POST BY AMALIA FERNAND
Sunday January 16th, 2011
Sitting underneath a tree of black and white colobus monkeys, I wonder what they think of my computer. Leaf eaters, they spend much of their day chilling, eating, and digesting. Their behavior is much different than the other monkeys that we have encountered in Ethiopia, the Grivet monkeys. After leaving the bustling capital, Addis Ababa, to wind our way south through farmlands, villages and the occasional camel herd, we arrived at a hotel with thriving population of begger Grivet monkeys. Savannah monkeys, they are usually dependent on Acacia seeds and flowers, but at this hotel they have become obsessed with human food. They stole it off the tables and out of bags and rooms and they apparently have a thing for undergarments. Mamas with babies perched behind us at breakfast and pattering feet ran across the roof in the morning.
The hotel was located on Lake Owassa, a volcanically formed lake in the Rift Valley. There we met up with the Run Across Ethiopia team of both U.S. and Ethiopian runners, reporters, medical support, drivers, musicians, videographers, and translators. Seth Bernard and May Erlewine played a concert that night at a local restaurant and local Ethiopian musicians finished off the show.
Early the next morning, the first rays of the rising sun fell over the lake as I greeted the day surrounded by water birds and grivet monkeys and was so grateful to be out of the city. We took a small boat out on the lake to search for hippos and witnessed the immensity of the second largest land mammal in Africa, weighing up to 7,000 pounds at over 12 feet long! Hippos are hairless and their sensitive skin burns easily, so they spend their days wallowing in shallow water, socializing and digesting and they spend nights on land eating grass, Their territorial nature makes them one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. A large adult make can have lower canines above the gum at 18″ and lower incisors at 10.” The hippos looked at us, they snorted, and they went on with their wallowing, giant eyes full of power, resting just above the water,
The Awassa Children’s House is home to 45 children aged 6-16: http://awassachildrenscenter.org/#/who-we-are/4539259833
They are orphans and street children whom are given a safe place to live and an education. I brought my Nature Explorers suitcase and spent an afternoon with these loving children. Armed with magnifying glasses and binoculars, we explored their campus as we collected leaves for leaf rubbing posters, We created leopard and Gelada baboon masks and the children were extremely diligent and creative workers. The joy, the smiles, the laughter, the appreciation, the excitement, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Today, I joined the run and was moved by the happiness that we brought to many hundreds of children merely by our presence. The runners finished mile 198 today and I joined them in running through small villages and coffee plantations for a few of those miles. I also traveled by the bus that stays close by the group and stops to supply water and food breaks. On these occasions, the people came running to gather, to stare, watchfully, expectantly, curiously. I blew bubbles for the children and to witness the universal reaction of a child to a bubble reminds me that everywhere, people are just people. They jumped, they laughed, they chased, they loved, and I only wish that I could do so much more, bring them so much more, give them so much more. And then I look around and I realize that I am. This entire event is for them, for their education, to increase their standard of living, to give them a chance at a healthy life. Most of them do not understand this right now, and they may never. I only wish that we could spend more time with them instead of quickly moving through each village. I wish that we could explain that the reason we are here is for them and that there are so many people out there who have donated time, money, and a piece of their hearts for this cause.
The last 2 nights we have stayed in the coffee growing region set amongst beautiful wooded hlllsides, Each night, the second largest carnivore in Africa, the hyena, came up to eat the food scraps and show herself. Seth and May have been writing and tonight they shared some of their songs by the fire. The moon reflects over the mountains and valleys of coffee plants in this region and I feel so thankful to be a part of this team and this amazing experience.
To return to our website click this link, www.runacrossethiopia.org