Ethiopia

May 20, 2013

A view from the summit that cradles Lalibela, Ethiopia.

During the last two weeks of April, I was lucky enough to travel to Ethiopia for a Fulbright Enrichment Seminar. The Seminar lasted the better part of a week and I spent the week before traveling to the North of Ethiopia to explore a place coined “The Eighth Wonder of the World”.  Both travel and seminar were absolutely refreshing and reflective experiences. Fulbright researchers and English Teaching Assistants from all over Sub-Sahara Africa were brought together to share our personal struggles, our intellectual triumphs and to be reminded of our purpose.

One of many worshippers who flock to the 11th-century churches in Lalibela.

One of many worshipers who flock to the 11th-century churches in Lalibela. The ancient history of Ethiopia resonated everywhere as though the Old Testament decided to come to life.

The conference and the trip, in general, allowed me to reconsider everything that I had been doing for the last 7 months in Rwanda. This place is a hard place to live in, but not in the conventional sense of being without creature comforts.  The culture and the history have weighed on me, and other short-term travelers, even if its not always thought about in the forefront of our minds. Going to Zanzibar before and now Ethiopia, I felt a sense of release as if my psyche had been forced underwater for months and could take a big breath of air.

This church, built by Emperor Yemrehanna Kristos, was hidden inside a cave. Built of ebony wood and stone, it was the migration site for many pilgrims seeking Zion.

This church, built by Emperor Yemrehanna Kristos, was hidden inside a cave. Built of ebony wood and stone, it was the migration site for many pilgrims seeking Zion.

In fact, I have tried to ignore that weight in an effort to get to know people, not just memorials. And yet, that’s impossible. A history and its people coalesce organically and the separation of the two creates an even more stunted view of a such a unique, bewildering culture.

The church ceiling of the Emperor Yemrehanna Kristos of the Zagwe Dynasty, a short drive away from Lalibela town.

The church ceiling of the Emperor Yemrehanna Kristos of the Zagwe Dynasty, a short drive away from Lalibela town.

Upon returning to Rwanda in late April, I had a new understanding of,  well, just here. My views  of this place will be skewed with every passing day and it will take years after to grasp a mildly objective view. The people I met at the Seminar were an amazing bunch who were too intelligent and worldly to accept any  superficial explanation of my experience, and I am greatly indebted for their patient listening. Vice versa, a banal conversation was nowhere to be found the entire week.

Found in Axum, looks like a treacherous climb for a royal cleaning, eh?

Queen of Sheba’s bath. Found in Axum, looks like a treacherous climb for a royal cleaning, eh?

Ethiopia itself was a mysterious and wonderful place that I suggest everyone goes, whether they are in need of new eyes or not. Architecture, history and self-reflection were the themes of this quick trip; probably not a coincidence.

A partially excavated tomb in Axum circa 5th or 6th century.

A partially excavated tomb in Axum circa 5th or 6th century.

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” 
― Mary Anne Radmacher

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5 Responses to “Ethiopia”

  1. Lyla Kirsch Says:

    Our Katie dear, your writings and photos were amazing, and to ready between the lines on your true feelings of such an amazing journey you have been on. THank the good Lord everyday for this experience and that you are kept safe!! We really love reading your blog and look so forward to seeing you in Norway! We love you!! Lyla and Nick

    • Lyla Kirsch Says:

      Katie, Your blogs are so thoughful and insightful. I too was moved by my experience in Ethiopia,and your writing brings back many memories….did I ever tell you about th e flying hippos of the omo? Perhaps it can wait until we see each other.. Uncle Nick

  2. t.on.air Says:

    I hope to visit those cities very soon. I didn’t get the chance to do that when I was in Ethiopia. Thanks for the photos. The definitely serve as inspiration for my next stay in Ethiopia.

  3. Deb Taylor Says:

    Katie, Your pictures are breathtaking! I can feel the reference and history coming right through my computer screen. You are blessed to have the opportunity to have such a wonderful experience. Thank you for continuing to share with us!
    AOT
    Deb

  4. Deb Taylor Says:

    oops…That would be “reverence.”

    Deb


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