesting feature of the huts is that they appear to have two roofs. Imagine a normal cone roof and then just at the top have another, wider cone. The women's skirts also had this effect, apparently looking like ra-ra skirts. Just inside the village was a flour mill inside a wooden square building (unlike the ra-ra roofed dwellings). An oil powered, belt driven mill was busy grinding with people feeding corn in and placing the flour into sacks. We were permitted to go in and have a look around and the ladies in the mill were very friendly.

As we walked around the village it became clear that this was a very different style of village. It was very, very ordered. Narrow lanes lined and walled by stone led you through the village. On top of short stone walls were tall wooden fences. These, like the huts, were very solidly constructed. Animals had set areas. Some of the houses were special guest houses only usable by people from neighbouring villages. There was much more organization here.

In front of one hut we could see coffee beans drying. Another item produced here was cotton and the cotton plants could be seen close to the village itself. As well as having an organized village, the Konso people had very neatly arranged terracing on all of their hills, the stepped pattern is clear in all the photos taken of the village from a distance.

Before leaving the village, Luleet bought two chickens for food tonight. Although it was a fasting day, she was going to make doro wat for Rob's birthday. Teriku tied the live chickens to the top of the car. Once we arrived back at the town called Konso we were relieved to see that the chickens appeared to have had quite a comfortable journey. Sometimes, they can be seen with their feet tied, hanging upside down, banging against the side of a line taxi.

We were staying once again at the Idget hotel in Konso. This will not be a name that Terri will forget. That night, she was awarded a Ph.D. from the Idget University, Konso for services to gender and DSTV. Where we were eating for Rob's birthday, some Ethiopians were trying to watch European football on a satellite receiver. They had it working and then someone stopped it working by changing to the wrong channel or something. It was clear that they needed help and we were just deciding who would get the short straw when it was suggested that Terri should do it. It would fit in perfectly with gender awareness if they see that a girl can do it. Terri teaches computing at the university so it was well within her abilities. Ten minutes later pasty white legs were chasing a ball around the screen and Terri had made lots of new friends. It was then that Daniel decided to award Terri her Ph.D., and I think he even made a certificate.

In the meantime, Rob had been given a pair of truly tasteless and shapeless shorts. Actually they have a shape but it's obscene. They had been found earlier in Konso as the tackiest birthday present that could be found.