Celebrating Earth Day–Photos


I decided the best way I should share my reverence and love for nature and this precious planet on which we live is to share photos from various countries, states, and my own little piece of wonder.

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The three photos above were taken at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas about ten minutes from where I live.

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Above and below the Rio Grande looking into Mexico.

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Four photos above — Big Bend National Park.

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Between Marfa and Alpine, Texas.

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The Rio Grande north of Albuquerque on the Santa Ana Pueblo Nation.

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The above four photos taken in Simien Mountain National Park, Ethiopia.  The animals are gelada–the only surviving grass eating primates found solely in Ethiopia.  They actually “talk” to each other.

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Menelik’s Window, Ethiopia

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Awash Falls, Ethiopia

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Where the Blue Nile begins draining from Lake Tana, Ethiopia

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The photos above were taken at various places in Costa Rica.

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Northern New Mexico

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Grand Canyon North Rim

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The Missouri River running full.

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California dropping down from Sequoia National Monument

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Near Lake Marvin, Texas

Sunday Sunrise ©Dawn Wink

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The above photos were all taken within the last year on my little rim of wonder.

And finally below, my favorite animal.

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Gratitude


Thanksgiving brings so many thoughts, including thoughts about the divisive political discourse in the country now.  However, it seems more productive and in keeping with the day to focus on gratitude.  As I write this I think of both personal and broader things for which I am grateful, one of which is that I live in a country where divisive political discourse can actually and legally occur.  Now to the more personal (even though I think the personal is political, I will not focus on that)–here is my starter list:

-my family–daugher, son, and grandson; daughter and grandson will join me shortly to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

-my mother’s pumpkin pie recipe which my grandson will help me prepare when he arrives; he says it is the only pumpkin pie he really likes.

-my job which I truly love–teaching public high school; my students frequently make my day.

-where I live in beauty truly on the Rim of Wonder.

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-my health

-my friends

-my ability to travel to all sorts of fascinating places

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-a life I love

 

Ethiopian Journey–From Addis Ababa to Debre Birhan


Addis is the second highest capital in the world.  Only La Paz, Bolivia, is higher.  To a large extent, altitude determines climate in Ethiopia.  Addis and the surrounding area, much of which is high altitude farmland, receives a lot of rain this time of year and looks totally unlike what a lot of people think of when they hear the word Ethiopia–not desert but rather miles and miles of green.

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We had not driven far from Addis when we crossed a river, an area of which is considered healing.  Many people had come for priests to bless them and to experience the healing power of the water.

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I saw only three tractors in ten days of criss crossing farmland.  Why so few?  One reason is rocks.  Many of the fields remain rather full of rocks in spite of many having been removed.

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Therefore, they farm the “old fashioned” way; horses or cattle pulling plows with a human behind.

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Houses in the villages in the farming areas demonstrate old ways alongside new.

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Winnowing the way we did in the USA a century ago.

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Much of the farmland is a picturesque patchwork quilt of browns and greens.

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Before dropping down to lower country, we drove by Menelik’s Window.   The drop off here is steep and far.  I did not go near it–I had not yet become used to the endless drop-offs or even realized that I would need to do so.  This is one of four places in Ethiopian where you can see gelada baboons.  They are extinct elsewhere. Menelik was an Ethiopian emperor.  This “window” allows one to look from the high country for miles and miles to the landscape beyond.

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The large tufts of grass provide food for the gelada which are grass eating herbivores, the last of the grass eating primates.  All others are extinct.  This same grass is used by the locals for roofing material so boys stay in these areas all day chasing off the baboons.

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To keep themselves busy they weave woolen baskets and hats to sell which they display in the grass.

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This ten year old boy happily donned the hat he had made.  I bought it for my grandson who was the same age when I took the trip.

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Except for the different vegetation, driving down the mountain looked a lot like driving through Colorado.

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Down from the mountain the landscape appears quite different and considerably drier.  We drove through several smaller towns on our way to Debre Birhan where we stayed the first night.

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Driving in Ethiopia requires navigating around animals.  Everyone drives their cattle, camels, horses, all livestock down the road whenever possible.  The roads are generally very good.  Many, built by the Italians, have stood the test of decades.

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Along the road we saw many of these “apples”.  My friend told us how they played with them as a child.  However, the adults all warned the children not to touch their eyes when they did–it will make you blind.  They are called Apples of Sodom–so many things in Ethiopia have symbolic meaning.

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These fruit could be seen all along the road and even on the road.  After driving through this drier area we rose above a huge valley with miles and miles of grass.

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A semi-nomadic group brings their immense herds of cattle here in the rainy season to graze.  When we drove further on above the valley, I saw the first tractor working a field as big as this grazing land.

 

 

 

Ethiopian Journey, Dubai


If you have a long enough layover in Dubai, they put you up in their Emirates hotel and feed you in the cafeteria free.  The hotel is nice, the food excellent–quite a nice perk.  From the hotel it is easy to walk to several places as well as take a van tour around the city.  We did both.

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The view from my room.  The pool has a swim up bar but it is not open during Ramadan which was occurring two years ago when we were there.  Alcohol is available in some restaurants and bars but you must imbibe inside.

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One of the first places we visited on the tour was this mosque, designed to look like the famous mosque in Istanbul.  The following photos are of typical houses near the mosque.

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Then we arrived at the beachfront of the Persian Gulf.  The water is warm, like lukewarm soup.  In the background two of the most expensive hotels in the world tower above the water.

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The street goes along the waterfront with luxury hotels on the left.  Many of these areas are fill–manmade peninsulas.

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You can visit the sister hotel in the Bahamas.

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Because of the fill, the fake peninsulas, it is easy to get a bit disoriented.  Plus during the summer there is so much haze, it is rather difficult to determine directions.

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The tallest building in the world.

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After visiting several smaller shopping areas, we arrived here, the famous Dubai mall.  This is the largest aquarium in a mall in the world. Here you see people from everywhere in the world dressed in every way imaginable.

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A children’s store across from the aquarium contained this lollipop tree with giant lollipops.

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In spite of high heat–it was 108 when we arrived–no wind and high humidity (yes, because on the Gulf, even though it is desert, the humidity is stifling), many people were outside awaiting the fountain show.

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One part of the skyline reflected in the lake.  The fountain show, synchronized with music, is worth the wait even in the heat.

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On to the gold and silver souk.

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Gold and silver are sold by weight.  You can also buy gold in shops at the airport; however, nothing quite has heavy and exotic as some of this.

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We did actually shop in the food shops and bought nuts covered in various spices to take along for snacks.

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Ethiopian Journey–The Beginning


Two years ago today, two friends and I flew from here to Dallas to Dubai.  The final destination:  Ethiopia, where I spent nearly three weeks with them and my friends’s family plus a road trip through the north.  Ethiopia was nothing like what one sees in the news, in famine photographs, nothing like the image most people in the USA have of it.  My main goal when I returned home was to show people photos and inform them what it really looks like, how incredibly beautiful it is there.  This mission continues two years hence.  For the next several weeks I plan to relive this journey and share it on my blog here.

It is a short trip from Amarillo to Dallas via air.  In order to carry the baggage allowed on Emirate Airlines, we first flew via Southwest to Love Field, then took a taxi to Dallas International.  If you plan to fly long distances, I highly recommend Emirates Airlines.  Compared with all the others I have experienced even coach class is wonderful:  bigger seat room, more than a hundred movies to watch, good food, an area where you can help yourself to fruit and snacks, unlimited wine and beer, and an international group of flight attendants.

From Dallas to Dubai is fifteen hours of flying.

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People wonder why they fly over Greenland, Iceland, northern Europe to get to Dubai.  Do not look at a flat map.  Get a globe and trace the route.  It is the shortest way to go.  Dubai is not like many think here.  No, I did not see endless lines of Lamborghinis and Ferraris.  In fact, I do not recall seeing any at all.  Tomorrow, photos of Dubai before heading on to Addis.

Costa Rica Adventure, Day Three–Part One


After lunch at the National Theatre we headed to Monteverde, a small town with only one unpaved road in and out.  One big change since I was there three years ago is the road.  It has been widened considerably and apparently plans to pave it are in the works.  The original reason for not paving was to prevent hoards of tourists from invading.  Apparently, that failed; tourists came anyway.

This town’s origination grew out of Costa Rica’s decision to disband its military in 1948, a practice which continues today.  Quakers from Canada moved here for that reason and created Monteverde, now famous for its cheese and, of course, the nearby Cloud Forest.  The hotel, where I have now stayed twice, El Establo, is owned in part by Quakers and serves a favorite of mine, fried cheese.

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Nine buildings up and down the mountain house rooms.  Previously, I stayed in one of the lower buildings; this time we were near the top way above this lake.

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The views from all the rooms provide a vista all the way to Nocoya Bay.  After we put luggage in our rooms, we headed out for a night walk in the forest, the reason we had been instructed to bring flashlights on the tour.  We saw spiders, birds sleeping, a mouse, all sorts of insects, but nothing too exciting.  Probably some of the group members were too scared and too noisy.

The next day breakfast occurred at 7 just before we took off for the Cloud Forest and a hike to the Continental Divide–all six miles or so.  I had hiked here before but on a different trail and in a huge downpour.  Luckily, it rained only a little.  However, if you are in the clouds, you get wet.

Lush does not even begin to describe the Cloud Forest, a huge reserve with numerous indigenous species of everything from hummingbirds to insects to all sort of plants that exist nowhere else on earth.

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Every tree, branch, every living things is covered with other living things.  This must be botanist heaven.

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Looking up into the branches of a tree fern.  Yes, that is a fern. So much to see, it is hard to keep up with the guide, a native Quaker whose father was one of the founders of Monteverde.

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It is difficult to know what photos to take; everything holds some kind of fascination and lots of beauty.

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Another tree fern right by the trail.

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In the clouds at the Continental Divide it’s incredibly windy yet the clouds stay and you get wetter and wetter even though it is not raining.  Water dripped off my slicker, the trail oozed mud and water, it was hard to keep my footing on slopes.

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On the way back we crossed several streams.  Everywhere in Costa Rica signs in both Spanish and English instruct people to save water.  They made me chuckle.  Streams run everywhere in much of the country, especially on the Caribbean side.  Here I live in a semi-arid environment where I see wasted water running down streets in town and in Costa Rica they conserve water and recycle things I did not even know were recyclable.  Hotels provide recycling bins and some even turn off lights automatically when you are not in the room.

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The name for this flower translates from Spanish as hot lips.

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This looks like a tree but it is not.  A giant, parasitic fig plant surrounded the tree, eventually killed it, and this is the result.

After we finished the hike, we walked over to a shop that feeds hummingbirds, hundreds of species of which live in Costa Rica, many only in the Cloud Forest. Took a video of them, but it refuses to upload here.  Some were incredibly iridescent and much larger than any I had ever previously seen.

 

 

My Ideal Audience


The fourth assignment in my newest experiment, Word Press’ Blogging 101 class, is to write a post for my ideal audience. My immediate reaction was, “There is no such person; I do not have an ideal audience.”  I might be able to come up with three or four persons, some of whom might like the recipes, others might enjoy the travel posts, and another group might react to comments on the environment, international politics, and sundry controversial topics.  Finally, a few, perhaps more, might relish the occasional poetry pieces.  After all, my haiku posts attained more readers than I ever expected.  The challenge then might be to write a post combining several of these but how?  Here we go on another adventure.

My idea reader would enjoy literature, especially the serious and more especially literature from other countries and cultures, like to eat hot foot from diverse cultures, travel to other places besides here and Europe, care about the environment, follow international politics, and, even though not previously mentioned, like horses, prefer the country to the city, and enjoy a wide variety of music.  Do such individuals exist?  Where are they and how do I find them?

Here is my first attempt at covering at least two of these topics:

Last summer, as former followers know, I traveled with friends to Ethiopia for three weeks via Dubai.  Because I love the stuff, I brought back an entire kilo of berbere.  Mine follows the special recipe of my Ethiopian friend’s mother.  She had it made special just so we could bring it home.  Actually there were three kilos in my bag but only one for me.  My new favorite salmon recipe involves the use of berbere.  Unlike some, hers is more rich and spicy rather than really hot.  This will serve one to two, just increase the amount of all the ingredients to suit the number of people you plan to feed.

1-2 portions wild sockeye salmon–you could use any type of course

4 medium to large brussel sprouts, coarsely chopped

1/2 purple onion chopped coarsely

Several broccoli florets

1/2 ripe bell pepper, seeded and chopped

Olive oil

Berbere

Cover the bottom of a skillet with olive oil.  Add onions and sauté until translucent.  Add the brussel sprouts and sauté until nearly tender.  Add the peppers and broccoli.  Sprinkle a light layer of berbere over all the vegetables as you cook them.  Stir occasionally.  Add the salmon, skin side down.  Sprinkle berbere over the salmon so the salmon is covered but only lightly.  You can add more to taste.  Continue cooking until the salmon flakes.

I serve this with rice.  The rice in the photo is basmati.  See previous posts for the special way I cook rice.  Sometimes I vary the vegetables using poblano peppers, carrots, Swiss chard–whatever I happen to have or feel like eating at the moment.  Pick what you like.

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This, honestly, is nothing like real Ethiopian food in part because I do not have teff and do not know how to make injera.  The photo below shows me and friends in a restaurant in Gonder, Ethiopia, in my idea of food heaven.

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My Ethiopian Adventure–from Addis to Kombolcha


Saying goodbye to Addis at 8 in the morning, we headed northeast and later north toward Kombolcha–spelling differs, depending on whose map you view.  The official Ethiopian map spells the town as Kombolch.  Addis is high, the second highest capital in the world.  We drove northeast all morning across rivers and through green fields.

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Not far outside Addis we saw this scene, a river with many people near it.  Our driver, Alemu explained this river contains holy, healing water and all those people you see through the window are pilgrims coming to be blessed by the resident priest and hopefully healed by the river waters.

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Who would know this is Ethiopia if no one told you? Not what I expected at all honestly.

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Most of the farmland is very rocky.  Farmers gather rocks, in some places make fences out of them or just pile them up.  Even with these efforts fields remain full of rocks.

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We drove for hours through this type of farmland.

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This is a typical country village which appeared off and on continuously along the highway.  Traditional buildings are usually round with thatched roofs.  More and more people have begun to use metal roofs which forces the building shape to rectangular rather than round.  We heard a story about a thatched roof house that caught on fire.  Nothing but the thatch burned because underneath the thatch was a meter of mud.

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Most Ethiopian farming is done the old way:  either horses or cattle pull the plow with a man guiding it usually through a lot of rocks.  I commented about seeing no tractors so then every time we saw one everyone shouted, “Juliana, there’s a tractor.”  I think I saw only five of them in ten days and only one was actually working in a field.  It became obvious rather quickly how totally impractical a tractor and its equipment would be in much of the farmland:  too many rocks and as you will soon see, too steep.  The tractor would fall over.

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Eventually we started climbing higher and higher.  To the left was one of Ethiopia’s high peaks near or over 4000 meters–13 to 14 thousand feet.

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And then, there it was, Menelik’s Window.  This was the first area we saw with numerous gelada baboons.  However, these ran away unlike the ones later in Simien National Park.

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That’s Dino down on the edge.  At this point in the trip, I was still quite horrified by all the steep cliffs and stayed way back.  He was trying to get a good photo of the baboons.  Menelik II, the last Ethiopia leader to be able to claim himself as a direct male descendant of King Solomon, found this place special, a view into the real Ethiopia across miles of mountains. He is known for defeating the Italian invaders, expanding the kingdom, and especially for modernizing Ethiopia.

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My grandson now owns this hat.  This boy and his friends spend their days chasing the baboons away from the tufts of grass, which their families use to make the thatched roofs, and making hats for sale.

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You can see the selection of different styles of hats on display on the grass.  On the mountainside in the back lots of herbs grew, including thyme.  The boys also sold packets of herbs they had gathered and dried.

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We dropped down on a winding mountain road through eucalyptus forests.  Eucalyptus is not native to Ethiopia, but grows everywhere there.  It is used as a basic material for building their houses, for scaffolding to build tall city buildings, for just about everything.  Several different species grew along the road.

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Ethiopia’s main highways are excellent.  Many were built years ago by the Italians, more recent ones by the Chinese.  Ethiopians make jokes about how long the Chinese roads might last.

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Eventually, we dropped down out of the mountains into an area that was much drier.

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A typical town with all sorts of shops right along the road.  When driving in Ethiopia, dodging people, cattle, camels, horses, burros, and goats is the norm. Everything it seems likes these good roads.

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A boy driving camels down the highway.  Loose animals, like the burro on the right, roam seemingly unattended.  I saw few fences.

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In the small towns in this semi arid area, we saw several totally veiled women, faces covered totally except for their eyes.  Alemu informed us that this was a new thing, not seen until the last few years.  He seemed to think it had become fashionable to copy Saudi women.

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We stopped to look at certain plants beside the road.

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Dino recalled playing with these pretty green balls as a child with this forewarning,  “Do not eat them, do not touch your eyes or you will go blind.”  They are called the Apples of Sodom.

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At this juncture near the beginning of this adventure, I had not yet realized how everything in Ethiopia possesses symbolic meaning.

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We drove along this immense, lush valley for miles.  Alemu said this huge herd of cattle belonged to a semi nomadic group who brought their cattle here during the rainy season to graze and fatten.  A bit farther down the road the land belonged to one of the richest men in Ethiopia, indeed the world, Al Amoudi.  It was the only place where I saw a tractor actually used in a field.

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Arriving in Kombolcha, we saw this new college in the process of creation.  This became a common sight–new buildings, new schools, construction everywhere.

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My first hotel room in Ethiopia at the Sunny Side Hotel in Kombolcha complete with mosquito netting–the blue blob above the bed.  At least it had a shower and toilet.  Many places use the style of accommodations one finds in a lot of Asia.  Forget toilets as you know them–just a tiled area with a hole in the ground and the ever present water with which to wash.  We carried our own toilet paper just in case.  However, many places had both so customers could choose.