Suitcase and World: At the Market With the Dorze.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

At the Market With the Dorze.

The Dorze market in Chencha.

Ahhhhh.....fooood.  After spending our morning motor boating on Lake Chamo, we were treated to a nice lunch at the appropriately named Arba Minch Tourist Hotel.

Welcome to downtown Arba Minch!  From the street, you would have never known that just on the other side of a fairly nondescript entrance
was a little oasis. The entrance to our restaurant is just passed the awning on the left.

We were greeted by a large terrace situated under dappled shade. Tables and chairs ready at the waiting. It was obvious that Netsanet had booked the table ahead of time.

Netsanet and our three drivers, Masai, Danny and Negatu would also be eating here. They got seated at a table suitable for eating injera.  Even though we weren't seated at the same table or eating the same food, it was nice to have the guys with us.  Later, I went over to say hello to them and they treated to a bite of their food.  Much tastier than my meal.

Most of what we had been eating to date was tourist fare and this was no different except this time I broke down and had spaghetti with meat sauce. I'm beginning to hate lunch as much as breakfast even though this particular dish wasn't half bad compared to what I've had on the trip so far. The atmosphere of the restaurant was just lovely though so the group decided we wanted to come back here for dinner. Netsanyet would make the arrangements.

 I took a seat at the head - good spot to take in the surroundings from. 

After lunch, we headed to the region where the Dorze people live.

Another bumpy ride on an unpaved road....actually, what road?

Our drive took us back up into the mountains and the landscape was much greener.

Things in various parts of Ethiopia are the same yet slightly different.  Example, in this part of the country, riders stand up on their donkey carts. 
Brave way to ride considering the bumpy roads.
Back in the day, the Dorze were fierce warriors.  Now, they're known for their weaving skills.  Plenty of roadside vendors selling textiles woven by local Dorze.

We stopped and visited the local market in the small town of Chencha. The moment we got out of the cars, the Ethiopian Swarm was there to greet us.  I have grown accustomed to the welcome party. Here, adults and children alike brazenly attach themselves to you and either ask "hello, what is your name?" in hopes that you will answer and start up a conversation with them or else they simply ask for a photo which means paying them. The really bold ones will simply ask for money. As we moved through the market, the Ethiopian Swarm followed us. We are never alone anywhere we go.

The market was spread out a across a large open field and it was crowded as has been the case with all the markets that I have been in both here and in Mali. The markets remind me of just how poor these countries are. People, mainly women, have their goods spread out on the ground and many have just a few items to sell. Some are sheltered from the heat by sitting under umbrellas but most just weather under the harsh rays of the sun. It's not an easy way to make money especially since as in the market in Aksum, there were more people selling than buying.

The place was a hub of activity. At first glance, it all looks a bit chaotic but there is order here - vendors are organized according to the
products they sell. What is still so strange to me is that everyone charges the same price.

Produce is just set out atop the ground or whatever material is available and the seller sits nearby.

People, animals and even foosball and of all things, ping pong tables filled the space.

Firewood for sale.

Netsanet had hired a local guide to walk us around and explain things to us - mainly answering our endless stream of questions.

In the spice section, it was interesting to see what they had for sale - dried and powdered chilis, pepper, sesame seeds and of course, salt. The salt was sold by the amount that could be mounded into a typical Ethiopian coffee cup. I asked the guide to find out how much a cup's worth would cost. It was 10 birr - about 50 cents. I decided to go ahead and buy a cup's worth. The woman took a piece of dried banana leaf and placed the salt in it. She then took a piece of the spine and tied up the bundle. For just this little purchase, I attracted quite a crowd of onlookers. It's probably not everyday that an Asian woman buys from this woman or from anyone in the market, for that matter of fact.

Measuring out the small coffee cup's worth of salt.

Wrapping up the salt in a bit of banana leaf.  She also spices for sale.  I only recognized the chilis.

Stripping a bit of leaf to fashion a tie.

Tying up the little bundle of salt.

In another section of the market, the fermented pulp of the false banana leaf was for sale.  Here, two women were pounding and kneading the pulp which when mixed with water creates a dough.  The dough is then flattened into flat rounds that are then *baked* on a pan atop a charcoal fire.  The result is kocho, the staple bread eaten in this part of Ethiopia.

More scenes of the market.  You have to be regular here to know where to pick up what from. There are no signs indicating sections and there are no prices indicated.  It's pretty much guaranteed that if you are tourist or simply an Ethiopian not from the region, you will be charged a higher price.  Luckily, for most tourists, higher price is still comparatively low.

The only greens I saw for say was what Ethiopians refer to as spinach.  It looked more like collard leaves to me.

Grains.  As can be expected, tef, which is the basis for injera was the most commonly sold grain followed by corn.

The one interesting that I saw was the large balls of home made butter, wrapped up in banana leaves. The butter and sometimes the vendors were sitting under the protective shade of umbrellas. As curious as I was about the butter, I was hesitant to sample a bit when Netsanyet offered the chance. Even he was not too keen on trying it though he had had some when he was a young child. These days, he lives in Addis where butter comes in sealed packs as they do in the US.  Spoiled like the rest of us :-)

Next, we walked down the section lined with clothing vendors. Nothing of interest to me so I just *window shopped* as it were.

That's our local Dorze market guide with the well worn leather jacket and funky woven hat on.
At the end of the section, we waited for our drivers and cars to come by and pick us up.  The Ethiopian Swarm had stuck alongside us and I think we even picked up a few more along the way. There was no end to what was quickly becoming the usual litany of questions - "Hello, what is your name?", "Photo?", "Pen?" "One Birr", "Money".  I swear it never stopped the entire time we walked through the market.  Every now again, I would feel a hand tugging at my shirt or touching my skin or my hair. They sure try your patience but every now and again, I would find a pair of eyes or a smile that just tugs at my heart. That's when I just remind myself that it's a difficult life for these poor youngsters and I just let my feelings of annoyance go.

I must admit, the Dorze do love color!

Not too many places where you can get your live chicken as well as lovely headscarf for that special lady in your life :-)

Leather shoes.  Not the most attractive but very practical.  I did find a pair in my size and for a split second, I was tempted.

While we were waiting for our drivers and cars to arrive, we stepped foot inside a local bar.  Was with bars anywhere in the world, it was a rowdy bunch of people inside.  It was hard to tell who was drunk and who was sober.  Not what I was up for so I quickly stepped back outside and took in more views of downtown Chencha.

Welcome to Chencha.  A sleepy town.

The local butcher.  The sight of the meat hanging up in the heat for who knows how long always turns me into a traveling vegetarian.

Two donkeys.  Funny thing was I never saw their owner/shepherd.  Guess they don't need him to show them the way home.
You could always count on Gale to be surrounded by locals curious to see the photo she had just taken of them.
From the smiles on their faces, they were having just as much fun as she was!

Our time with the Dorze was not over yet. On to a village and weaving cooperative we go!