9.19.2008

(The picture is of our group, minus Anthony who was taking it. From
right to left, Paul, Luke, JH, me, David, Laura, Heather, and Meg.)

This Sabbath afternoon was the occasion of our most vigorous Sabbath
Stroll yet. After a large potluck lunch at Paul and Petra's house, we
decided to embark on our adventure. The members of our expedition
included myself and Paul, Joel Hatline (to be referred to as JH, to
avoid confusion) and Luke Pierson (American construction volunteers),
Meg, Heather, Laura, and David (British med students), and Anthony (an
Australian engineer.) We started out in the pouring rain, only to be
halted by the locked gate at the back of the hospital compound. The
guard who usually mans the gate, being much wiser than the crazy
faranjis, was inside somewhere, out of the rain. Determined not to
robbed of our Sabbath afternoon walk, Paul, JH, Luke and I hopped the
8 foot chainlink fence topped with barbed wire (sustaining a few minor
injuries) and continued on. At least for a few feet, until we
realized that the rest of the crew (those hailing from countries other
than the USA, I might add) had not followed our example. So we
graciously waited for them to go back up through the compound, out the
main gate, and then back down to where we were.

We proceeded down a steep, muddy road (it had stopped raining btw),
which turned into a trail, which turned into a meadow. By now the sun
was shining and as befitting the now exuberant spirit of the day, I
scampered down the path, practicing my mudskating skills, while the
others came along at a slightly more sedate pace. Next we came to a
small stream, which, to my slight dismay, everybody crossed without
incident (oh well, I guess we were all pretty wet, even without a swim
in the stream.) Then up a steep little hill we panted, serenaded by
the chatter of a group of excited young cowherds. Most of the people
here seem to view anybody with light skin as some sort of zoo
escapee--especially the kids. They're always excited to see a
faranji. Once up, we followed a few cowtrails around the curve of a
few more hills, dashing through the jungle, trying to chart a safe
path between the thistles and the mud. It was turning out to be a
gorgeous day!

It was at this point that I decided to climb higher up the hill we
were skirting in an effort to avoid a patch of underbrush. Because of
the steepness of the hill and my rate of ascent, and because it was
probably easier and definitely shorter to just go through the
underbrush, I was not joined by my companions. I was planning to drop
back down to meet up with them after clearing the brush, but I had not
counted on what I would find at the top of the hill. I got to the top
and was admiring the view, when I noticed two things. First, I saw a
tall hill in front of me, the tallest one around. We hadn't climbed
it before in our wanderings so it was definitely calling my name. I
was about to go back down to the group and head toward the hill with
them, but then I saw the second interesting sight; human heads bobbing
up and down beyond a row of bushes. Intrigued, I ventured over to see
what they were doing and discovered a fairly well-traveled path.
Enticed by this winding way, I stepped onto the path and was soon
skating down slick slope with the rest of the travelers.

The trail dipped into a valley below and crossed a rushing brown river
over a cool log bridge, before beginning to climb the tall hill I'd
had my eye on earlier. I was still separated from the rest of the
faranjis, but I figured the rest of the group would probably head for
the tall hill as well. So I started up. And up. And up. It was a
really steep hill! At one point I staggered through a herd of cows
and shortly after heard surprised shouts below me. "Youyouyouyou!"
Two small cowherds were apparently shocked to find that a faranji had
somehow appeared on the hillside above them (I guess they hadn't heard
my gasps as I passed them.) After a little while longer I finally
reached the top. And boy, what a view! The air was crystal clear and
I could see the hills and vallies roll for miles. I was on the side
facing the hospital and it looked surprising close (and it probably
was--as the crow flies anyway.) The side of the hill I'd been
climbing was mostly cleared, but at the top it was covered in a dense
forest. I waited for the others for a few minutes and then decided to
explore the forest. I circled through and stopped to take in the view
from the other side before coming back to look for my companions
again. They still were nowhere to be found.

By now it was about 4:45. I decided that the chances of meeting up
with the rest of the group were now probably pretty slim, so I decided
to forge on and check out another cool hill I'd sighted, to the north.
It was strangely pyramid-shaped, with a bunch of spiraling lines
circling it. It was bare except for a little patch of trees on the
top. I plotted my course to the hill from my lofty vantage point and
set off. Since I didn't have to worry about waiting for anybody else,
I ran down the slope and across the little valley. There was a few
houses and some people working out in their corn patches who I greeted
as I passed by. Then I crossed the path that I'd been following
earlier. There were still plenty of people walking back from town and
one young man accosted me as I burst onto the path. "Hey, were you
go?" "To that hill," I pointed, before continuing down into the forest
off the trail. Judging by the shouts behind me, they were definitely
not used to faranis' Sabbath walks--especially not ones who didn't
stick to the safe paths. I preferred to think that they were cheering
me on. I crossed another small stream at the bottom of the valley and
then headed up the pyramid. The sides were pretty rocky, and I think
the rocks were igneous, which might explain the curious shape of the
hill (or it might not--I'm definitely not a geologist!)

I reached the top around 5:00 and peered curiously into the gloomy
forested patch. I had to see what the forest was hiding at the very
top of this pyramid. Unfortunately, this forest patch was blanketed
with nettles. Now, I don't know if any of you have had previous
experience with nettles, but they're nasty stinging plants. And these
were african nettles--they bite even through your clothes. Now I was
really curious to see if anything special was at the top of the
pyramid, both hidden by the forest and guarded by the nettles. So I
armed myself with a stick and set about creating a path into the
center. After a few minutes of flailing, I broke through the ring of
nettles and found myself at the base of an enormous tree. It was
higher than all the others and right at the peak of the pyramid. It
was pretty cool:) But there was nothing else terribly exciting that I
could see, and since it was getting on towards sunset, I figured I'd
better head back. I whacked a path back to the outside world and got
my bearings for the return trip. The route I'd followed thus far was
two sides of a narrow triangle, with long sides and a relatively short
base, between the two hills. I could see the Hospital from where I
was at; it's set on a the side of a hill and is a pretty good
landmark.

I set off running down the side of my pyramid and circled around to
follow a ridge that was roughly in line with the Hospital. This was
probably my favorite part of the trip, running into the sunset,
following the little trail as it dropped down the ridgeline,
zigzagging through the woods, darting through bokolo (corn) fields,
and through little clusters of huts. Occasionally I would come around
a corner to see a few of the inhabitants of the huts. I can only
imagine the thoughts going through these people's heads as they hoed
their gardens or washed their clothes or whatever, peacefully whiling
away the hours, only to be abruptly startled out of their daily
routine as a crazy faranji dashed through their backyard, with a
brief, cheerful, "Fayadha!" The adults were merely startled, but the
kids were always terribly excited. Several even followed me for a
little bit. Finally the trail dropped into a valley and turned right,
following a large stream. I needed to cross the stream to continue my
line back to the Hospital, but I couldn't find any way across which
didn't involve fording the flooded stream. So, I found a decent
place, took off my shoes and socks and rolled up my pants, and waded
across. This is where I sustained my only other injury of note (the
first being when I tumbled over the fence), twisting my ankle slightly
between two rocks as I forded the river. Fortunately it wasn't
serious, and I was able to continue on without much trouble. I
climbed the hill on the other side, and thanks to the help of a
friendly farmer, found my way back onto familiar territory, coming out
onto another path, which we'd traveled down on previous Sabbath hikes.
I returned to the Hospital without incident, arriving about 6:10.

Petra and Shaunda were just heading out the door to go play for the
patients, so I changed and joined them. By now I was feeling the
effects of my vigorous excursion, and despite my large lunch, was
famished, as well as tired. We played some hymns on each of the wards
and then headed back to the house for some much-appreciated supper and
rest.

For those who were wondering about the rest of the group, they
eventually made their way up to the tall hill, arriving there about
the time I was getting to the top of the pyramid. From that point
they turned south and headed back to Gimbie (whereas I had ventured
north.) They managed to find a swamp on the way back and from what I
heard (and saw), had an exciting time; especially when the mud came
over the top of Laura's wellies (boots). :) But they all got back
safely, a little while after I did.

All in all, it was a wonderful expedition!

P.S. Thanks for the comments on the blogs. I can't actually see my
blog once it's posted (Blogger is blocked here--I email posts to my
blog and it emails me the comments); hence the lack of replies, but I
do appreciate the feedback. If you want to get in touch with me and
actually get a response, email (sonic1100atgmaildotcom) is the best
way.

Excelsior!

6 comments:

  1. What a fun adventure!!!

    Alas, I should be writing a paper, but your blog was much more fun to read. Have a great week!

    Blessings!

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  2. How exciting! (I'm sorry about your ankle. Be careful! [goodness, i sound like mom. oh well, that's a good thing :D])

    Miss ya

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  3. I enjoyed your account. I can remember getting similar responses from the natives when I went jogging in Thailand.

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  4. How exciting! It sounds like you and Ethiopia mesh well together. ;D

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  5. Awesome story Joel! It's good to hear how everything is going in Ethiopia right now. Take care of my two siblings for me! :) God bless!

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  6. joel, i enjoyed your story. it is good to hear from you. i miss you and pray for you often.

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