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Popcorn, slightly sweet: a traditional Ethiopian snack

Popcorn, slightly sweet: a traditional Ethiopian snack

An invitation to attend a coffee ceremony is considered to be a warm gesture of friendship and respect in Ethiopia, where coffee is an integral part of the society and culture.  The coffee ceremony customarily takes place in the morning, at noon and once again in the evening each day; it is the community’s main social event and a time to discuss life, politics and exchange news.  UNFPA and The Condom Project set up a Coffee Ceremony Zone at the 2011 International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa in order to give participants a space to relax in a traditional Ethiopian setting; to discuss condoms and their role in HIV prevention; and to enjoy coffee, cultural snacks, and take away Ethiopian coffee flavored condoms as a souvenir.

Coffee Ceremony Zone, under construction

Coffee Ceremony Zone, under construction

CONDOMIZE Coffee Ceremony Zone, after set up!

Coffee Ceremony Zone, after set up!

Me in the Zone, discussing male and female condoms with a group of women from the Community Village

Me in the Zone, discussing male and female condoms with a group of women from the Community Village

The Ethiopian coffee ceremony can be performed at any time of day and is traditionally conducted by a young woman dressed in cultural clothing, made of airy white fabric with colorful woven borders.  She begins by arranging the ceremonial items on a bed of long, fragrant grass; incense is lit and the coffee beans are roasted in a flat pan over a small charcoal stove.  Once the coffee beans have turned from bright green to black, the guests are invited to breathe in their smoky aroma as she wafts it toward them from the pan.  The freshly roasted beans are ground by hand with a mortar and pestle then slowly stirred into a traditional black clay coffee pot, round at the bottom with a colorful straw top.  The coffee is gracefully poured into tiny cups, the first being served to the eldest person in the room, and then to the others.  This is done in order to symbolically connect all the generations.

Pouring the coffee in an uninterrupted stream

Pouring the coffee in an uninterrupted stream

Guests enjoying coffee on the first day of ICASA 2011

Guests enjoying coffee on the first day of ICASA 2011

It is considered impolite to excuse yourself until you have enjoyed at least three cups of coffee, as the third round is said to hold a blessing.  The “spirit is transformed” during the coffee ceremony through the consumption of Abol (the first round), Tona (the second round) and finally Baraka (the third round).

The Ethiopian military taking a coffee break in our Zone

The Ethiopian military taking a coffee break in our Zone

Coffee condoms, blue jean condoms and condoms for CONDOMIZE at ICASA 2011

Coffee condoms, blue jean condoms and the condoms that we made just for ICASA 2011

According to Ethiopian folklore, coffee was discovered when a goat herder from Kaffa found his goats dancing with excitement in an area where coffee plants were growing wild in the hills.  He noticed a few chewed branches of the plant with bright red berries and decided to taste them himself – after which he hurried home to share the amazing discovery with his wife.  She urged him to tell the monks, who immediately threw the “sinful drug” into the flames of a fire… The monastery soon filled with the delicious smell of freshly roasted coffee beans.  The monks raked the beans out of the fire, crushed them, then distilled them in boiling water.  After staying up through night to investigate the substance, the monks discovered a renewed energy and commitment to their holy devotions.

Coffee table, hand-carved in traditional style

Coffee table, hand-carved in traditional style

Bountiful coffee condoms

Bountiful coffee condoms

Facilitating a discussion on the benefits of condom use

Facilitating a discussion on the benefits of condom use

And we hope that our Coffee Ceremony Zone helped to provide a renewed energy toward global condom programming for the participants at ICASA 2011 🙂

"… Don't Compromise!"

"… Don't Compromise!"

More images from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the 2011 International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa coming soon…

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On the road to Jinka

On the road to Jinka

Before leaving Ethiopia for my Female Condom expert meetings in South Africa, I had the opportunity to take a trip south to the Omo Valley with my team. We flew from Addis Ababa into Arba Minch (which is Amharic for 40 Springs) and stayed at the beautifully rustic Paradise Lodge, which boasts an incredible view of The Bridge of God – this is the land bridge that divides Lake Abaya and Lake Chamo, the home of Nechisar National Park.

Suits made in Arba Minch, from traditional Ethiopian cloth

Suits made in Arba Minch, from traditional Ethiopian cloth

Tree and Toe poses, with a tree-top view of The Bridge of God

Tree and Toe poses, with a tree-top view of The Bridge of God

Adri overlooking Nechisar National Park

Adri overlooking Nechisar National Park

Outside our room at the Lodge

Outside our room at the Lodge

Our gorgeous ceiling… Why can't I have this in NYC?

Our gorgeous ceiling… Why can't I have this in NYC?

In bed, under my mosquito net

In bed, under my mosquito net

After spending a day relaxing at Paradise Lodge, we left before sunrise the following morning for a long drive into the Omo Valley. This was an incredible trip and my first this far south in the Ethiopian countryside. During the drive, small children dance for the cars that pass along the road – in exchange for the entertainment they ask only for a small gift of any empty plastic bottles, which is a valued form of currency. Empty water bottles, given primarily by travelers in this region, are sold during market days so that locals can transport water from the source back to their villages.

Children dancing along the road

Children dancing along the road

A village in the countryside

A village in the countryside

Traditional rural homes in Ethiopia

Traditional rural homes in Ethiopia

During the drive south, we often found our vehicle surrounded by herds of animals walking slowly between villages. As I love animals, this was a particular treat for me!

People and animals going to market

People and animals going to market

Herd of goats grazing

Herd of goats grazing

Donkeys en route

Donkeys en route

Busy herd of cows

Busy herd of cows

A lazy calf

A lazy calf

We stopped for food in Konso, a small town at the entrance to the Omo Valley. During meals, Ethiopians will give a “gorsha” to show friendship and love. A gorsha is when one person feeds another person with their hand, and I have heard various meanings associated with the number of gorshas given: it is generally signified that one gorsha is for friends, two gorshas are for family and three gorshas are for lovers. Haile, our guide in Southern Ethiopia, told me that gorshas given to women are traditionally 1/3 the size of those given to men… He had obviously never seen me eat before.

Haile and me, eating tibs in Konso

Haile and me, eating tibs in Konso

Me with Adrian, who everyone thought was my husband. If you know us, you know that that is hilarious.

Me with Adrian, who everyone thought was my husband. If you know us, you know that that is hilarious.

While in Jinka, Haile invited us to his family’s house for a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony

Haile with his family

Haile with his family

Me, meeting Haile's little cousin

Me, meeting Haile's little cousin

Sharing the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans

Sharing the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans

Adrian with the family

Adrian with the family

Joshua and his new best friend

Joshua and his new best friend

Smiling, after coffee and popcorn

Smiling, after coffee and popcorn

Up next: photos from Market Day in Jinka and our morning with the crocodiles and hippos!

Much love and many thanks, as always, for reading… xojl

Much love and many thanks, as always, for reading… xojl

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How good to migrate anew everyday. And how beautiful to settle anew everyday.
– Rumi, via Dream and Reality at Istanbul Modern

November in Arba Mich, Ethiopia

November in Arba Minch, Ethiopia

It is sunrise here in Istanbul, and I find myself awake and listening to the sounds of a distant mosque’s call to morning prayer.  Lying in bed and scrolling through my photos, I am overwhelmed by how lucky I am to be able to travel around the world and do what I love for a living.

I am truly grateful for the experiences I have had…

Turkish coffee with a friend in the Tophane District of Istanbul, Turkey

Coffee with a friend in the Tophane District of Istanbul, Turkey

Evenings in Arba Minch, Ethiopia

Evenings in Arba Minch, Ethiopia

the people I have met…

the people I have met…

Market Day in Jinka, Ethiopia

Market Day in Jinka, Ethiopia

Outside a family home in Ethiopia's Omo Valley

Outside a family home in Ethiopia's Omo Valley

Ethiopia's Hammer Tribe

Ethiopia's Hammer Tribe

the beautiful things I have seen…

the beautiful things I have seen…

"Bridge of God" in southern Ethiopia

"Bridge of God" in southern Ethiopia

Baboons outside of the Ethiopian Crocodile Market

Baboons outside of the Ethiopian Crocodile Market

Donkeys on the road to Konso, Ethiopia

Donkeys on the road to Konso, Ethiopia

Sand sculptures on the beach in Durban, South Africa

Sand sculptures on the beach in Durban, South Africa

and all of the wonderful work I am privileged to do.

and all of the wonderful work I am privileged to do.

Gathering for an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony & teaching women how to use a Female Condom

Gathering for an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony & educating women about the Female Condom

Taking questions on stage in my CONDOMIZE Zone at ICASA 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Taking questions on stage in my CONDOMIZE Zone at ICASA 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

And with gratitude for your loving support and kind attention…

With gratitude for your loving support and kind attention –

More from me soon.  xojl

More from me soon. xojl

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After my trip to Egypt this fall (see my post about A Day In Cairo), I returned to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the Marathon Meeting for the International Conference on AIDS & STIs in Africa.  As many of you know, I have been back on the African continent since November 1st and am now preparing for CONDOMIZE at ICASA 2011 next week.  But before writing about my time here now, I wanted to first post a few pictures from the fall…

Sheep grazing down the road from BL Guesthouse

Sheep grazing down the road from BL Guesthouse

My neighbors

My room on the garden at the BL Guesthouse

My room on the garden at the BL Guesthouse

Three essentials in my work - condoms, coffee & shoes

Three essentials in my work - condoms, coffee & shoes

The following photos were taken at Memnon, an Ethiopian company that is creating and printing all of the CONDOMIZE tshirts for ICASA 2011.  The United Nations Population Fund felt that it was very important our CONDOMIZE ICASA products were Made In Ethiopia this year, and I am proud to say that we have been working closely with local manufacturers and purveyors to ensure that everything possible (shirts, condoms, even the furniture in our CONDOMIZE Zones) is Habesha.

CONDOMIZE silkscreens at Memnon

CONDOMIZE silkscreens at Memnon

CONDOMIZE silk screen

Silk screen printing

Silk screen printing

The photos that follow were taken at the ICASA 2011 Marathon Meeting, during which many of the important decisions about the all-Africa conference are made:

Inside the Marathon Meeting room

Inside the Marathon Meeting room

Meeting in progress

Meeting in progress

Tizu and me, setting up for CONDOMIZE

Tizu and me, setting up for CONDOMIZE

Sisay and Tizu

Sisay and Tizu

À la mode - Condom Art Pins!

À la mode - Condom Art Pins!

We were also invited to a lunch and traditional coffee ceremony at the house of Sisay and his mother.  Sisay has been our driver and a TCP team member since 2005 – and his mother is an incredible cook!  It was such a pleasure to be invited into their home 🙂

Sisay

Sisay

Sisay's mother and little neighbor

Sisay's mother and little neighbor

251 is the country code when dialing an Ethiopian phone number from abroad…

More photos soon from November & December, here in Ethiopia… xojl

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