When Marty visited the states over Christmas, I took a road trip with Adam, Emelia, and Adam’s brother Jeff to the southwest, to Lakes Chamo and Abaya and to the Rift Valley highlands. This was a chance to see crocodiles in the lake and the famous weavers of Dorze (Dor-zey) in the mountains. We went for five days, 2 were spent driving, one spent with police and courts because someone pinched Emelia’s running shoes from the car (we got them back, miraculously), and a day and a half on the lake and in the highlands. This country is so frigging big, it takes many hours to get anywhere. The area is around the town of Arba Minich (meaning 40 Springs) is beautiful, occupied by Gema and Wolaita people. Besides getting to see the crocodiles sunning on an island in Lake Chamo, we also travelled to the highlands and visted a Dorze village, famous for their weavers. Traditionally (pre-China imports), cotton was grown in the lowlands around the lake, and traded to the highland weavers, who are renowned in Ethiopia. Today the village of Dorze is run as a cooperative to serve the weavers and take advantage of the increasing tourist business (mainly Europeans and some Americans). The cooperative also ran a rustic hotel which was a series of bungalows around a central open dining area. It was cold in the evening, we were around 7500 feet, but quite beautiful. Children could be very annoying, thrusting goods into your face to buy and not leaving until they sold you something. Our Dorze host said the kids come from other towns, their parents send them with the hope of gaining something from the forenjiis.
When we stopped for mangos a young man stuck his hand in the back window and grabbed Emelia’s running shoes, taking off into the small town. We would have just let it be, chalking another one up to the experience, but our hired driver was an ex-military policeman who insisted on justice. We contacted the local police, and the following day were told they caught the thief, someone well known in the community. We went to the police station in Arba Minich (really just a building with a courtyard and prisoners sitting at one end), identified the guy, and then were told to come to court the following afternoon. It was a “rapid adjudication and small court” and kind of amazing to see Ethiopian justice in action. In Kenya, the cops would have just beaten the thief to a pulp and thrown him away’ here no one beat him, but had him and us tell our stories to a magistrate. Punishment was swift – the boy pled guilty and was given a six month prison sentence. He looked in pretty bad shape, poor, high (drink or khat), and with dim prospects in life. But the shoes were returned, cleaner than when they were stolen as they had been washed to sell in the marketplace.
Finally got back to Hawassa in time to get a ride to Addis to pick up Marty on January 6, the day before Ethiopian Christmas. As I had a whole day in Addis before Marty came in, I contacted, on a whim, Mulugetta’s brother Ermias, who had contacted us on Facebook. In no time at all his (and Mulu’s) mother called and said she was coming over to the hotel. It was a very sweet reunion, she brought her two granddaughters, everyone was dressed to the nines, and we called Mulu in the States who, polite as always, said hello to his biological mom. The nine year old granddaughter, Merima, translated in amazingly good English. We have kept in contact with Mulu’s family in Ethiopia through the years, and Marty and I support them with monthly checks. Genet was incredibly grateful, not just for the money, but knowing that her son Mulugetta, given up at 2½ years, was in good health and situation. She phoned later and said she would visit us in Hawassa, five hours away, next week.
That will be the next blog. I am very glad Marty returned, glad my first semester is coming to an end, and glad that we will be taking a trip into Kenya in February to see my other African family, Kanikis and Lugi (the main characters of my book Laibon: An Anthropologist’s Journey, which Marty brought me copies to see).