Category: Africa

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Hwange was left behind, and up with local buses, to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Did not take too long and the lovely bus driver was kind enough to deliver me to the door step of the backpackers. Zimbabwe people are just so incredibly lovely. I took a “chalet”, which was the cheapest bed for the night. I  decided to walk around town for a while. The African Walk is a great place to sit and chill out. Lots of wonderful shops, cafe and art galleries. I met two local rasta musicians, who ended up teaching me to play parts on the Marimba! Not bad for a totally tone deaf and n musical person! They were even kind enough to tell me I never had a GOOD teacher! So there you go! It is the teacher who makes the musician!

The next morning I woke up quite early, and made a stupid decision to down load some unimportant stuff onto my gadgets. I have no idea what possessed me, but when I came back from the bathroom I decided that it was taking too long, switched the thing off and packed it all up! I walked to the Falls, and when I wanted to take the first photos of this magical place, the gadget was frozen! Totally and completely frozen! I met two Japanese men, who as we all know are knowledgable about these things, and they told me to go and find an Apple Store. What do you know? Apparently one must NOT switch off gadget while downloading! Duh!

Anyway the Falls were spectacular event, and I couldn’t brag on Facebook about it! I was there very early in the morning, before any other tourists, and it was just absolutely marvellous walking around in the deep roar, spray and mist of the majestic Mosi of Tunya (Victoria Falls in the official language). I spend about two hours walking around in total awe. Had some more Marimba lessons with the rasta guys, and spend most of the day finding a person who could fix my gadget! Found a store and a man, who needed to download the programme needed, and who started doing this straight away. The next two days I was told to come back every two hours so he could fix my gadget! However after two days of fart arsing around, he had only been able to download 60%! I decided to leave him and his download, and go to Zambia instead!

The crossing into Zambia I did on foot, just to see how I would go walking about seven kilometres with all my luggage. I took it easy, and it was no hassle at all. Also my luggage was still a few kilos more than would walk the Camino with, as I was planning to  send my last diary and drawing book home. I settled back into Fawlty Towers again, where the wonderful staff welcomed me back like a long lost friend. I had planned to canoe on the Zambezi river and to visit Chobe National Park in Botswana. I met a lovely woman from England, Frances, and we became friends immediately. She had been teaching teachers in Zambia and was now on the  way home.

We booked a full day on Sunday, canoe the river, a game drive and a booze cruise in the evening! The canoeing was wonderful, although we each had our own personal guide, who did all the hard work! I totally enjoyed but I did very little work! It was marvellous to be on the mighty Zambezi, very impressive and enormously wide river. We saw a few hippos and lots of wonderful birds, but not much wildlife. The game drive was a waste of money. Supposedly it was to be three hours long and we barely got two hours. Also we saw very little wildlife. The exciting part was that we saw a mother and baby rhino, a white rhino, for which we had to pay extra! The booze cruise was lovely, except a major big storm came! Just before the sun disappeared completely, the curtain lifted and we received a magnificent gift of another super sized African sunset! We drank too many G&T s, but as fun was had by all, it didn’t seem to matter at all! As Francis  and I had such a good time, and she was planning to visit the Chobe National Park as well, we decided to book our safari together! And that is what we did!

Good bye again!

So fast it has gone! Before I realised, the exhibition was over, paintings and art needed to be packed up, flat needed cleaning and again I needed to say good bye!

I have made some wonderful friends, so the last week was spend meeting, lunching, dinners and lots of drinks. I feel intensely sad. Having an exhibition in Namibia has been such a positive and enriching experience, I wanted it to last forever. Shame this is not possible. Having spend four weeks in the craft centre, I felt I had a job to go to, collegues and friends to joke with, interact with and in general having an excellent time!  But, as the saying goes, all good things come to an end!

I had the manager of Nampost tell me NOT to use the normal post to send stuff home as there were problems in Jo burg with strikes and even the burning down of a post office! Interestingly enough, I have just send two parcels home and one has arrived all ready. For the art works I need to use a freight company, but am in need of a customs clearing agent! Of all the possibilities I picked one who has gone out of business. True! How do I manage to do these things? Ah well, I will need to deal with this but not today!

i caught the early morning bus to Gaberone, Botswana. Booked the ticket a week ahead of time, and was told the bus leaves Windhoek at 7.00am in the morning and to be there an hour and a half before the bus leaves! As it was, I arrived at ten minutes to six, just settled into my seat when the bus driver hopped on and started the bus! It was five minutes past six! Ah well, an early start, I thanked my lucky stars that I managed to be here in the nick of time! A young man I met at the border was not so lucky! He was told the bus would leave at 8.00am, arrived an hour and a half earlier but of course the bus was long gone! He had to catch a taxi to e border at extra cost, so he could catch up with the bus there and get his seat!

The only exciting thing that happened was that the bus driver locked the bus at the border, I was still filling in my paper work and had not noticed that everybody had left the bus. When I wanted to leave the bus the doors were locked! Oops! So I beeped the horn! Loudly and lonely! It was raining heavily so needless to say that the driver was not at all impressed. To be honest he was down right angry! In the rain he proceeded to yell at me for being left on the bus. I didn’t react at first and then, as he kept going on and on, I lost my cool. This is the first time in Africa I was confronted with blatant anger, and I decided not to put up with it! I turned around put my hands on my hips and blasted him right back! This stopped him right in his tracks. It is actually his responsibility to make sure everybody is off the bus. It entertained the other passengers, and I must say that it was the driver who backed off and not me! I don’t normally do this, being aggressive , I mean, but I just had enough. I was tired and sad and couldn’t accept his rudeness to me. The rest of the trip I just slept as much as I could.

In Gaberone I had a lovely time catching up with my Mokolodi family, on Good Friday! how wonderful it was to see Hendrik, Henk and Rone and meet Kiki and her friend Margot. Albert and Sam were also delighted to have me back! Hendrik absolutely loved his gift of the Mokolodi memories painting and gave it immediatel a prominent spot in his lounge! Easter was spend with Christelle, enjoying her wonderful cubby she built in her front yard. We had decided not to go anywhere as I was totally exhausted and all I wanted to do was sleep and catch up with a wonderfully relaxed Christelle. It was indeed sad to say good bye again but as we have been keeping in touch since we met for Christmas dinner five years ago in Atar, Mauritania, I can’t imagine us losing touch now!

As I had met lots of Zimbabwe people, I decided to cross the border at Plumtree, Zimbabwe, visit Bulawayo. See the ancient ruins of…….. Whatever they were called. And saw the world view where the grave of Cecil Rhodes is the founder of Rhodesia. I hope he didn’t expect to have a quiet place! It was full of tourists and noise! There was also a out of place large memorial for 12 English soldiers”who were murdered” or “lost a battle” depending to which side of the war you would like to be on! Interesting to note if it was the black people who won, it was murder! If it was the White a victory! Hm! Interesting note.

From Bulawayo I travelled to Hwange National Park. I was told the park of the highest elephant population in Africa (they lied) The atm in Bulawayo didn’t work on Monday morning, I wasn’t too worried as I have a new Visa card and had plenty of Rands(South African money) I had to hitch a ride into the park, as the plenty of buses into the park statement didn’t hold up at all! I think it is hilarious that after ten months in Africa I still believe what people tell me! Either I am naive or incredibly stupid! I don’t think I am naive! When I arrived at the park I tried to pay with the new visa, shame! Their machine did not work! Oops! Will try again the next day! Still no go! Double oops! I had hoped to go on a game drive in the morning, except as I now have to pay cash out of my pile of Rands, leaves me very short. Also as I am on my own, I needed to pay a single supplement, or pay for two rather! This is something I absolutely refuse to do! I refuse to be penalised for travelling by myself! So I said NO, luckily there was a lovely young couple from Zimbabwe and of Switzerland, who were going on a game drive the next morning, Lucy offered to take me along! So there I was the next morning, listening to the lions making there first kill of the morning, when Felixstowe and Lucy picked me up, the screaming and growling had just finished We drove out of the fate into the park and within the first kilometre we met the first lioness! She was so incredibly fat, that she looked ready to give birth! The next thing was an old male lion, with a pitch black mane, walking slowly in the direction of the car! It was so incredibly exciting that I completely forgot to take pictures! In the end we saw six lionesses and one male, plus two cubs! It was amazing! We were on the drive for over five hours. Saw zebras, ostriches, hippos, crocodiles but NO elephants! Over 40.000 elephants and not ONE elephant to be seen! Unbelievable!

The Exhibition

First of all letting everybody know that I have been in Windhoek for over two months now! Yeah, I know no updates on the Blob! I have been extremely busy painting, drawing and putting my show together! As soon as I settled into my lovely apartment, I found an art shop and started working immediately. The ideas were there it was just a question of putting them on paper and canvas! I managed to paint eight works in three weeks! (Mind you Vincent did 350 paintings in one year!) The works just poured out of me, was hard to keep up with the body not being what it was before. One work took about about six weeks, a collage, Calle Windhoek Wanderings, a diptych of 2 meters X 1 meter. I walked the streets of Windhoek, indeed, I became an unpaid “streetwalker”! I had hoped to find objects to make a recycled piece of found rubbish, but had not expected to find such an incredibly clean city! Hence it changed direction and became just a collage of some found objects and the rest painted.

The biggest problem was that one day I bought oil paints by mistake! You would like to think that I would know the differences after so many years! AS I paint in the middle of the night the only excuse I can use is that I was too exhausted, just thought it was crappy acrylics! Hence the last three paintings took three weeks to complete and I am still not really happy with one of them, not much I could do about that. At home you can put them aside and then. Go back to it a few weeks down the track, i didn’t have he time for that.

So at night I have been painting while during the day I walked around Windhoek, familiarising myself with the town and it’s amazing people. I did find some time to go to Sosseis vlei I and Dead Vlei. This was on a tour. The country side is just amazing! Stunningly beautiful, haunting and intriguing. I could have stayed in Dead vlei for days.  It was just incredibly stunning. A white clay pan, dead trees, and orange sand dunes. Imagine a cobalt blue sky as the back drop and you get my drift. It was an amazing three days. I had decided to go on a tour as it was all arranged for you and worked out much cheaper than renting a car, organising accommodation and food.

Last week I went to Swakopmund for five days. This is a small German town on the coast. The temperature was fifteen degrees lower than in Windhoek! So after the heat we have had here it made for a lovely change! At least it was pleasant to walk, which I ended up doing for hours! I also did a tour of half a day on a boat. Together with my German friend Helga, before we were out of the harbour the first seal had jumped on board! Absolutely amazing! The next seal who jumped on board ended up on my lap! So cute! And for people who want to know, indeed, these animals still get culled! The big ones get shot and the babies still get clubbed to death once a year! Hard to take, but apparently the seal colony is far too big for the food available! The people use everything of the seals. Still, I found it difficult to accept! Mind you people here are shocked we kill kangaroos and koalas! Anyhow enough of that! We had Pelicans on board and saw thousands of flamingoes. Stunning absolutely stunning. We had oysters and champagne and a beautiful lunch. Such incredibly good value, three and a half hours for only $50 Australian dollars! This country is just amazing!

Etosha

Ah Etosha! I booked another tour with the wonderful Wild Dog tour company. Three days to Etosha the famous National park in Namibia! It is about 500 kilometres from Windhoek, give or take a few hundred! We had a lovely group with Young people, who were fun and cheeky! We arrived at our first camp around four o’clock in the afternoon, set up our tents and left for our first wild life drive You wouldn’t believe it but we were barely in the park when we saw our first rhino! I was so excited! I have spend a week in a rhino sanctuary in Uganda five years ago, but my big dream was to see them in the wild! I met this German lady who went to Etosha the weekend before and saw not even elephants! It is real wild life not a zoo, so it is not predictable what you will see! So my wish for the rhino was fulfilled within the very first five minutes.

We didn’t see the pride of lions, but we saw lots of giraffes at the waterhole, when giraffes drink they are so incredibly cute! They need to spread their legs and in this awkward position they need to take little sips! Of course this is when the animal is at it’s most vulnerable, and lions do have a tendency to attack the giraffes while drinking. There were many baby giraffes. I still think they might be my most favourite animal, as they actually look at the tourists with utter curiosity, wondering probably who we are and where we come from!

there was a large family of elephants washing them selves with white sand, so I can say that I know where the White elephants are! A very large family of female elephants with babies in different stages of their development, walked passed and crossed the road right in front of our bus. One baby was only about one month old and so incredibly cute. It is wonderful to see how the whole family protects the babies by surrounding them so they walk on the inside of these huge animals. Aunties, mothers grandmothers their main task is to protect the little ones. If only our society would do this eh.

Zebras were plentiful as well, I love those horses in pyjamas! May be zebras are my favourite! Hm. Let me think about this. The zebras in Etosha are different then the ones I have seen before. These zebras, who have a name I promptly forgot, have brown stripes in between the black ones. Like a shadow.

Memorable Maun

As soon as I arrived at the Old Bridge Backpackers in Maun, I asked if I could make a boat trip into the Okavango Delta. Dear Henry’s answer was “sorry, NO boat trips into the Delta as the water level was too low!”
This is what this “i know everything better” Canadian girl told me in Livingstone, Zambia. Shame, she was right for a change! (there are so many of these young chicky dees on the road, they know every thing, and also they know everything better!) Ah well, such is life. Henk, Rone and I had looked forwards to doing a day trip on the quiet waters of the Delta. Not to be. Two things I had wanted to do, visit the Kalahari desert and have a trip on an old boat in the Delta. Shame, neither was possible!I went on with life painting an enormous mural on the wall of Hendrik’s new backpackers in Maun. It has been run down for over two years and he has made it his life mission to change this place around. Together , Rone and I, managed to finish this enormously BIG mural in only two days!! I used Henri Rousseau’s “dream” painting as my starting point, and used his way of stylising the animals.

I was paid with food!! Hendrik took us out each night to different restaurants. Although the Indian food was absolutely excellent, that we ended going back twice! How blessed am I? I was craving to paint, and here was my change!

Awesome Okavango Delta

So here I was on the 31 of December at eight o’clock in the morning, going on a motor BOAT (!!!!) for over an hour to our landing place for the famous Mokoro. There were seven of us. Two young English people, (the girl who talked non stop for the WHOLE day!!!) an Australian lawyer and her English boyfriend and an elderly German couple and of course me. We saw several Fish eagles, one so incredibly close, awesome! There was only one crocodile to be seen, and sooo small I wouldn’t even classify it as a croc! Lots of African Jacana (jesus’birds as they walk on water, we have them in the North of Australia as well)

After an hour on the motor boat we arrived at the landing place for the Mokoros. I received a canoe all for myself, as it only fits two people at the time. Shame they are now made out of fibreglass, rather then the traditional wooden ones. I had envisioned this, calmly gliding over the waters of the Delta, listening to the gentle waves clacking against the Mokoro, hearing the plop~ plop ~plop of the pole as the poler gently pushes us deeper and deeper into the Delta. Instead I had to listen to this girl constantly talking, asking silly questions such as is fibre glass made out of wood?” Voices carry so much over the waters. I know, I know, for the people who know ME, I too talk a mile a minute, for sure. But NOT in nature!!! (or when I am painting!!)

The Delta is covered with lotus leaves and reeds, at times there was nothing but a small path to get through.

Gorgeous Ghanzi

The second day of the New Year, which I spend in bed, sleeping(!!) I went to Ghanzi. Hard to say good bye to all the nice people i met. This seems to get harder and harder! Hm! (old age?) I received a lift to Ghanzi from Florian (i know everything and I know it better) together with the definitely I know it all AND i know it BEST girl from Russia. After half an hour of listening to the two young people playing one up manship, I fell asleep. I had decided to stay and share accomodation with the Russian girl (sometimes it is just so much cheaper) However after three hours in the car with her, and finding out that “on the fringe of the township” meant over fifteen kilometers OUT of the town. I decided, to ask Florian to drop me back off in Ghanzi itself. I stayed in the one and only hotel in town. Way above my budget, but hey, it was my last day and night in town, so i lashed out.

The hotel had a very large and clean swimming pool and i spend the rest of the afternoon just swimming and playing in the wonderful water. I met Cilla and Francois (her son) from South africa. We laughed so much!1 Cilla (my age) was smoking in the pool. I commented and her answer was”ik nie sex nie; ik nie drink nie”(i don’t do sex nor do i drink) she was so funny! Cilla had been married FIVE times before, just to make sure she didn’t like it!! We chatted and laughed so much!! Have I mentioned that South African people are terribly obese? Well, I want to make a point of this. I can spot them a mile off! Especially the men!
I also can’t remember if I mentioned that I can speak and understand Afrikaans? (i probably did many times, ah well, one more time then!) But reading is the easiest. Afrikaans is the old Dutch dialect from the Boeren (farmers/peasants) if I speak the dialect of my home town I can get away with it!

Anyway this obesity is enormous. I have read somewhere that Port Augusta had the highest rate of obese people in South Australia, well, take my word for it, they are NOTHING like the Afrikaners!!! It must be all the “braai” (barbeques)

The next morning I was @ the station at 7.00AM as the hotelmanager had told me that would be when the first bus goes! Duh! Not! There was NOBODY and I mean NOBODY there at all! On the sign it said that the bus to Charles Hill (near the Namibian border) would go at 12.00PM. There are only three buses that leave from Ghanzi! I mean how hard can it be to memorize THREE buses’ time tables?? I went back to the hotel (I had all ready checked out) demanded my key, air con and television (only local channel) remotes and went back to the hotel. Had a leisurely breakfast another swim in the pool and relaxed till ten o’clock. Then I decided, as now I had to chck out anyway, that I would go back to the bus stop, and just wait there. And this was an absolutely excellent idea, as the bus was all ready waiting, I got the front seat, AND the bus filled up so rapidly that we left by 10.30AM!!!Service in Botswana is non existing, hence my excellent idea to be there two hours BEFORE the time mentioned on the board.

We had a blow out on the highway, barely any traffic and NO jack. Not too worry, all the men on the bus grabbed the back of the bus and lifted it of the ground! The kind and funny young driver drove me all the way to the border, which he didn’t have to do, and the conductor objected to loudly and obnoxiously! Going across the border, although very hot, was quick and easy. At the Namibian side I asked the girl what to do about getting to Windhoek as there were no buses. She would help. After she told me to wait near the police man at the gate, who changed some money as this is the first border crossing WITHOUT a “bureau du change”, this was a good side line for him, and very beneficial for me, as the one and only ATM across the border had NO money in it!! Anyway, I had just put my bag down, when this car stopped and asked if I wanted a lift to Windhoek! So there you go. For twenty dollars I was on my way! (I had heard from my friends in Botswana that it was near impossible and very very expensive to get across the border! so here you go! I did well!)
The border crossing is in the middle of the Kalahari desert and extremely remote!

Nothing exciting happened on the four hour trip to Windhoek, beside spending an hour trying to pick up more passengers, Sydney, the driver getting a speeding fine, and the young un~smiling man on the back seat, who got on at the border with me, wanting to see my passport! This was not in itself such a big deal, lots of people ask for this. But I had just been gabbering on about being in Windhoek for three months, painting, and having an exhibition at the end of it! well, this young man looking at my passport, asked WHY I had NO visa, duh, I am an Australian, I get 90 days FREE !!! “Oh, was I going to sell any of my work??”Suddenly I became suspicious, why did he want to know this?? You guessed it, he was an immigration officer! Duh!! How fortunately was I? I told him not to worry, as my work was just going on show, and was NOT for sale!! Ah well, see what happens later on, I doubt very much he will be thinking of this for three months!! (and then catch me on the way out!!) Life is good and god is great! I arrived at Windhoek at 6.00PM and asked Sydney to drop me off at the backpackers, as I had no SIM card of Namibia, no money, and was too exhausted to do anything about it all today! Windhoek is wonderful!!

Maasai Mara

I left Lake Navaisha after a few days. I had a marvellous time, but it was time to move on. I had organised a home stay in the Mara via e mail. I caught an early matatu to Narok, a kind of nothing much town. The drive there was about two hours and not at all interesting, except that they tried to charge me mzungu prices for the trip!! I just pretended to get mad, packed up my luggage and pretend to walk away. Quickly the price went down by 200 shilling. I had no idea what to expect but tried not to have a pre -conceived idea of what would be at the end stop. I was told to ask the driver to drop me off two kilometers before the Sekenani Gates of the National park in the Mara.  Just before I reached there, it started to rain, or pour rather. The heavens opened up and it all came down in one go. The bus driver unceremoniously dumped me on the side of the road. But through the hazy, wet mist i could see a figure coming, wrapped in bright orange and red, with a hot pink umbrella. Meet James, the pastor,  in whose  little compound I will be staying. The mud was amazing. I had great difficulties staying upright. But before long we were at James ‘house and welcomed with hot coffee by his wonderful wife, Caroline. After the introductions and coffee , I was showing the little manyatta where i was to stay for the next four weeks. A manyatta is a traditional mud hut, made from sticks and covered with cow dung, sand and straw. By the time the meal came i was exhausted and had an early night.  The next morning all was forgotten, the sun was up and the views were amazing. On one side are the mountains, on the other the gentle rolling hills of the Rift Valley. Stunningly beautiful in the morning sun. The landscape is dotted with figures clad in red or orange, the traditional shuka (blankets) of the Maasai. There is a reason of course for this colour. It makes the people stand out in all the wonderful, different shades of green of the landscape. It also deters the wild animals, I was told

Hello Kenya

After an uneventful flight from Addis Ababa, sitting next to the fattest man I have ever met in my life, I arrived in Nairobi. After all the negative propaganda, I was actually quite apprehensive to come here! I arrived at the airport where the friendly Jambo (hello) rang through every minute! The friendly smiles and heartfelt welcome was not at all what I had expected. Hassle free I took a government taxi with James. He was proud of his country and very entertaining to say the least. Nairobi was the biggest surprise ever. It reminded me of Adelaide. It’s buildings are not too high. The streets are wide, clean and laid out in a grid. It was so incredibly modern. Marabou storks flying high above the city centre. Huge, lugubrious, long beaked birds who reminded me of the pterodactyls. I was amazed. I found a lovely hotel, totally out of my price range, but hey, if i can’t spoil myself once in a while who can? I was up on the first day keen to get started. I had not brought an universal plug so the first thing i noticed was the inability to charge my camera! Shame, as i went for a big walk for hours and saw many thing i would have liked to photograph. The first thing was to find a plug that would fit the English system. It didn’t take me long at all. People are so incredibly friendly. Not so the Russian tourists I came across. I found myself apologising for their rudeness! Thank god us Australians have a reputation of being easy going and very friendly. I stumbled across the convention centre, and believe me, it could have been anywhere in Oz. Stunningly modern and beautiful. I didn’t want to go up without my camera, so i walked along the wide streets of Nairobi. A once a month Maasai market was on today. I wasn’t going to spend any money, as i am hopeless working out the value on my first day. I never know what to devide in what….. hence i often overspend on the first days. Needless to say I bought a Maasai bracelet, earrings and a necklace. Great! So much for my resolutions!!! I am in the middle of organising a village stay with the Maasai Mara. This seems to get more and more expensive the more enthusiasm i show!! Anyway tomorrow first a change of hotels, then a visit with camera to the convention centre and in the afternoon a visit to the near by Wildlife Park with city views! On Monday a visit to the Tanzanian Embassy to get my visa and a visit to the Karen Blixen Museum of Out of Africa fame. Life is good and god is great. Or is it the other way around?

Good Bye Ethiopia

Partir! C’est mourir un peu!! Leaving! Is dying a little!! Indeed how true is this. My time in Ethiopia was so incredibly precious, so special, I had a very hard time saying good bye.People are so friendly, so caring and so incredibly accepting of faranjis and their strange habits. ON the last day I went with my grandson and his friend to Entoto, high upon the hill above Addis Ababa, to overlook the city. Needless to say there was a heavy fog and we saw nothing much of the spectacular view that must be there if the weather is clear! There is a stupendous church, with a magnificent museum and the old palace of the emperor as well. All by all a fabulous day was had. It was hard to say good bye to Asefa. If all goes well I should be back in September 2015 to celebrate the new year in Ethiopia!

Harar~Ethiopia~2014 (or 2006 Ethiopian calendar!)

I feel like i have stepped back time! I have arrived in Harar, the city with the old walled city~ the jugal~still the same as over 1300 years ago. (it was built in the 7th century!) The first night I went to see the feeding of the hyenas.AND actually fed them!! I could eye-ball the old lady, who had recently given birth. It was an unreal experience. The meat was put on a short stick, so close, which wasn’t really necessary for me! It was, however, one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Right up there with the balloon flight over Luxor, and the time I spend with the gorillas in the mist.

The men walking around the old town in their starched, pure white galabayas and white, worn, knitted skull-caps. Their wives, daughters, sisters and old mothers in bright, glittering, colourful beaded head scarves.Clusters of teenage girls, dressed in colourful clothes, break into giggles when they spot the “Faranji” walking in their walled- in city.The first thing I did was to buy a colourful headscarf, I am still a Faranji, but it takes at least five minutes before people realize I am! This give me at least a little bit of respite of the beggars and the constant call of “Faranji, Faranji” which I answer with “Habesha, Habesha” (Ethiopian, Ethiopian!)

Walking through the maze of the old “jugal”, a maze of endless, narrow, connected alleyways is an adventure on its own. I could disappear here forever! I have booked myself into a guesthouse in the old city. I wake up with the soothing call of the muezzin reminding me to pray. I smile, say a prayer full of gratitude, turn over and fall back asleep. I had hoped to do at least two weeks worth of washing, but there is a water problem. No shower, let alone a hot one, no water to wash my knickers. Ah well, does it really matter? I wash the important parts with the bottled drinking water, of which i have plenty. Here in Ethiopia, recycling is very big. All the plastic bottles and rubbish is recycled. The water bottles are being turned into shoes!! All the rural people wear these shoes, as they sell for only 30 birr, (which is about $1,50.)

By Ethiopian standards the people of Harar are very rich. The Hararis own the land and control the lucrative trade of the waxy, intoxicated leaves of Qat (pronounced as chat). This is a mild narcotic that according to many people here, stimulates the senses and makes one alert and active. This is not at all what i see. I see a lot of young men laying stupefied in the gutters, stoned out of their mind, doing absolutely nothing but beg “Faranjies ” for money! I DID try (I try everything at least once!) I felt like an absolute cow!! Regurgitating. Luckily my new found friend, Yasmin, an Ethiopian woman living in London, was not offended. I believe her brother in law was secretly glad that I didn’t enjoy his favourite pass time! The bad part is that the local farmers make much more of the growing of Qat, then the growing of coffee. Hence Qat it is. By chewing it, it is highly addictive, the people spend all their money on the buying of this product, and no longer eat healthy or provide food for their families.

I am staying in a traditional house, this has positives and of course negatives as well. The concept of solitude, or privacy is a totally in-comprehensible notion! Trying to draw or paint in the streets only last about five minutes, until I am discovered, and have to start the same conversation over and over. What is my name? where am I from? What am I doing? Could I pay that woman, because I drew her? I answer very politely but firmly. I do NOT pay for drawings. Photographs are a different matter. I “sneak” most photographs from the colourful women as they walk away from me, their burhka’s flapping in the wind.

It is a shame I can not draw or paint the smells. The streets reek of Frankincense, urine, spices, and raw meat and decay. This place is without a doubt a painter’s paradise! A shame that it is impossible to change my Djibouti ticket here (I want to fly to Nairobie instead) which means I have to leave long before i am ready to go. I had hoped to spend a few weeks here, just painting and drawing. To visit more small villages outside the city and its walls. Omoro people live outside Harar and its walls. They are extremely poor and work mainly on the Qat field. The Omoro people are the servants and do all the hard and tedious jobs. In the villages they live in compounds surrounded by families.Together with elisabeth, an American girl who works in Tanzania, we visited one of these villages. We sat through the whole preparations of the coffee making. First the sorting of the beans, then the roasting, grinding and de- husking all by hand, finallywe received a cup of the most delicious coffee I have ever had. Exquisite, the aroma of Frankincense mixed with the smell of the freshest coffee i have ever drunk. It was the aroma of heaven!.

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