Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bahir Dar. Dinner and Dance.


Pat getting ready to down some tibs and injera.

Tonight was suppose to be a night filled with a bit of adventure but it didn't quite turn out that one.  Nonetheless, I had fun.

The original plan was for Pat and I to go for dinner at a local restaurant where no one speaks English and the menu is not in English.  It was to be an homage to her husband who had recently passed away.  In their younger days, they would travel to countries where English was not spoken.  He had a love and talent for picking up foreign languages so going to non-English speaking locales was a way for him to learn and practice a new language.  I think it's a awesome way for native English speakers to travel as it is guaranteed to get you out of the comfort zone.

As agreed upon with Haile, we met up with him at 7p in the lobby.  I had originally thought he would just hand over the name of a restaurant and send us on our way.  Instead, he walked us over to the restaurant - it was only about 20 minute walk along the main road that our hotel is also located on.  When we entered the restaurant, it was actually a cafe with a restaurant on the side.  It was definitely a local's only kind of place as all the faces were Ethiopian - it looked like folks had come for happy hour.

The waitress led us to a table.  Haile was still accompanying us. He asked us what we wanted to eat and when I suggested a typical meal with injera, he turned to the waitress and helped us to order our meal of tibs.  Poor guy.  He was really worried about us.  He even gave his mobile number to the waitress and asked her to call him as soon as we were done with our meal so he could back and get us.  Had I known how nervous he was about us venturing out on our own, I would not have put him through all this.

Haile did eventually leave us.  We were finally able to take in our surroundings.  We were dining al fresco, under trees.  There was barely any lighting (presumable for ambiance) and we were seated at a low wooden table on three legged (yes, three legged) woodenchairs,  There were a few other patrons dining and drinking. The temperature had dropped to a very comfortable level and there was barely any humidity in the air. It was actually a lovely night for a meal outdoors.

Setting aside the food (which was so-so) and the fact that this hadn't turned out to be the adventurous experience that I had hoped for, I had a really wonderful time bonding with Pat.  I'm so inspired by her independence and the fact that at her age (almost 80!), she's still venturing to places (Ethiopia, Mongolia and a very remote beach town in Costa Rica) that many people,even her own sons, do have the gumption to travel to.  I really admire her adventurous spirit!

Atmosphere was very nice, conversation was awesome but unfortunately, it was way too dark to take photos and I stubbornly tried to avoid using flash so here (with apologies in advance) are some blurry photos.

I had to take a photo of the chairs because they had the name of the cafe, Wude Coffee,  carved into the back.

Our tibs arrived to the table in clay serving dish. The waitress then divvied up the meat between Pat and I - we
each had our own injera.  The waitress then put a dollop of the spicy berbere sauce on our injera.  The meat is
tasty but it's darn tough probably because it comes  from organic, free range cows we cross paths with every day :-)
Pat had read up on Ethiopian dining etiquette which we dutifully followed except for one which was if you have
spit out any food, you put it on the table, not on the injera.  That was just a bit too messy for us.

We ended our meal with coffee and tea. Pat had the coffee and it came served in the traditional clay pot and small burner of incense. incense burner. The incense was a bit too much - thankfully, the smoke dwindled down.

Just as we were finishing up our post dinner drinks, Haile appeared - the waitress had called him.  He paid our bill and we followed him out of the restaurant.  We were on our way to some place where we would be listening some traditional Ethiopian music and watching some traditional dance performances.

A short distance from the restaurant and we had arrived at a place that was blaring music so loudly that we could hear it from the street.  Before we could enter, we had to be frisked and they took Pat's bottle of water.  My bottle was inside my backpack which they didn't check so it made it in.

Inside, there was a large floor filled with lots of low tables and wooden stools. Up front was a stage.  There was singer performing.  So what we had heard from the street was live music and the sound level was almost deafening inside.  I didn't know how long my eardrums would last.

We found a table to sit at.  Haile soon left us to go get the rest of our group.  In the meantime, Pat and I ordered a couple of drinks and watched a few performances.  Ethiopian song is not gentle on the ears - I definitely don't know how to appreciate it.  The singing performances were mixed in with the dance performances.  Supposedly, the performances are of dance styles from various regions in Ethiopia.  One thing for sure, the style we saw in Lalibela was recognizable on the stage here - the movement is all in the shoulders and neck.

Women performing a dance with umbrellas as props.

A female singer and the musicians provided the song and beat.  Men joined the women on the stage.

Haile returned after a short while.  He had Robert, Sam, Marianne and Gale with him.  We all enjoyed a few performances along with the locals who were quickly filling up the club.  One thing that was interesting.  Ethiopians love to dance so it was not unusual to see people getting and dancing. What was unusual was that they would just stand around their table and dance - not bodies touching but everyone really getting down with the beat.  I had as much fun watching the amateurs perform around their tables as I did the professionals on stage.

Here are snippets of another performance.  This time, the dancers were backed up by a male singer.  I know nothing about Ethiopian dance styles but one thing I did observe - repetitive movements seem to be a common element.


After about an hour, I was ready to leave.  I think Pat had long faded as well.  I headed out along with Pat and surprisingly, several members of the group also left.  There was a line of tuk-tuks waiting outside the bar.  At that instant, I decided I wanted ride back to the hotel rather than walk - there's nothing to see walking along the main road plus I just wanted to get back to the room, shower and relax.  Pat decided she wanted to come along with me so I flagged one of the drivers down.  I asked the rest of the gang to let Haile know that he we were going off on our own so he wouldn't worry that we had gotten lost.  We negotiated the fare with the driver - 40 birr which was probably too high but for the equivalent of $2 USD, I was more than glad to pay.  We both got into the back seat and off we went.  The driver knew exactly where to take us as he told us that he had once worked at the hotel.  We were in the tuk-tuk for barely five minutes when the driver turned off onto the hotel's driveway.  He deposited us right at the entrance and I paid him for his service.

Back at the hotel, I headed right for my room and did my nightly duties.  Tomorrow, we have an 9:30a flight back to Addis.  Our trip to the north comes to an end tomorrow.  I cannot believe I've been in Ethiopia for more than a week now.  It's been filled with so many unique sights, sounds and experiences, it's going to take me quite some time to digest it all.  But for now, I must sleep.

Goodnight from Bahir Dar!