Negelle, Harekello, Garbi, and a Whole Roasted Goat.

We arrived in Negelle in the middle of the afternoon on Monday, checked into the hotel, and had a little while to let our teeth stop rattling in our skulls after the long drive. Kote met us at the hotel shortly after we arrived, and after a brief chat we headed out to what we thought was a planning dinner with the crew, Abdi, and Kote, but what turned out to be a full civic reception with local, district, and zone officials, elders, friends, and assorted others at a large gathering at one of the hotels in town. Surprise number one. To make things even more fun the power failed almost immediately after we arrived, so we ate dinner under the stars in the hotel’s courtyard by candle light. Many many speeches (an Ethiopian specialty), we returned to our hotel very full and very tired. Due to the extreme drought situation in the south, we were showerless, toiletless, and relying on the use of the waterless squat toilets. Darren managed to get locked in his room that morning as apparently the inner door handle was not connected or something… we are not quite sure how he managed to do it to this day, as someone else later stayed in that room and had no troubles…

After freeing Darren we went to visit the girl’s hostel in Negelle, which was a wonderfully uplifting experience. All of us on the trip have agreed that it was an excellent investment for the Rotary club. The regional administration had decided within the last few months to make the facility an all girls dorm, and currently there are 234 girls living in the hostel. The rooms were very clean and organized, even after a year of occupancy, the grounds were well maintained, and the girls seemed to have organized themselves into some sort of administrative and social structure. While I do not know the exact figure of the Rotary contribution, I am fairly certain it was around twenty thousand dollars, making the per capita investment approximately one hundred dollars a student. And that figure only applies to the first year of operation. Spread that even over a very few years, and the hostel is an amazing bang for the buck.

After that Kote took us for a tour of the rural areas around Nagelle, to villages that his organization has been trucking water to in the last few weeks as most areas have lost their water supplies this dry season. We got to see the water truck he is running in the area, as well as one of the distribution points, a school in one of the villages, which not only allowed them to dump water into the large cisterns there, but meant the school would stay open as well as they would have water for the staff and children. We also got to see a traditional well, which is essentially a hand dug hole down to the water level. The water is brought up by a chain of men slinging 5 liter buckets up and down the side of the hole to a trough built at the top to water the livestock.

When we returned to Nagelle we met with the medical director of the hospital for which the medical container is destined. We toured the facilities which are spartan and ill equipped, discussing what was in the container and what challenges the hospital was dealing with. On a more positive note, they is a lot of construction on the hospital grounds of new wards being built, including a just finished AIDS support ward that should be opening in a few weeks.

We had a small breather back at the hotel after that before we all headed out again to dinner at the Darara Orphanage, a private project of Chris and Kathy Andersen. We were greeted by all 15 children lined up outside their home in their best clothes singing a welcome song to us in near perfect english. Then we were all presented with a flower and big hugs. The people who work there, the children, and parents are all amazing people and the whole evening was a very heartwarming experience.

The next morning we went through the ritual which Bruce simplifies into these major steps: the getting ready phase, the sitting around phase, the milling about phase, and the waiting in the car phase, which proceed every departure. We have found that once things stop in Ethiopia, it takes an especially long time to get them moving again, which leads to planned schedules being mostly useless. Jim was not feeling well and making frequent trips to the toilet, while Dean had started having stomach cramps and other issues during the night, so both opted to stay put at the hotel. Unfortunately we were going to be spending the night in Filtu, so this meant that they would be spending the night alone and missing out on some activities, but they were in no state to travel, so they made the right decision. The rest of us headed West and North out of Negelle to visit Harekello and Garbi that morning.

We met with JemJem in Harekello at their compound to sort out the plan a bit, and then had breakfast in one of the restaurants in the village. After that we headed out of Harekello to Garbi school, a remote site out in the bush about thirty minutes away. It’s a community funded school built in order to keep their children closer to home instead of having to walk into Harekello everyday. When we arrived they were busy digging a base and crushing rocks in to gravel for a cistern that would collect water off the new tin-roofed structure they were constructing. As of now all they have is the frame and the roof on it, but there is already a class using the structure. They also have two other classroom buildings built with thatched roofs, but one especially has a wicked lean to the whole building now. They also have a female teacher there, one of the few small community schools to do so. The community there is working very hard to improve their school’s facilities, and we were very impressed with them.

After that we went back into Harekello to visit the large school there and discuss the arrival of the education container as it is intended that the container will be dropped there to be sorted and distributed, and that they would keep the container afterwards. We also visited the girls hostel at the school there, which, while much smaller than the Negelle facility, has been in operation a year longer and houses between fourty and fifty girls. The extra time the girls have spent there was apparent in the decorations they had furnished their rooms with and all the personal touches they had made, whereas in Negelle it still had quite a strong institutional feel to the rooms. Here too the girls have formed their own support groups and networks as many of their families do not support their decision to move away and attend school, so they have a second family of sorts in their peers.

After that it was back to the compound in Harekello to have lunch, which turned out once again to be the Harekello signature dish, a whole roasted goat. The consensus is that it was the best tasting goat we had in our entire trip south. Most of us ended up with whole legs on our plates and much more than we could ever hope to eat. After that we were presented with traditional clothing, as well as the two women received traditional honey containers full of traditionally collected honey. The short coming of these containers, we were warned, is that the tops do not seal, so they must be kept upright. Bruce was entrusted with Mary Ann’s container, as he was up front in our car and had more room to keep it. We then headed back to Negelle as we had to pass back through town to go to Filtu, which is East of Negelle. We also hoped that Jim and Dean might be feeling better and decide to join us. There is a checkpoint on the road outside of Negelle which monitors commercial traffic, either for taxation reasons or to prevent smuggling of contraband, we aren’t quite sure. There is a chain that is put across the road so that all traffic has to be let through by the police. When we pulled up to this stop, the conversation was something like as follows:

Mary Ann: What’s this stop here for?
Bruce: Probably to tax commercial traffic or monitor the flow of goods.
Mary Ann: (Jokingly)  Don’t tell them about the honey then!
Mike: I think I smell honey…
Bruce: Oh damn!

As you can probably tell, Bruce had just recently forgot about the canister of honey at his feet and it had fallen over, spilling its contents onto the floor of the truck. Our driver shot Bruce an evil eye, but said it was Ok. Luckily, the truck has vinyl floors, not carpet.

We got back to hotel and our driver quickly washed the sticky soup out of the bottom of his truck. Keep this fact in mind, as it becomes more relevant later. We were disappointed to learn that neither of the guys were feeling much better or up to any traveling. So we saddled back up into two of the three trucks (without two of our crew three trucks would have been overkill), and headed out to Filtu. As usual, we were running later than we had hoped to and we had a serious drive to complete before sunset, so we were in a bit of a rush.

I am almost out of time on the internet here, so I am going to have to sign off here. I hope to have the rest of the trip written up and posted within the next twenty four hours though, so stay tuned as a lot of the best things on trip happened in the waning hours of our adventures. Until next time,

Mike

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One Response to “Negelle, Harekello, Garbi, and a Whole Roasted Goat.”

  1. Fikru Yohannes Says:

    Thanks to visit our Guji area. “Galati keessan hin badin, isinis achumaan hin badina deebi’aa nu dawwadha, wanti isin hin dhaggin baay’eetu jira”. Turn back and visit us again, there are so many things what you haven’t seen.

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