Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I don't know if it is the injera or the local chilies (berbere), or maybe all the local coffee I have been drinking, but there is something hard to describe here, an almost mystical quality. I mean, this area is called Gondar for one thing. People here resolutely believe that it was here that Mary and young Jesus fled when escaping King Herod. The Ark of the Covenant, of biblical and movie fame is also believed to be here. In fact the island in the second picture, is where many believe the Ark was first kept after it was taken from Israel. In fact you can see the exact spot where it was kept for several centuries. It actually makes sense to me that if you were trying to protect an object of such significance, one would want to take it to a place where it could not be easily found. And this place certainly fits that description. Way up in the highlands, historically inaccessible and far from major trade routes and then on a tiny island in the middle of a pretty big lake (even today it takes 2.5 hours by boat to get there). I don't know myself but like I say, there is something that makes one want to believe.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Blue Nile Falls, just downstream from Lake Tana, so quite close to where the river starts. Much of the river is now diverted for hydroelectric power and what you see here is only 25% of the whole thing. Also this is after rainy season so it can get much bigger. The Blue Nile is one of two main tributaries of the Nile, the other being the White Nile, but volume wise, the Blue Nile brings the majority of the water. In fact this creates some water resource management issues between Ethiopia and the countries downstream (mainly Egypt).

A woman serving coffee at the Blue Nile Falls was wearing this coin, an Austrian thaler. First minted in Austria (of course) in the 1700's (you can see the date 1780 on the coin), it was commonly--but not exclusively--used as currency in Ethiopia even into the 20th century. Now worn as jewelry I guess. This coin was almost certainly not minted in 1780 since that date has apparently been stamped on all thalers since that time.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

The first pouring of the coffee ceremony, abol
The second pouring, tona
The third pouring, baraka

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Alem Saga mountain, in S Gondar region, Ethiopia.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

A massive, beautiful tree that I could only capture using the panorama function on my phone. I think the trunk is at least 3 m wide. In behind is Lake Tana, effectively the source of the Blue Nile. A very peaceful and relaxing place with gentle almost hypnotic maskino music playing in the background.

Monday, November 05, 2018

A new savings group in a new watershed in Congo. This new watershed is next to a watershed where farmers have already been forming savings groups, planting trees, practicing more environmentally friendly ways of farming for 3 years now. People in the new watershed (where photo is taken) have been watching and waiting and are now doing what they have seen their neighbouring watershed doing (with a little training help). In fact there is a chant that savings groups say at the beginning of every meeting and some people in the new watershed had already tried to memorize it before they had received training.
No hippos this morning but tiny jumping fish that you obviously can't see in the photo. I don't know exactly how coffee is made here but it is so strong that I ask for hot water to dilute. This morning I did one part coffee, 3 parts water and it is still too strong. The quality of coffee beans here is generally very good though.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Finally after 6 days of hiding

I'm at one of the more touristy restaurants in Moshi, and I decided to order their coco ndizi, a traditional dish with boiled bananas. The menu caters to the tourist palette, having mostly things like burgers, pizza, pasta etc, so local food is not that much on the menu. Generally when travelling I try to eat local. Partly because if I want pizza, I can eat all the pizza I want (and often do) when I'm home. Partly because my experience has been that local food is more likely to be better prepared 4 to 5 times out of 10 when I'm on the road. Partly because I'd rather try new or less familiar things (see the first point). When I made my order, the waitress cautioned me that it would take 30 to 45 minutes, which made me think two things:
1. "how is that different than so many meals I've ordered in so many different places?"
2. "it's Saturday, and I have time to kill, and sitting on this pleasant shaded patio in the nice garden sounds ok"

This farmer is running his own native tree nursery in a very dry part of the Sanya River watershed. He showed us probably a dozen species that he is propagating, planting on his own land, and sharing with his neighbours. He told us he is doing this to preserve species that are important and are disappearing. I think it also seemed clear that he is doing it because he has a passion for trees. Shown below is a species that according to tradition, brings rain and peace.

This savings group has an agreement with the nearby national park to collect seed of native trees from the park, raise seedlings, and then plant those seedlings within park boundaries to restore native species. The group started in 2014, and had their own tree nursery for their own tree planting project, which just happened to be right outside the park gate. Park authorities took notice and offered to fund the group to do a native tree planting campaign. This is a win-win because the group is now generating income, and the park is getting native tree restoration at a much lower cost. In addition to this collaboration with the park, the group is establishing their own community forest just outside the park boundaries. This is a real breakthrough, because for many years, it has been difficult or impossible to have any kind of community based activities in collaboration with the park authority. Our experience in Thailand tells us that CFM (community forest management) can be a huge success, and it is exciting to think about the possibilities that may now open up for this group and perhaps others. The best part? The name of this group is 'Planet'.