East Africa

January - March 2016
A 88-day adventure by Vee
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  • 19.6kkilometers
  • 14.2kkilometers
  • Ottawa

    January 1, 2016 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ 0 °C

    So this is the travel blog of a brand new blogger, me, Vee.

    Granted, my family is probably the only ones reading this, but let’s try a moment of honesty, an introduction let’s say. I’m a female traveler, who looks like a boy, travelling with my female partner. In some areas of the world, that’s not an issue at all. In others, issue, big issue. So my blogs might incorporate moments that some, maybe not all, can understand. That being said, I’m also an anxiety ball which means I can’t run into my partner’s arms for comfort when I need it, which is surprisingly often. Of course, I picked the most down to earth, stress free girlfriend who believes the world can wait for her, no rush. Ha. Makes for interesting “frustrations”; I can run to catch a bus, even though I’ve got half an houIntro to my Travelsr to spare, and she deliberately takes her time to arrive within 2 minutes of departure, because where’s the fun in waiting? That being said, she pushes me to do things I never thought I could. We balance out.

    Together, at least so far, we’ve made great traveling partners! Yet we’ve never done it for longer then 2 weeks. This upcoming trip to East Africa, 3 months long, a place out spoken about their anti-gay laws and beliefs, should be interesting. Stay tuned.
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     1 [xpkLoRel]

    8/11/23Reply
     
  • Day 1

    Moving out in Ottawa

    January 2, 2016 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ -1 °C

    Apparently I’ve learned that leaving town for 6 months requires quite a bit of prep work. Understatement of the year. Adding to the chaos of thoughts and organisation for this trip, I’ve had to add the never ending paperwork and documentation needed to apply for a placement agency for my nursing contract in April. After this traveling bit, we plan (my traveling partner, Jack, also a nurse) on working in a smaller, more remote town for another 3 months. When Jack suggested we do 3 months in Africa, followed by 3 months in a northern Canadian town (instead of the original 6 months of traveling plan), it made perfect sense at the time! Now, it’s just a lot of very strategic packing, keeping our cold weather stuff accessible while we sweat our buns off in East Africa. As for the trip, I’ve been organizing my things (mostly day dreaming) for 2 months now; vaccinations, police record’s checks, moving out of our apartment, searching and reserving a storage unit, passport photos, my job, my friend’s wedding at my return, etc. And yes, I’ve had to plan for my friend’s wedding at the end of June, because when one move’s into a storage unit, one needs to keep a decent suit accessible for such events. And I have yet to finish a single chapter of the travel book.

    My job in Ottawa is all settled. My application for a nursing licence in another province is underway. Now there’s the apartment. 2 days ago was the “big move”! And I say big move, but considering the size of the rental unit I reserved, it was more like the “holly crap this will never work” yet “let’s pretend like this was planned” move. My wonderful 5×10 storage, which I was told by a few people would be sufficient, is now holding a 2 bedroom/2 persons apartment’s worth of furniture and boxes. I’m just not looking forward to the day I have to unpack that thing. I think I’ll wear a helmet for all the boxes stacked 9 feet high.

    It is incredible the amount of things one can leave behind after moving. I keep going back hoping to clean up and give my keys back to the landlord but instead find myself filling my car up only to return to pick up more stuff. Food from the pantry – do I keep it for my return? do I donate? do I give to my family? Food from the fridge – who gets it? Freeze everything? These are the questions that actually keep me up at night. My mind works in ridiculous ways. It’s 3am, and I can’t sleep because I can’t figure out who in my family eats the most mustard?

    Now that I’m well set up in my mom’s guest bedroom, taking over every nook in the house (and some space at my wonderful, amazing, incredible sister’s house) to store the things a 5×10 storage couldn’t hold, I can finally concentrate on the trip itself. Go over my packing. Maybe even finish reading about Kenya, since we are landing there. Next week – VISAs! I love paying 100$US just to set foot in a country. Best part is – most of the countries that charge Canadians for Visas, only do it as retaliation because of what we charge them. Got to love borders.
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    Traveler  Happy life !!!!

    1/16/21Reply
     
  • Day 6

    At the airport in Ottawa

    January 7, 2016 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ -2 °C

    I’m sitting in the airport y’all! Jack is super excited. It hasn’t set in for me. I feel like I’m just waiting for my coffee or something. Maybe when I land I’ll understand I’m not coming home for a while…

    Last night, after my family left (’cause they’re the best and came to hang out before I go), I put the finishing touches on my packing. And by that, I mean I unpacked everything because I finally just received the underwear I was waiting for in the mail… I get asked often about what I’m packing for 3 months? How much do I bring? How can you go 3 months with 3 pairs of underwear? You know, the usual. So here’s what I packed :

    In the smaller packing cube (FYI packing cubes changed my life!) we’ve got 3 t-shirts, a long sleeve t-shirt, 1 pair of shorts and 1 pair of pants. In the larger cube, we’ve got 3 pairs of underwear, 1 sarong, 1 pair of leggings (more like long johns), 1 sweater, 2 bras, 1 bathing suit and 3 pairs of socks. Then we have hiking shoes, walking sandals, and flip flops. A hammock tent (Jack is bringing the straps to hang it). A sleeping bag (only for 10 degrees celsius and above – nothing too big). A rain jacket. Probably the biggest and heaviest thing I’m bringing is my dslr camera, I tried really hard to convince my self not to bring it, but failed. There’s a day bag I put my camera in (it folds tiny). My cosmetics bag is unfortunately huge, and includes my entire pharmacy really. For some reason, I can’t forget my nursing skills when travelling. I have 3 different types of antibiotics. A tic removal kit. Pills for everything (Tylenol naproxen immodium gravol ginger etc). The unfortunate hygienic products. Malaria pills – which first came in 8 different boxes that take up a ridiculous amount of space, brought it down to 3 boxes.

    And then there’s all the random loose items like phone and camera charger, extra batteries, a travel alarm clock, travel book, reading book that will last me the whole trip because I can’t read faster then a page per hour, ear phone, a headlamp, an inflated neck pillow (touch of luxury!) and other random bits.

    All this good stuff, in a 46L Osprey Kite.

    Travel tips – the sarong is super useful as a cover up, a head scarf when required, a towel, it covers the pillows when they look questionable, it’s a sheet for the bus, etc. And the clothing – every time I bring more then 2-3 shirts, I never wear them. The trick is to always do laundry at the end of the day, never let it pile on. Take your underwear off, wash them. They’ll be dry by the morning! The long johns double as my pyjamas. And believe it or not – it can get cold in Africa, especially at night, so they can keep me warm under my very light pants! That means no need to bring jeans like most people do, which take forever to dry and take a bunch of space in a backpack. All my shirts and underwear and socks are merino wool. They’re expensive but worth every penny for the rate they dry and never smell!

    That sums it up! Voilà. Enough stuff to last 3 months. Makes me wonder how I managed to not fit in a storage area when I can live off of this for 3 months…

    As for the trip plans, we are now considering doing Ethiopia last, instead of first, because of Visa’s. The Ethiopian embassy couldn’t get us a visa because they had no more stickers. That’s right – can’t get into the country overland because “we don’t have stickers”. This is bound to be an interesting ride!

    So for now, plan still to be determined, but probably Kenya, then Uganda, then Rwanda, and finally Ethiopia.

    And it begins!
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     I bought the exact same travel cubes for Chad and I! Viva Royale! Haha

    2/8/16Reply
     
  • Day 7

    Arrived in Nairobi

    January 8, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    One thing I leaned from Jack – always say yes! On our 1.5 hour flight to Washington, we were starved. The lady passed with water and soft drinks. We asked if she had snacks. She said she would try to grab some from first class. Jack takes a ceasar mix juice. Stewardess jokes “all that’s missing is vodka!”. Vee says “well if you want to grab that from first class too, we won’t day no”. Stewardess takes out mini vodka bottle and wishes us a happy new year. Returns with cheddar cheese popcorn! CHEDDAR CHEESE POPCORN! better snack then when they give you food. Saying yes is fun.

    Then onto to two very uneventful flights to Nairobi Kenya. We were almost disappointed at how easy our arrival here was. We had booked a hostel from our second layover, and they offered to pick us up. No line ups at immigration. No security at all on the way out of the airport. The most eventful thing was our driver having to change the rear tire before taking off! Flat. Took 15 minutes. Seriously disappointed at the lack of complications.
    Well that and the fact that the visa application requested the name of our husbands, and if not married or father. You know you’re not in Canada when…

    We got to our hostel, asked where the food was, and the lady (super nice) just ordered a guy sitting outside to walk us over to the closest restaurant. Personal escort! And to top it off, we had booked a mixed dorm. Anne, the hostel chief, didn’t want us sleeping with boys, so gave us a private room. 12$us for these lovely digs:

    Not a bad start people! Not bad at all.
    Onto Ethiopia in the morning, we’ve now decided to flip our itinerary around and do Ethiopia, then Rwanda, Uganda and finish Kenya. Made that decision on the second flight over!
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  • Day 10

    In Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar

    January 11, 2016 in Ethiopia ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    So we started our journey in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. I didn’t know this, but Ethiopia is the second most populated country in Africa apparently. There’s lots of people. Like lots. It’s a slap in the face of poverty, dirt and smells. I found it difficult to believe the capital itself had this level of garbage, dirt, and homelessness.

    Now, I know I’ve been to countries like this one. And I’ve done fine. Most notably Cambodia. But I guess I’m older now, and have more difficulty adapting. I haven’t slept more then 3-4 hours per night, going to bed around 9pm and waking up at 1am not able to sleep again. Only to then be grumpy all day (Jack’s patience is impressive). And to this jet-lag exhaustion, I add – my anxiety (at least I think that what it is) is not letting me eat!

    Little message for the parents – I’m fine! Feeling OK, just low energy, getting by right now on half breads and white rice. Back home, I know I’m anxious when I can’t finish a plate without getting super nauseous on my last bite. It’s never gotten to a point of puking though (sorry for the graphics), until now that is. The thought and smell of food is making me nauseous and attempts at swallowing anything is making me sick. I keep telling myself “I just need to reboot, get one good meal in”, but I’m still waiting for that meal. I thought it was the malarone I was taking that was making me sick, but I didn’t take it today and no change.

    Now I know some might be worried reading this, and that’s not the point of reporting it. The point is – it’s OK to be anxious. It’s OK to admit when you’re overwhelmed. It’s OK to take time away from visiting to reboot. I know I’m an anxious person, I knew this would be taking me out of my comfort zone, and I just have to adjust. I’ve got time, no worries.

    That being said, I’ve seen some incredible things already! Addis was a little too busy for my taste, and I learnt an incredible amount at the Red Martyr museum. We spent the day today on a bus (10.5 hours) to get to Bahir Dar. On the way the landscapes were absolutely incredible. Little girls carrying their jugs of water home from the well. Little boys handling the cattles. Absolutely beautiful. And the best part is – we were sitting all day so no need for energy!

    All in all – I’m actually, no lie, excited for the trip to continue! I can only imagine the incredible things I will see. I’m just really looking forward to that meal.
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  • Day 11

    I Ate in Bahir Dar

    January 12, 2016 in Ethiopia ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    Apparently writting about my fears and short comings has taken it’s power away! I woke up this morning (around 4am of course, jet-lag hasn’t improved) feeling the effects of not eating; hands shaking, legs wobbly, not feeling top shape. But I was determined. We had planned for a 3-4 day hike in a couple days and I was determined to get my issues under control before then.

    So I got up. I had a left over pastry for yesterday, kind of a mini banana bread or something, that I was determined to finish! Well believe it or not folks, I had about 4/5 of it and it felt like I was such a champ! Nothing could stop me! I took a super cold shower without even being fazed by it. We went out around 8am hoping to hitch a ride with a tour to monasteries on Lake Tana. I actually felt energized, the monasteries were beautiful and I could actually appreciate it. I had fascinating conversations with other tourist and actually managed to socialize without wanting to curl up into a corner. I was actually more talkative then Jack today! Unstoppable. Incredible what food will do for you. With my new found confidence we had a late lunch and I ate 2 pieces of pizza. I’m on cloud 9!

    Bahir Dar has been beautiful. The monasteries showed some very particular cultural practises – shoes off before entering, they were circular with an inner circle only the priests could enter. The people are so proud of their culture. We were invited to have a cup of coffee – the beens coming from the island, roasted locally.

    Of course the usual ‘tourist trap’ issues like we were told the boat ride to the peninsula where we would see the first ministry was 45 minutes, it took 1hr10. We were promised food at the first stop because Jack hadn’t had a chance to have breakfast yet, and there were bananas only (keeping in mind we left at 9am and returned at 230pm). Still one great experience, and just being on a boat, and the water, so relaxing.

    Once back in town we took a walk along the shore of the lake. The nature was incredible and the bird watching was nuts! I know, sounds lame, but it’s always been something that I enjoyed, and colours and sounds of different birds. We stumbled upon a brand new church. We even walked far enough for the locals to finally start saying hi to us genuinely and not just to get something out of us.

    Today was a great day. The beginning of a great trip.
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    Traveler  Wow!!!!

    8/6/23Reply
     
  • Day 11

    Thoughts by Jack in Bahir Dar

    January 12, 2016 in Ethiopia ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    I know ya’ll were hoping for Vee’s inspiring words and funny posts, but I have thoughts too! A little different from hers…
    As aforementioned, we landed in Nairobi only to leave the very next morning for the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. I was a little surprised, (almost disappointed!) by how smooth both airports went. I was expecting chaos: It was not. Landing, getting the visas, finding a ride, finding washrooms: all was underwhelming. I came on this trip wanting to be challenged both personally and in my preconceptions of Africa: I know this isn’t just a World Vision ad of a starving child 24/7! Still, I viewed Africa as some “final frontier” for backpackers and independent travellers; there’s hardly any hostels and it’s expensive. Yet in our short time here I’ve realized that it’s like any other travel. You don’t understand the language, some people are super helpful, others less, but everybody needs to eat and sleep so you find those things easily. On the bus ride to Bahir Dar, I watched out the window among the blasting music of our bus to a landscape of yellow fields then red canyons and greens trees, dusty brown villages, blue skies and thin cattle with no sign of modern machinery. I had flashbacks of the trees near Aljoun in Jordan, the villages near San Carlos in Nicaragua, the children begging in Delhi and so forth. I felt at home like I often do when I’m lost. This isn’t the final frontier in any way, it’s just needs to be explored and I’m beyond excited to do so. I’m also, I won’t lie, excited for Vee to eat her first real meal. All in due time…till then, let’s go have fun!
    ps. In case I dulled you into a fake sense of comfort, none of the toilets haver their seats or toilet paper for that matter. Just so you know!
    Edit: Vee has eaten! I repeat, she has successfully had both an orange and pizza! *the crowd cheers* End of edit.
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    Traveler  Welcome to bahir dar I like your choise in bahir dar ethiopia

    3/2/19Reply
     
  • Day 15

    The Simien Mountains in North Gondar

    January 16, 2016 in Ethiopia ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    Excuse me for not updating, this is where I’ve been :

    The Simien Mountains.

    We made our way to Gonder to plan our 3 day hike in the Simien Mountains. Our way there was an event of its own, and planning it, not so much.

    We arrived at the minibus station in Bahir Dar to make our way to Gonder. We were instantly surrounded by minimum 10 young men yelling “where you go? Where you go?” The crowd of them was pretty intimidating. We kept asking them to back off but off course, at the chance of getting commission, why would they. We finally just sat down on the side of the bus station amongst the locals for them to tire out.

    Once back at it, Jack and I found our way to a minibus going to Gonder, as we wanted, still with the crowd yelling at us that we were in the wrong one, this one is full, we need to get off right away… All because we managed to get in on our own, pay the 65 birr like everyone else, and no commission for them. And off we went! 4 hours in a minibus (more like 3 row mini van) along with everything you can think of – coca cola bottle, khat leaves (they chew on it for a high), and a man’s bag of something that he refused to move. I spent the trip with my backpack on one knee because the other leg had to be up on the seat in front since there was no space for my leg against the ground. Good times though! Lol.

    On arrival, the reason I said planning the hike was easy is in Ethiopia (or any country like this), the locals call each other when there’s white people somewhere for them to sell to. We weren’t even off the bus when our, now friend Guyamo (no clue how to spell it), came onto the bus to chat with us. While he walked us to different hotels (he has commission at) he talked about us joining the group for the hike leaving the next day (that being the 14th). So we book a room for the night, he even takes us to dinner (we paid our own don’t worry) and by sundown we were booked to leave in the morning for an all inclusive 3 days 2 nights hike in the Siemens Mountains.

    Everything went incredibly smooth during the hike. For 165$US we slept in the lodges at camp instead of tents, which means Jack and I needed to share a single bed the first night due to lack of space.

    The sad part is, it’s so cold at the camps (about 3500m high) and yet we needed to keep the “just friends” act – no body warmth. Both of us in separate sleeping bags, side by side, trying to warm up without the comfort of your partner. It’s incredible how you spend time side by side, and yet miss each other.

    There were so many incredible view points that I can’t even explain in words how beautiful it was.

    Because of the height, temperatures hut 1-3 degrees celsius at night, so dinner and breakfast were 1quite chilly!

    For those who would say they know me well, then you are aware of my love for all primates. Well along the way, I almost became disenchanted – oh, more monkeys. There were baboon families (a good 50 of them) that travelled together a little everywhere in the park. Apparently, according to our guide, there were over 40 000 of these baboons in the mountains. We actually got to sit amongst them for a little while. It was a group that were being followed by americains for research, so they were used to people being close. I sat within 2 feet from these wonderful creature, just doing their old thing. Not in an enclosure of any kind, not trained to entertain crowds. Just eating grass, eating each others flees, play fighting, and every once in a while fighting for their women.

    This last video was actually taken at a view point where we went to see the sunset. The view was ridiculous, sunset not so much… The distant fog and clouds covered the sun before it could set behind the mountains. Still, incredible.

    Along they way, we passed very few small villages from afar and just before finding camp the second night, we passed through Geesh village, where we were offered a “coffee ceremony”. We sat down about 15 feet from the group of villagers who were just waiting for more tourist to come by to sell their tiny little woven baskets. While we were waiting for our slightly slower hiking companion Bart to meet up with us, the entire group (maybe 3 women and 15 children) got up and came to sit facing Jack and I at about 3 feet distance. This is where all the world vision commercials come to mind with some Sarah McLaughlin in the back ground… All of them silent, starring at us, with an impressive amount of flies on their faces. None in ours. One kid, I swear about 20 flies just walking about in his face, believe it or not – mouth open. It was quite the site. With all this starring, we chose against the coffee ceremony.

    A relaxing, beautiful and peaceful experiences.

    —-

    Back in Gonder, our friend Guyamo keeps meeting us everywhere we go. I feel like there’s a gps on us that we’re unaware of… On the road back to town from the hike (now 16th), he called us on the cook’s phone to say the hotels were getting packed so he made a reservation for us in a room. This was funny to me. We said we wanted to stay at L Shape hotel because that’s where our new hiking friend Bart, from Poland, was staying but he said they were full so we’re better off with his reservation. Off course they weren’t but it turns out the room he got us was cheaper, better, and smaller which is always nice.

    Finally we get to close the door and have some level of intimacy. This next part isn’t for parents or the prude – it has been a challenge, to say the least, to try and find a way to remain partners, lovers, in a place where you have to make a conscience effort to keep a distance. Even behind closed doors, even with the door locked, and the drapes shut, there’s always that voice in the back of your mind – what if someone comes in? What if they can see us? Do they detain us right away? Do they just bring us to the airport to make our way out of the country? Can we even go to the next country on our list if we’ve just been kicked out for the same reasons the next country would kick us out?

    I guess we’ll just have to stay as confident as we’ve always been that despite our physical distance, we love and appreciate every minute of this as partners.
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  • Day 17

    Gonder

    January 18, 2016 in Ethiopia ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    We had the opportunity (really we just miss calculated our time) to spend extra time here in Gonder. It’s a city you can easily do in one day if you just go from site to site, but we got 2 days to take it easy, and we’ll have another 2 days to celebrate Timkat with the locals – the epiphany.

    When walking around a town with no destination in mind, that’s when you can really appreciate everything outside the typical tourist trail. The tourist trails is full of young people yelling hello, how are you, where you go. All try to sell us Kleenex packs or gum by the stick. Some of the kids just ask straight up “give me money”. I find them entertain, screw the pleasantries just give me money.

    Side streets, now those are interesting. When you have all day to get to one church, you can let yourself get lost in streets where people are busy doing their own thing.

    We got all the way to the local market today. Jack compared it to an outdoor Walmart – you can get anything there! Clothes, animals (dead or alive), spices, tons of dried red pepper, baskets and buckets and everything!

    The last 2 days has been relaxing, it has been eye opening for local Ethiopian culture, and it’s been fun! FYI I’m really enjoying the food, so no further weight loss. Pierre – I’m on the last notch of the belt… :S

    Last night we had the chance to out to Ase Bekkafa (something like that), a local dance club. You should all YouTube traditional shoulder dancing Ethiopia – if you thought you could “pop and lock it”, you haven’t seen locals dance! Jack even got pulled onto the stage, and I think she did great! Locals loved it. As you can see from my last post, I’m having difficulty posting videos, but hopefully the one of her dancing will be posted soon!

    Oh ya, and the sites – we saw the Royal Grounds today, beautiful, old palaces, not what we’d expect to see on Ethiopia, but interesting none the less! And yesterday we visited a gorgeous church where a monk showed us around, pointing to the painting covered walls and explaining their reference to the Bible. Jack and this monk had plenty to chat about as I just stained at all the paintings. Debre Birhan Selassie, thank you.

    All for now! Timkat tomorrow. Let’s hope I manage to keep my wallet. :)
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  • Day 20

    Timkat in Gonder

    January 21, 2016 in Ethiopia ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    We got to celebrate Timkat! Aka the epiphany. It’s the largest religious celebration (at least I think it is) in Ethiopia, and we went to the town that had the biggest celebration of course! When in Rome!

    Basically it’s 3 days, January 20th to 22nd (leap year, it’s usually the 19th), where on the first day the many churches of the town march towards the Center of town with the arch of covenant. Then the whole town follows the arch of covenant over to Fascilades Bath (old looking building in the middle of a concrete empty structure that is filled with water only for Timkat) where it is kept overnight, guarded by priests and monks. The walk down follows these priests and monks, but they could only walk on red carpets. Which means there was a group of men who would roll up the one of 4-5 red carpets once the arch of covenant had passed it, and would run it up in front of them and unroll. Talk about an exhausting role. Because of this, the walk was at the piazza (so Center town) around 1pm, and Jack and I followed it to the baths – where it arrived around 6pm!
    Many of the people stay in the surrounding field overnight, chanting and lighting up candles.

    The second day is the recreation of the baptismal, where once the sun is up, the water is blessed by the highest priest. Once blessed, everyone one around jumps in the water and it’s a huge celebration in these waters! Chanting, singing, people from the crowd that were too far would throw bottles of water to be filled with this blessed water and they were thrown back so they could all be blessed.

    In the water were mostly boys and young men, women were mostly waiting for the bottles of water. I’m guessing it’s a modesty thing. Also, it super cold at that time of day! The water of have been freezing, it’s probably around 5-10 degrees overnight and at sunrise maybe 10-12 degrees. Locals are usually wearing the thickest jackets at this time, let alone tripping down to their boxers to jump in water.
    The afternoon of the second day and the third is the same procession walking the arch of covenant back through town and back to their respective churches they go. They fill the streets making circles, chanting, singing, honestly all looking incredibly happy to be celebrating.
    Everyone (or mostly) was dressed in traditional clothing from their respective churches, lots of white dresses and scarfs, with colourful borders. Men in white suits. All dressed to impress.

    Now for the tourist, we saw the most tourist we’ve seen yet in Ethiopia, in Gonder for Timkat. White people were everywhere, all of us being warned about the pickpocketing that would happen. We were told by our local friend Mulish (who was fantastic at organizing everything for us) to just bring enough money for water, nothing else. So we brought out cellphone for photos only.
    We had the chance to stay in a homestay for Timkat, so had a chance to chat with the family there. We borrowed white scarfs from them since we knew all the women would have one over their heads for the day. These two young girls took a liking to us, basically because we’re white, and starting chatting with us. At one point I wanted to shower, so needed to changed, and once I expressed this they’re basically just sat on the bed waiting for me to go ahead and change. I had to ask them to leave very bluntly or else they weren’t getting the hint! The also brought us special celebration bread, which we got to eat with their family, Grand father, Grand mother and aunt. No english. When we sat down they right away changed the channel to their only English channel that played old movies (the Perfect Man at this time). It was generous and welcoming. Made us feel bad for having to jump their gate the night before because we got back too late… Does lock at 9pm but we didn’t know!

    At the baths, there was a temporary stadium steatting installed for the tourists. They said it was to keep us safe from theft, but as Jack mentioned, it’s probably a great way to keep the white people out of the way of their celebration, which is understandable. Because of the chanting overnight, tourists are all told to show up at 3-4am of we want to witness the Baptismal. Thing is, no one speaks good enough English to explain why we needed to be there so early, or what would go on. We were just all told to show up at 4am if we want to see the celebration. So we did.

    We took a bajaj (like a tuktuk) because who wants to walk 30 minutes at 4am! Getting there, there was a line up to get into the stands on one side, and even people with “vip” tickets weren’t getting in (which of course we didn’t have). So we went to the other side, managed to squeeze our way threw the crowd, I passed first, Jack followed, you could see that the army guard wanted to ask for our VIP tickets but was distracted. They stopped our 2 Belgian friends behind us and asked for their tickets, to which they responded they were there with a group and the guide had the tickets. No further questions asked, they were let in, and maybe 2-3 more people behind us and that’s it! Full, no more room. We thought it was hilarious, last people let on and without tickets, luck!

    Then reality set in. A bunch of white idiots, freezing, sitting on these wooden stands, waiting for a ceremony we had no clue when it would happen. Well, 8am is when it happened! 4 hours later! I guess it was their way of getting us to see the setting in the night time, which was absolutely gorgeous. Candles everywhere. Quiet singing. Families huddled together. But since the sun rises around 630am, I will never understand why 4am was suggested, and why no one doubted it! A crowd of white people, freezing, waiting 4 hours for a celebration.

    You could really see the pride Ethiopians have of their culture and religion. It was incredibly beautiful to see.
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