After a few days in Addis Ababa, Juliet and I started our real Ethiopian adventure with a ten-hour bus ride to Bahir Dar. This is a rough breakdown of how we spent the time:
Lunch & bathroom breaks — 1 hour
Sleeping — 3 hours
Watching Ethiopian music videos — 30 minutes
Looking out the window, enjoying the view of the mountains and the Blue Nile — 1 hour
Trying to figure out the plot of an Ethiopian soap opera (“omg, she’s trying to poison him! … no, I think that’s just medicine … now she’s hugging him … wait, no, she’s trying to smother him with a pillow! … is that the same guy? … forget it, I’m going back to sleep.”) — 30 minutes
Looking out the window, becoming increasingly terrified as the bus took more and more hairpin turns down the the mountains — 1 hour
Watching The gods must be crazy II (must admit that we really enjoyed it) — 2 hours
Praying that the bus would not tip over and careen down a mountain — 1 hour
We spent our evening in Bahir Dar enjoying the gorgeous hotel at which Juliet somehow managed to wrangle us a discount rate.
Bahir Dar is famous for its lakefront monasteries, so the next day we took a boat ride across the lake to see some of them.
Ethiopia is not particularly known for its wildlife, but we did spot a big flock of pelicans and one hippo from the boat.
The monasteries were very old but well-maintained, and inside of the main prayer areas, there were beautiful floor-to-ceiling paintings of scenes from the Old and New Testaments, painted with natural inks.
There were a lot of monks praying inside, which was really interesting to see. The monks wore long, flowy clothing and hats and were barefoot inside the churches, all of which reminded me of muslims, and the way that they prayed — with one monk reading (almost chanting) from a large bible at the front of the room, and others circled around him, focused on their own small bibles, reminded me of jews. Either way, it was definitely very different than the way that Christians pray in the U.S. Everything that I learned and saw of Ethiopian Orthodoxy throughout this trip felt that way — completely new and different, and yet somehow familiar at the same time.
The next morning, I watched the sun rise over the lake …
… and then we hired a minivan to drive us to our next stop. Goodbye, Bahir Dar (as seen from minivan window)!