A religious experience

Trip Start Jun 17, 2008
Trip End Jul 05, 2008

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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Saturday, June 21, 2008

Awoke this morning to the sound of prayers being broad casted over loud speakers.  Very beautiful in our Eden-Like setting.  And fitting since today is a tour of monasteries on Lake Tana.  There is actually a school right next to our hotel where young men go to study to be priests.  This is one of the most sought after professions here!  Men go to school (which must be in a different town so they know no one).  They also give up all their possessions and own nothing.  To eat, they venture into the town to beg from the local townspeople in order to be humbled.  Later they will serve these people who supported them throughout their studies.  Gee, do you ever feel that you come from the most selfish culture in the world?

Religion permeates here and God works his way into most conversations.  On our ride to the boat, we was many people praying up against a wall.  According to Kashz, there was a service going on, but these people were 'unclean' in the biblical sense, so they could not go inside.  So they were worshiping outside the perimeter of the property.  I couldn't believe the dedication of these people! 

Speaking with our guide on the boat ride, he was telling us that they believe this IS the area where Eden could have been.  Believing that the Nile was once called the Ghion (one of the rivers to flow out of Eden) flows right into Tana - the lake we were now on. Lake Tana has over 20 monasteries - most only accessible by boat, and are completely closed to women. 

The monasteries were much more humble than I was thinking. I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I must have had some European cathedral built up in my mind or something...But the Ethiopian priests actually tried to hide their monasteries, so that all glory would go to God, not to man or the building.  These are simply places of reverence and worship. 

There are 3 chambers to the building:  outer, inner, and the Holy of Holies to represent the holy trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  All shoes, must of course be taken off before entering, and the Holy of Holies is off limits.  All walls are painted with murals showing stories from the bible to serve as teaching aids to those who could not read.  There are many ancient books and crowns of kings that have been saved from the 13th century...Amazing. Later that afternoon was a trip through a large market.  I had fun shooting some of the commotion with my hidden camera.  Bought some raw coffee beans, and a traditional style coffee pot so I can attempt to make this when I get home.  This trip through the market was far too short for me, as I love to see the local interactions of people, but rush we must as we're driving to Gonder this afternoon. 

The drive was fascinating to see the different landforms that are here.  Again, I've got to get this dry, desolate image of Ethiopia out of my head!  
We traveled over beautiful mountainous terrain around switchback curves seeing little mountaintop villages.  Lines on the road mean nothing.  Just a honk of the horn and around you go - whether it be vehicle, person or animal.  People must walk for hours and hours to get to their destinations, as no one ones a vehicle.  

Gonder is a town full of ancient castles which we will explore tomorrow!
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