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Finally, I’m out of the city. Fresh air and the wide open road.

En route to the Omo Valley for 2 weeks, something I have dreamed of for years, probably since before I was born.

My driver David is a mechanic (which would become extremely useful later in the trip). He is a sweet man at 43 years of age. He has over 23 years experience, a wife, a 2 year old & one on the way. If you are in need of a driver in Ethiopia – Dave is your man. http://www.southethiopiatours.com/

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I feel like I’m in a tank. Dave’s own 1988 Toyota Land Cruiser. Nothing could come in the way of this beast. Which scares me a little when driving through these villages. People, live stock & pot holes come out of nowhere all over the roads. Dave rarely slows down. He just beeps and they all move (apart from the pot holes of course). I pray to God that being deaf isn’t a commonality out here. 90 million people in Ethiopia, 85% of which live in regional areas.

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I stop on the side of the road to buy a bag of freshly picked mangos for 10 Birr (50 cents). I’m in heaven!

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Around the Omo Vally region the people demand money for the photos you take. Knowing this before I left, I had been well prepared and bought a huge selection of shavers, soaps, lollies, fruits, water bottles & pens to distribute in return for the photos I’d take instead of using cash. I have been to many villages and 3rd world communities in my lifetime, but nothing was to prepare me for what I was to see later in the Mursi Tribe.

I felt like many locals saw me unfortunately as some kind of walking ATM. It was difficult initially because of my past experiences to accept this as the norm. I wanted only to interact with these people – to learn from them where I could. But it was very difficult and quite tiresome as we moved quickly from village to village. Forever having to re introduce myself and gain their trust all over again in a short amount of time.

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The common toothbrush is very few and far between out here. The traditional toothbrush is a stick with a lemon sap (as bellow) that you see many people using all over Ethiopia, not only in the tribal communities.

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This little girl threw a pen back in my face when I handed it to her requesting for a photo in return. She snatched a soap out of my pocket, as I walked away refusing to give her any money when she asked. She posed for a few photos eventually.

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Hamer people live in villages of 20-200 people. The houses are made of sticks and straw as shown bellow and completely mobile as the seasons change.

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The women and children sit together throughout the day preparing food, making clothes, jewellery and cleaning the grounds. While the men are out farming, herding cattle & sometimes, unfortunately, drinking as I would later come to realise.

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While we were driving from village to village I saw a young man & woman walking with a large bundle of sticks on her back that could’ve easily weighed over 50kg. It was very obvious that she was struggling. The man was carrying nothing but his traditional wooden stool and staff. Suddenly, he hit her as if she was some kind of donkey. I gasped & yelled at the driver to stop the car immediately as opened the door and hopped out while the wheels were still slowing. My driver knew my intentions (I’m sure, because of his past experience with many western female tourists), and quickly got out of his side to stop me from getting involved. Admittedly I was naive. I didn’t think of any repercussions in that moment. Some would say that I was imposing my culture & my values on another which is totally wrong – that regardless, I should respect the culture of the country I am in. But I firmly believe this is somehow different.

Am I wrong? Please, what do you think?

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The young man & woman looked a little shocked as I marched over with my teeth clenched & left eye twitching rapidly. My driver quickly grabbed my shoulders from behind and turned me around, “This woman is his wife,” he said giggling nervously, “It’s OK Cynthia!” I was absolutely fuming as I turned to glare at the young man. Dave gave me a ‘lets go’ look and I lowered my head and walked back towards the car. Eye still switching and jaw still locked shut.

“This is Africa!” he laughed as he tried to justify what I had just witnessed. “Yes, but she is human?” I replied under my breath.

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10 thoughts on “People of Hamer

  1. Honey, yes you are wrong. not becuase of your feelings and reactions but because one cannot change cultural values with one intervention, and what you actually risked had you been able to intervene, was even more severe pay back for the woman after you had gone. you arrive, intervene, then get up and go. she is left to deal with the aftermath. the only way to have impact on this sort of thing of course is the old mantra….EDUCATION and specifically educating women about their rights and their expectations.
    i was thinking just now also about the ceremony you described the other day with the women being whipped. and while it is easy for us to judge this as barbaric, to put it into context, a lot of non Jewish people regard ritual male circumcision as barbaric. so bottom line….who are we to judge.

    xxxx

  2. Hi Cynthia
    Wow what an amazing experience for you. I was playing golf with Ian and he forwarded me your email as I was enquiring how you were going. I am sure those experiences and great photos will remain in your memory forever. I too have felt uneasy having to pay for photos but I guess in someway that is how they survive and that is fair enough. I love Africa having been there few times —certainly very different to getting our coffee at the Wall but having said that ethiopia is pretty famous for its coffee. My daughter Elise through her mindful in may programme has funded some water wells in Ethiopia and we may travel to Ethiopia to visit the villages where they are being drilled. Your driver Dave may be a good contact for us if it eventuates.
    Travel safely and enjoy your life experiences.
    John

  3. Fascinating reading. Visiting Africa is on my bucket list (I better get to it sooner than later) and I feel a bit closer to being there thru Cynthia’s experiences. I am looking forward to reading your blog everyday…and thank you for sharing.
    Safe travels,

    Marion

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