Sunday, March 4, 2018

Skeptic finally convinced about the value, and fun, of the journey

Scenery, north central Ethiopia, en route to Bahir Dar

(ON THE ROAD, NORTH CENTRAL ETHIOPIA)—There are a million clich├ęs about embracing the value, or fun, of the journey, never mind the destination. Today, en route from Gondar to Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, I think I finally believe this.

First, there was the spectacular scenery, punctuated by some of the most unusual rock formations I’ve ever seen. This is dry season, and that showed on the parched landscape. Still, the beauty of the mountains and picturesque villages alone made the journey memorable.
North Central Ethiopia. Hey, no snickering.

Secondly, the “half the fun” of getting there today was provided largely by my driver/traveling companion Simegnew, who sported a smile as big as his fashionable sunglasses. Much of the discussion during the 2.5 hour trip centered around languages. Simegnew speaks three local languages, and gave me lessons in all three. I was a pretty slow study, particularly when it came to the days of the week, but he remained patient with me. 

One feature of Amharic, Ethiopia’s official language, is a “flat e” sound that’s not found in English. I told Simegnew it reminded me of a similar sound in Romanian, like in the words caine, maine, and inghetata (dog, tomorrow, ice cream). Curious, he asked about some other Romanian words, and I gladly provided a brief, amateurish lesson. When I got up this morning, I would not have put strong odds on speaking Romanian today.

When we weren’t conversing, I was getting my language lesson via music played, loudly, in four local languages. When he wasn’t explaining what the songs meant, he was singing along, also loudly.

As we parted, I thanked Simegnew for the hospitality, and was tickled to learn that he would be driving me back to Gondar next week.This gives me a few days to brush up on my Amharic and my Romanian.

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