from zoe…

Internet in Axum is .80 birr/minute and I’m unable to log onto my mail so Mark and I are once again joining forces to wish you a very merry Christmas.

It is probably about 90 degrees here in the dry 2000 meter sun, and we are struggling with our white faranji skin. It doesn’t quite feel like Christmas Eve, except for the fake xmas tree in the internet cafe.

Mark says the Beatties sometimes make a lamb roast for Christmas, we’re thinking we can probably manage to find some lamb here too, spiced up and with sour bread. We’ve had quite enough of that and may just go for a festive spaghetti.

Things are very old here, one feels a little closer to what it must have been like 2000 years ago for Mary and Jesus, whose faces we’ve now seen on countless monastery and church murals (and bus fronts).
There are camels, and dust, and donkeys, and ancient stellae dating back to the old testament times.

Well, off we go back into the heat, to try to see if one of the old men at the market with their foot driven sewing machines, circa 1920, can mend the tears that a mountain bike ride over Ethiopian roads and a scramble up to the granite quarries in the hills outside town wrought on my jeans.

Much love to all, Zoe and Mark


I remember reading something in this book Matt loaned me, stating that Ethiopia is one of the few coffee exporting countries that actually consumes a large amount of its product. This makes sense, as according to legend coffee was discovered here in the North by a Goatherd one day, as his flock grew excited by chewing on the plant. So far the coffee here has been excellent, but mostly one sees that it’s part of a more important social function, roasting the beans, having your guests smell the freshly roasted smoke, then the 3 small cups of black coffee with a little sugar, and of course conversation.

On Lake Tana yesterday the monastaries are surrounded by coffee plants with red coffee berries and hops bushes, which is used to brew honey wine.  The monastaries were established around the 16th century, Christian Orthodox, mosty made of mud and straw with elaborate paintings on the circular interior walls of biblical scenes. Mary is revered here, as well as many othere Ethiopian specific Saints. In the center of each monastery is a copy of the Ark of the Covenant which only a few high order priests view.

Wednesday and Friday are Orthodox vegetarian fasting days. There is very little cheese or milk available here. All other meals consist of beef, lamb, or goat. Chicken is rather rangey. A fairly impressive collection of Ethiopian beer is available considering the country’s modest resources, mostly lighter lagers.

Hopefully I’ll have a chance to write as we travel further north to the Axumite ruins and larger constructions of Christian antiquity. So far splendid.

deferred to Ethiopia

Sadly Vermont was deferred by Aaron’s car troubles, perhaps two feet of snow, and a general lack of Four Wheel Drive.  A Greenpoint Thanksgiving with my Gaffer Shawn Greene and his Kazakhstani girlfriend, and tall Jeff from Iowa, and some Russian friends of theirs.  Amazing.  It was the shortest Thanksgiving commute ever, sadly ignoring our relative’s pleas, and walking a mere four blocks for turkey and people speaking foreign tounges in Brooklyn.  Also, School Of Rock was on TV.

Ethiopia begins out of Newark this Wednesday flying to Frankfurt for a night and then to Addis Ababa.  The North should be full of ruins and driving off road, and high mountain plains.  Pictures will be posted upon return.

I don’t know what to think of the Romantic Comedy genre.  It’s kind of painful.  Too many small closed off locations for "free" or from "friends" to keep costs low.  There’s a reason people shoot on sets, I’ve learned, is that if you have a film crew of 50 people come into your relatively nice wooden Brownstone in Harlem, they will mess up your paint and your nice wood floors.  Worst case scenario, say at a Yoga Center in the Upper West Side, a fire might start with actors below it, due to the lack of ventilation while filling the skylight full of 12kW of hot lights, and then all the glass will crack.  Lesson learned.

Bis Dann. Liebe Gruesse. -Mark