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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ethiopian New Year and Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!

Melkam Addis Amet! Happy Ethiopian New Year!

Today, according to the Ethiopian calendar, is September 1st, 2004 – New Year’s Day and the official end of the rainy season. Yay! We knew that nobody would be working today, so we worked yesterday and took today as a holiday. We had grand plans of sleeping in this morning but were thwarted by a passel of adorable Ethiopian children banging on our door and shouting our names at 7am. They had brought us all yellow flowers for the holiday and were so excited to see us that getting up early on our day off didn’t matter too much. We took some cute pictures with them – the kids look super adorable, and we look extremely disheveled and half asleep. Soon after they left, another set of children arrived with MORE flowers, and then a kid from the first group came back to invite us to his parents’ house for coffee ceremony. So by 8am on our day off, we were squashed together on a bench in Berarra’s house drinking the first of many cups of coffee.

Coffee in Ethiopia is an event. They roast the beans right there on a little ceramic stove, then make three pots of coffee, which they serve to you in tiny cups filled with sugar. There is also a snack, which this morning was bread and popcorn. Everyone sits around drinking cups and cups of coffee and chatting. Usually they burn incense or frankincense, so the house is smoky and dark and smells delicious. Most of the people that live in our camp came to the coffee ceremony this morning, so there was lots of chatter and small children running in and out.

Now that we are back home, we’ve started heating water for showers (yay!!), charging computers because it’s sunny out, and generally relaxing. We’ve got another coffee invitation for just after lunch, so we’re trying to get some real food in out stomachs before the next three pots of coffee! One of those days, I guess! :)


Well, it turned out that what we thought was an afternoon invitation was in fact a 10am invitation. and it was for an additional four cups of coffee each, three types of snacks and a celebratory tin can of home-brewed beer. We managed - somehow - to keep the beer down, though I don't think any of the four of us actually finished the entire tin can. Something about the gritty texture and the knowledge that it was made with unfiltered water was a little off-putting.... very friendly and gracious hosts though, to provide it for us! And now we just got ANOTHER invitation - from a very cute boy wearing a roll of tin foil like a hat and cape to keep the rain off. We told him "maybe later", since we are waaaay full of coffee and beer at the moment. Ali is making some soup for us, which will be a nice change from what we've eaten so far today....

After getting back home, we started the weekly shower rotation just as the rain began. So - hot showers were had, but you had to run back and forth from the tent in the yard to the house to get them. It will be so nice when it's dry!

On the work front, this has actually been a very productive week. Our first day up here (last Thursday) was rainy and gray, but since then it’s been sunny and warm in the mornings. The afternoons are consistently wet and gross, so we’ve been diligent about getting back from the field by lunch time to avoid being caught in the rain, hail and thunderstorms. I’ve been helping Julie collect fecal samples from the adult geladas, and have also been making some serious headway on identifying juveniles for my own study. I’m hoping to start data collection in the next week or two, depending on which units I can find between now and then. It’s so nice to be back out in the mountains, especially when it’s sunny. Last year, I was here for the entire rainy season, so sunshine and fieldwork is a fairly new thing for me. It’s so wonderful to see the green hills and the waterfalls appear when the fog burns off! The geladas, for the most part, look fat and happy and there are lots of adorable new babies. So far, we’ve named them Berbere, Pterodactyl, Zazu and Kaleidoscope. All the babies I knew from last summer are brown juveniles now, and it’s fun to see how much they have grown up! I am looking forward to getting started on my real work soon – it will be very neat to actually start observing the juveniles. I can already tell there are going to be interesting differences between the large units and the smaller ones, and of course between the males and females. Ali has been sick this week so hasn’t gotten much time with the monkeys, but I know already that having an extra set of eyes on those rascally juveniles will be helpful!

It’s also been fun to really get to establish myself in our house. Last summer, I was in a tent in the backyard for most of the summer. This time, I have a real room, and I don’t even have to share it! I’ve put a bunch of pictures up on the wall, and unpacked my clothes and books and things out of my trunk onto some shelves. It’s great to not live out of a suitcase, and to have a real bed and a window and walls that I can put things on. It makes me feel like I’m actually staying for a while. That’s good, since I’m going to be here until May! My room is very homey and it makes me happy to come back to it after work. I also have a real bed frame – not sleeping on a cot this year! :)

I guess that’s all for the moment. I’m hoping for one more week of preliminary work, maybe two, then get started with data collection by the end of the month. Wish me luck!
Sunset from our lookout

Happy New Year! And happy start of school for all of you doing that at the moment!

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