When we left the Ape Shit Squad last, they were galavanting across the plains of Ethiopia. We catch up with them in Axum, an ancient city that dates back to biblical times. Chase is involved with a school in this area so we wanted to see the progress, and get to know some of the kids.
One of the things people in Ethiopia love to do, as a gift to their touring friends, is prepare a meal and perform a coffee ceremony.
Coffee in the US is typically something you pick up on the go, and drink to keep relatively coherent while your body tries to cope with the harshness of sitting at a desk for 8 hours straight. Coffee in Ethiopia is more of an experience, it's drunk slowly over an hour, and the person who is providing the coffee considers it a great honor to be making the ceremony for you. Think of it like having people over for dinner at your house. We had the great honor of sitting in the principal of the school's home to eat and drink coffee with him. They killed one of their chickens for us, and made us some amazing food and coffee. It was truly a unique experience.
After our great experience in Axum, Abs took us to a lodge about 5 hours south. It was the first time we had traveled by car on this trip, and the view was absolutely stunning. We arrived in Hawazen right around sunset, and, in true Ape Shit Squad tradition, we hunkered down to give thanks to the sunset gods. Some of the locals decided to join us this time, and Nick decided to infiltrate them with knowledge of the West by teaching them how to play Angry Birds.
Let's be clear: the Ape Shit Squad does not like rival gangs. When we sat down for dinner, we discovered one such gang was also there that called themselves "Imagine Ethiopia". Before we went to bed for the night, we needed to show our dominance over this rival gang by taking over their schedule board for the next day. Needless to say, they were very impressed with our travel schedule, but decided not to mount a full fledge gang fight with us.
An amazing thing about Ethiopia is that you get a chance to see a culture that hasn't really changed a whole lot in the last 1,000 years. Sure, they have modern clothes and some slightly modern tools, but their culture is almost night-and-day different to ours. There are no 7-11's or Walmarts, so people come into town and trade goods with each other in a central market. They actually sell their products to people they know, and they bring goods they have painstakingly worked on all week to sell.
After a quick nap, we went a little deeper into the culture by going into the mountains and meeting with another of Abs's friends who he met by pulling over on the side of the road one day with his family. They had a sick friend with them, so Abs pulled over and knocked on the first door he saw. The family literally opened their doors and took care of Abs's friend and nursed her back to health. In Ethiopia, there is no intrinsic distrust of people knocking on your door at any time, day or night. You can walk up to someone's house and they will let you in, talk to you, have meaningful conversation, and/or feed you. It's really quite strange to imagine that happening in the States.
We stayed at Abs's friends house until sunset, and had heard about the wild hyena that roams the territory. This was of pique interest to the Ape Shit Squad because well, we basically are a pack of hyenas. As the sun set on our final destination, we drove home in the darkness with only our iphone lights to guide our search for the illusive hyena.
And as fast as it began, we were done. Back to a world where we had responsibilities, jobs, friends, clean water, and bathrooms that had seats in them. It's hard to describe what spending time in a country like this does to a person's soul. You come home with such great appreciation of all the modern conveniences we have in our country, but there is also a part of you that wishes you could live as simply as a lot of people do there. You know you can't ever move there, but part of you wants nothing more than to be on the top of those hills watching the sun set every day. But, I think that's the point. You're supposed to experience these places so that you can come home and have a different perspective than you did when you left. It keeps you grounded, it lets you know that your perspective isn't the only perspective. If nothing else, we come home and share these stories of a far off place that most will never get the privilege to go to. And, hopefully, it will inspire others to form your own Ape Shit Squad and share their own amazing stories with the people they care about.
Until next time, Ethiopia.