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At the market

At the market

It was a wonderful coincidence that we happened to be arriving in Jinka on a Market Day, which is a time when Ethiopian tribes travel from many kilometers away in order to buy, sell and trade their goods.  We met beautiful people from the Mursi, Banna, Ari and Hamer tribes…

A warm welcome to the market

A warm welcome to the market

Traditional jewelry

Traditional jewelry

Haile, our guide while in Souther Ethiopia, told us that the traditional lip plates of the Mursi tribe were originally used to discourage men in Kenya from “stealing” the Mursi women.  The tribe realized that their female population was steadily decreasing due to the “theft” of their beautiful women by Kenyan men, and so women began wearing the lip plates as a deterrent to thieves.  After removing the woman’s bottom front teeth, the first (and smallest) of a series of plates is inserted into the lower lip.  In order to stretch the lip, the plate is gradually replaced by plates that are larger in diameter over a period of time.

A beautiful Mursi woman

A beautiful Mursi woman

Other interesting things that we learned from Haile: children whose first teeth come up through the bottom jaw are considered to be extremely bad luck, and they are often killed if they are found to have this “defect”.  Tribes in the Omo River Region do not count their age or the exact number of their populations.  And it is customary for the men to receive 37 cows and a gun when they marry – men may take up to 5 wives.

Adrian and me with people from the Omo River Region

Adrian and me with people from the Omo River Region

The next time I visit, I hope to be able to spend some time with people from the Bodi tribe as well.  I love to eat, and so I am particularly interested in learning more about their Fattening Ceremony!  As far as Haile explained it to me, it involves the consumption of milk and blood as a ritual in celebration of growth and strength.

Me, with a local gentleman

Me, with a local gentleman

Making new friends...

Making new friends...

… LOTS of new friends!

… LOTS of new friends!

The following lovely ladies were so insistent upon giving me two metal bracelets to take home, but they did not slide onto my write easily while we were standing in the hot sun.  As a result, they proceeded to spit onto my arm until the bracelets fit.  True story.

The lovely, spitting ladies

The lovely, spitting ladies

Haile is an incredible guide and operates his business utilizing the concept of community-based tourism.  He speaks English, Amharic and several of the local languages spoken in the Omo River Region.  He is well versed in local customs and easily bridges the cultures of travelers and tribes native to the valley.

Walking with Haile, our guide

Walking with Haile, our guide

Joshua, Franck and me

Joshua, Franck and me

Adrian, laughing

Adrian, laughing

We found some truly unique items at the Market in Jinka – Adrian found fantastic sandals made out of old truck tires; Franck bought a necklace strung with bright yellow beads and an shiny, empty turtle shell; and I bought a set of traditional Mursi lip plates.

Vendors at the Market

Vendors at the Market

Young girl selling spices

Young girl selling spices

A cigarette maker

A cigarette maker

The local tobacco industry

The local tobacco industry

Special delivery

Special delivery

The morning after our day in Jinka, we drove back to Arba Minch and visited the Crocodile Market… which, it turns out, does not sell anything at all.  This is a place where local hunters come to catch crocodiles so that they can export their skins.  The crocodiles here are the largest in all of eastern Africa.

Me in the boat with our Crocodile Market guide, who carries a gun - just in case

Me in the boat with our Crocodile Market guide, who carries a gun - just in case

An enormous crocodile in the distance

An enormous crocodile in the distance

Peeking hippos, who can be seen with as many as 14 other companions

Peeking hippos, who can be seen with as many as 14 other companions

Joshua and our guide with the gun

Joshua and our guide with the gun

Baboons along the road to the Crocodile Market

Baboons along the road to the Crocodile Market

Baboon, checking us out

Baboon, checking us out

More baboons!

More baboons!

Cute baboon butt

Cute baboon butt

Up next:  our return to Addis Ababa and our work at ICASA 2011 🙂

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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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Children in Arat Kilo

Children in Arat Kilo

I am just now back home in New York after being based in Ethiopia for nearly two months this fall.  As many of you know, I truly love Ethiopia – I have traveled there frequently since my first visit in 2004, and everything from the language, the food, the culture and especially the people have always made me feel warmly welcomed.  Below you will find some images from my time in Addis Ababa this November

In The Condom Project van

In The Condom Project van

Our neighborhood tailor

Our neighborhood tailor

Our neighborhood flock

Our neighborhood flock

Ambo and Coca Cola keep the team going

Ambo and Coca Cola keep the team going...

Donkeys, my favorite animals

Donkeys, my favorite animals

Puppies, just outside of our shoe maker's storefront

Puppies, just outside of a shoe maker's storefront

Roadside construction

Roadside construction

My team and I stayed at the BL Guesthouse near Arat Kilo, and I could not have been more comfortable there.  My room was on the second floor with a balcony that overlooked our beautiful garden and surrounding rooftops.  The guesthouse was made complete by a resident cat named Lucy and a shed that we converted into a kitchen and workspace for the duration of our stay.

Lucy the cat, exploring my room

Lucy the cat, exploring my room

The garden and our German housemates, preparing for a camping expedition in the north

As seen from my balcony: the garden and our German housemates, preparing for a camping expedition in the north

Our generous neighbors, whom we met while on a search for garlic... which we eventually found at their house

Our generous neighbors, whom we met while on a search for garlic... which we eventually found at their house

Adrian, just inside his balcony, making Condom Art Pins

Adrian, just inside his balcony, making Condom Art Pins

Joshua cooking dinner during a regular blackout

Joshua cooking dinner during a regular blackout

One of the nicest things about staying near Arat Kilo was the close proximity to so many things – friends and colleagues lived nearby; local restaurants and fresh groceries were just down the hill; and we were walking distance to ISAPSO, our partner organization that was working to create our CONDOMIZE tie and dye condom cases:

The ladies at ISAPSO

The ladies at ISAPSO

The tie and dye process

The tie and dye process

Drying the cloth for our condom cases

Drying the cloth for our condom cases

We were also a short drive to Memnon, the local company responsible for the sewing and screen printing of our CONDOMIZE tshirts for ICASA 2011

CONDOMIZE!

CONDOMIZE!

A sign on the wall inside the Memnon office

A sign on the wall inside the Memnon office

Pattern on a shelf, next to a stack of tshirts freshly printed for the Great Ethiopian Run

Pattern on a shelf, next to a stack of tshirts freshly printed for the Great Ethiopian Run

Memnon's screen printing machine

Memnon's screen printing machine

Our Ethiopian inspired artwork

Our Ethiopian inspired artwork

What's YOUR slogan?

What's YOUR slogan?

Up next, our work with local partners to prepare for ICASA 2011 plus images from our time outside of the capital city of Addis Ababa:  Debre Zeyit in the Ethiopian countryside and a weekend in the Omo Valley 🙂  Stay tuned!

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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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I love hearing from you –
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circa anytime.  You can also
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