We're not in Kansas any more, Toto!!

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Mar 02, 2010

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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Sunday, February 14, 2010

OK,  maybe this is not the land of OZ, no Munchkins, but from a cultural standpoint, it is the most unusual place I've visited in my life.  Over three days we spend time in four different areas, none more then a 50 KM journey, but the going is slow, all dirt roads.  The towns and villages are Key Afer,  Omorate, Turmi and Dimeka.  I am about as far south in Ethiopia as possible, the town of Ormate is only 25 KM from either Kenya and Sudan.  It is hot and dusty.  When we cross the Omo River via a log hewned canoe, the muddy water looks very inviting. 

The trip has been planned around the colorful market days.  When I can upload photo's you'll see what I mean.  Each tribe has it's own distinctive style of dress, hair and jewelry.  At most of the markets, the women do the selling and the men socialize.  The men all carry a walking stick and 'berkato'. The berkato serves dual purposes.  First, it is a low chair, only 4 to 6 inces tall.  I sampled sitting on one, pretty comfortable!!  Second purpose is a pillow, so if you want to lie down, it protects your hair from getting messy.  This does not appy to me. 

People are selling some agricultural products, maize, sorgum, tobacco and honey, but the land here lends itself better to livestock.  The tribes tend to be pastoral, they will move from place to place as needed to survive. 
Livestock is the sign of wealth, particularly cattle.  Cattle are seldom killed for the meat.  Instead they are raised for the milk and butter....oh yes, and blood.  Blood is a food staple, poke a hole in a vein, drain some blood, cocktails anyone??  OK, I can't resist...Bloody Mary??
The meat consumption is primarily goat. 

A man cannot marry his first wife until he has accumulated at least 15 to 20 head of cattle, this is the dowry paid to the parents of the bride.  Also, it's quite acceptable for the husband to have a second and sometimes a third wife, but he first has to accumulate the cattle.  This can get quite expensive!!  Unlike some cultures where the husband and all wives live together, the wives live in separate villages and do not become friends.  The first wife wears a distinctive piece of neck 'jewelry' to signify her status, second and third wives wear less flasy neck ornaments.  So if a husband has a prblem with wife number one, no problem, just visit the next village over.

Of particular interest are the Hamer women, they are quite stiking in any number of ways. They all wear a goatskin 'dress',  colorful beads, copper bracelets, distinctive neck jewlelry, and a hair style you most likely will never see anywhere else in the world.  The hair is treated with a combination of red soil, butter and incense to form thick plates of nearly shoulder length hair.
This treatment is done weekly.   When I post the photo's you will be making an appointment with your local hair stylist?    Oh yes, and I am told the women NEVER wash their hair.  Maybe the reason for ingredient number three- incense?

I have lots of other factoids to add to this entry, but I'll wait until I get home.

The stay here was interesting, but once in a lifetime is probably enough for me.  The people are distinctive, but I did not feel they were particulary friendly.  Commerce rules, every photo requires payment.  Some smiles, but lots of stern looks.  I did not have a problem with this, but the atmosphere is lacking.  I've talked to a few hard core adventurists who have lived and documented the Hamer lifestylye and they say it is different when you have a full immersion.  Never say never, but I don't think this is going to happen to me.

Next is traveling back to Arba Minch via Konso. 

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