Monday, January 27, 2014

Meeting the Arbore.


Arbore family.  That cute little boy....stole my heart.

Our drive today took us further into the heart of the Omo Valley. Netsanet has repeatedly been telling us that our days will be filled with a lot of long drives. I don't mind.  Our first stop today would be at a Arbore village.  The Arbore or Ebore are a small tribe living in the Omo Valley who survive as pastoralists - the land they inhabit is not sufficiently arable for growing crops.  The Arbore share cultural and ancestral associations with the Konso which makes sense given their geographic proximity to each other. The women are known to cover their heads with thin, black cotton cloth and adorn themselves with colorful, beaded necklaces.

We had a long day ahead of us so it was an early departure from Konso.  Our final destination would be the town of Turmi, our launch point to visiting the tribes and villages in the Lower Omo Valley, one of the main reasons for my coming to Ethiopia.  By the way, if you want to see some really gorgeous photos of Omo Valley tribes people, check out this JoeyL's portfolio - he's a young but in my opinion, a  super talented photographer. 

Car 2 along with Danny, the driver, made it from Arba Minch to Konso today.  There's some minor damage to the front of the car but it's perfectly drivable.  Danny was unharmed and he seems ready to go!

We hit the road right after breakfast.  Jean, Pat and I rode with Danny.  The first thing we discovered about Danny's car is that there is a refrigerated compartment - cool water!

It was warm, sunny day.  Loving the landscape here - still arid but more trees.

Back with my two compadres!

Sam loves to take photos and videos of landscapes so wherever there's a nice vista to be had, you can be sure we'd stop for the photo op.   We've left the trees of Konso behind - we're back to craggy mountains and arid land.


It's early morning.  Time to leave home and get the herd to the pasture.  What a view to be able to enjoy every day.

Back down in the valley.

A field of cotton ready to be picked.

We stopped to briefly watch men picking cotton. I'm sure they were wondering why we were so curious.

It's hard, back breaking work.  Though it was early morning, it was already warm.

Down the road from the pickers, we saw another group of men piling up the cotton to be trucked out.

It was another day on a dusty road. This is what it looked like at times!  Road, what road?

Both Pat and Jean had brought maps of Ethiopia with them. Everyday, Jean would mark our route on the map so we could see where we were heading.  What a marvelous idea!  Why haven't I thought of bringing along a map on any of my trips?

hours after we left Konso, we arrived into an Arbore village.  The village was a large compound - buildings constructed with mud and reeds were scattered about.  Barely anything green in sight, just a lot of dirt.  Pretty harsh looking place to call home.

There was already a local guide ready to show us around. Our *tour* began inside one of the village's larger buildings.


While everyone else sat on a long bench or on small stools, I opted to sit on the floor next to one of the village women and a small child. Our guide's knowledge of English was rudimentary at best and with his accent, it was near impossible trying to understand what he was saying. After a few minutes of attempting to decipher what he was trying to say, I gave up, Instead, I turned my attention to the adorable little toddler sitting just feet away from me. When he first scrambled onto the lap of the woman (guessing it was his grandmother) sitting next to me, he was munching on something that looked like a root vegetable of some sort. He was extremely well behaved, not making any fuss at all. I couldn't resist holding out my hand towards him and he grabbed a few fingers. We had made a connection. Before you know, I'm gently running a few of my fingers up his arm and making him giggle. Of course, I had to do that several times just to hear that wonderful sound of a child giggling. He held on to my hand every now and again. It was a priceless travel moment for me.

Time does fly by when you're having fun and before I knew it, it was time to leave. Before going, I asked if I could take a photo. In the Omo villages, you have to pay if you want a photo. The rule of thumb we've been given to follow is 5 birr per adult, 1 birr per child and that applies per photo! I've already decided that I'm going to be very picky about whom I take photos of and I am prepared to have to pay extra if the first photo doesn't come out the way I want.  The opening photo for this posting is the one I took of the two women and the adorable toddler who for a few minutes of time, stole my heart. It wasn't the perfect photo but for my first one, I loved it! I handed over 10 birr to the woman and 1 birr to the child. I then waved goodbye and left them behind.

The building we were in.  It's not easy living being an Arbore villager.

The moment I popped my head out of the thatched roof building, I was mobbed by villages, young and old, asking "Photo" followed by the price, "Photo 5 birr?" The smarter ones would go for the discount approach, "Photo 2 for 8 birr?" Most times, I would either simply shake my head or say, "No" in response. Everyone in the group had their own swarm of villagers. And every villager was purposely dressed to entice photo taking. The women wear layer upon layer of colorful beaded necklaces, sometimes enough that they cover their breasts. Earrings, arm bands and bracelets complete the look.


Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a young woman with machete in hand, carrying a bundle of newly cut branches on her back. She was standing away from the crowd. I tried not to make eye contact with her but as I took a second quick glance, I noticed that her breasts were slightly deformed and that she wasn't as *dolled up* as the other women. For some reason, that drew me to her and I asked Netsanet to help me ask her for a photo. I wanted to take her picture under the shade of a tree and so he walked her over for me. She stood stiff as a rod, crossed her arms and never smiled. I took one photo and previewed the image.  I can't decide if she looks sad or defiant....maybe a bit of both. In any event, I handed the 5 birr over to Netsanet to give to her. I'm not off to a good start as far as getting photos of Omo tribes is concerned. Hopefully, it will get better.

I decided one photo was enough so I took a few minutes to walk around the village. At least that's what I attempted to do but it's not easy when you have a phalanx of villagers pestering you about taking photos. By the time I decided to make my way back to the van so had everyone else.

The Arbore village.  Never too late in the day to take the goats to graze.

It was my turn to be in the front passenger seat and I was determined to make the most of it. We had barely left the Arbore village when I spotted a young Arbore woman walking alongside the road.

An Arbore woman, her black headcloth draped over her left shoulder.

I asked Danny to stop and I got out of the car and walked towards her. I asked if I could take her photo.   All you have to do to ask is simply say, "photo?". She nodded. I then used my fingers to raise the corners of my mouth - I wanted her to smile. She did and I snapped the photo, hoping her smile would be a natural one. I quickly previewed the image before giving her 5 birr and running back to the car. There, I took a better look at the photo I took. It's a simple portrait of an Arbore woman and I love it!

Leaving the Arbore village behind, we continued our road trip towards Turmi.