The Dorze People - Renowned Cotton Weavers

Trip Start Oct 11, 2012
Trip End Nov 19, 2012

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What I did
Chencha - Dorze mountaintop village
Shashamane - Rastafari settlement

Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I woke up just before six am & tried to get back to sleep but ended up getting up and talking Jillie into getting up and out before breakfast.  We took a few photos of Langano Lake - the hotel is right on the lake.  We saw a mother duck and her ducklings.  Then we had breakfast - I had a lovely omelet.  At 8:30 we headed out - I now joined Jillie, Annie & Mick.  Mick was queasy so he got the front seat.  That was fine - I had a window.  We drove through great countryside and all of us started to take photos from the 4x4 - trying to get wagons and mules, haystacks, people - there were loads of interesting things to try to photograph.  The landscape was composed of fields of crops -- barley?, maize, teff, potatoes - hmmm, what else?  The plant with the yellow flowers, maybe some oil crop.

There were charming little round, thatched huts made of wattle and daub and other buildings of the same construction.  I was trying to figure out what the smaller round huts near the road were.  Kibrom later verified that they were for storage.  We also went through a few larger towns and some small villages.  Almost everywhere there were people walking along the roadside and cattle, goats, mules and donkeys, though not so many horses as before.

Our first stop was for drinks after we had passed through a village where the farmers wore tall, colored straw hats.  Haile came back to the restaurant wearing one so then several of us, including me of course, went to get one too.  They are very well-constructed.  I forgot to go to the restroom in all the excitement and then had a coke and had to swill it down because we were leaving.  We then stopped for lunch.  What did I have to eat - oh, yeah - vegetable soup and vegetables.  Vegetables here translate into carrots, potatoes, cabbage and a little onion.  Tasty but I am yearning for some green vegetables (not counting cabbage).

Somewhere we stopped on a hillside lookout and got to take photos of kids and a mother and baby.  The mother asked for money and deserved it - the kids didn't get any for their performance of singing unless Kibrom tipped them. We had stopped earlier by a bridge where we took photos of people as well - mostly little boys.  It still feels uncomfortable.

Our final stop was Chencha, a Dorze village on a mountain top.  We had to drive up a washed out dirt road for quite awhile .  It was a really bad road, but we ran into, i.e., encountered, two buses I think.  It is hard to imagine how they made it.  Annie (from New Zealand) said she wouldn't want to see mules pulling carts up such a horribly steep road. 

The Dorze are famous for their two-story houses constructed from bamboo and the false banana plant leaves.  We went inside one.  Then we took photos of a man weaving, some women spinning cotton yarn, a woman making tortilla-liker bread from the starchy substance in the false banana plant.  We watched her stripping the substance off the plant stem, mashing it up, then rolling out the fermented dough on a false banana leaf.  It was then cooked over the fire.  Kibrom gave us pieces of it with a honey and a pepper sauce.  It was quite tasty with the sauces.  Apparently, it is a staple food of Southern Ethiopia.

We continued our tour of the village - taking photos as we went and having the village children follow us trying to sell us pottery, beads, and calabash containers.  Kibrom kept chasing them away - to no avail.  When we turned around to go back, we were left to their mercy and they hounded us, cajoling us and shaming us.  The young boy attaching himself to me asked where I was from and when I told him the US, he yelled "oh, USA is rich country."  He said I could easily buy his stuff or give him a tip of ten dollars instead.  We eventually got away from them - not before I bought some hand-woven cotton scarves from a woman.  Annie's guidebook said that they did the nicest weaving here in all of Ethiopia.

We didn't realize it then, but the Dorze village was probably the least awkward visit to a village we would encounter.  It had been organized so that we paid for the privilege of taking photos of the Dorze people in daily activities up front through Exodus and did not have to pay for individual photos.  Despite the persistence of those selling items, we did not have to negotiate the pitfalls of paying for photos.  It is hard to conceive of a way to make this process totally positive for both the villagers and the tourists, but I think the Dorze way was the best.  For us, at least.  I hope it was worth it for them as well.  I don't think we bought much from them though.  I know I am put off when people are too aggressive.

When we left the village, it was dark.  I now had the middle seat and could see all the craters, bumps, ruts in the road.  It seemed like a long drive.  We went past tons of people walking on the road and sitting next to candles.  We found out later that it was returning college students gathering for an outdoor meal.  We made it to our hotel and went almost straight to dinner at 8 pm.  Some folks took time for a hot shower.  I wasn't that organized.  I did do my laundry after dinner because we stay here 2 nights.  Tomorrow we have breakfast at 6:30 am and leave at 7:30.  I won't have time to download my photos and I will have to plug in the computer tomorrow.  Hopefully.  Right now the power is out. We just had quite a rainstorm too.

Another shortish blog entry.  Maybe not so short after all.  If I forgot anything, I will have to add it later.

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