Here we go: we've made it to Addis Ababa (via Jeddah) and are really looking forward to our NGO-experience in Ethiopia.
As you may have read on Facebook, we've had some problems getting to Frankfurt, because we live in - more or less - "German Outback". Our home is on a really small island in the North Sea, called Spiekeroog.
As you can see, Spiekeroog looks just like a South Sea island in summer ... in winter, though, it's all grey, windy and cold! As we don't have "real" cars (really hard for a Land Rover owner), every single bit of transport has to be done by either foot, bicycle or electric cars.
When we tried to catch the ferry to the mainland (which is always scheduled "wind, weather and tides permitting"), there was a nasty thunderstorm blowing, including plenty of rain and hail and you can imagine that we were not really looking forward to getting outside and riding the three km to the harbour by bicycle. Thus, we were not that unpleased when we found out that the ferry had been cancelled due to the storm tide and the high sea levels connected with that. This meant that all the students of the boarding school we work for, who were on their way into their (more or less) deserved Christmas holidays, would have to stay longer and not get their trains back home - and for us in charge of the school this meant an awful lot of work and a large portion of spontaniousness. Apart from this, for us this also meant that a later (or cancelled) ferry would also mean that we would not be able to catch the plane from Bremen to Frankfurt and that we would have to go to Frankfurt by car. Later, it was announced that the "new" ferry was going to leave at a quarter to four in the afternoon. We reached Frankfurt by car at around ten o'clock in the evening after a nasty ride to the harbour with hail and rain blowing horizontally into our faces (two parents riding two bikes with trailers, one trailer carrying the two kids and the other one the luggage). We were really happy to meet my brother Niko and his friend Aldrin in Frankfurt, but, due to our late arrival, we only had very few minutes together. After a short night in the hotel, we boarded the plane to Addis Ababa.
It's a strange thing to travel without our Land Rover, as that is what we have been doing for the last few years. Especially for our children, it's a really new thing! So far, they seem to be enjoying it (apart from the fact that Anouk said that she doesn't have enough room in the rental car - get that, you Landy haters: children and fools tell the truth!). It also is a good "test" for our overland trip to South America next summer!
The plane journey was really great and the children really enjoyed it. It is always great to observe other people wearing different garments and having different customs. There were people from all over the world ... e.g. we met Mexicans traveling to Lalibela in Ethiopia and also lots of pilgrims to Mekka who changed their western clothes to all-white garments on the plane.
Ethiopia! What will Ethiopia be like? Of course, we have been planning our stay together with the people from "Adigrat Vision e.V." and thus have heard some stories of people who have been to Ethiopia and Adigrat, but you only have a clue what's going on at a place when you get there! Hearing "Ethiopia", a lot of people we told about our plans obviously immediately had pictures of famine and disease in their heads. But, if you think just a little bit further, you find out that Ethiopia is far more than just those negative things: First of all, it's the place where we all stem from, it's "Mama Africa", as all human life started there. As a biologist, "Lucy", "Dinknesti" in Amharic, comes to my mind, discovered in the Ethiopian province of Afar. "The Marvellous" walked the Earth 3,2 million years ago. Also, Ethiopia was the place where the first "homo sapiens" started to discover this wonderful planet. From the cultural perspective, Ethiopia looks back on thousands of years of different Ethiopian kingdoms (when most Europeans were still "living in the woods" without a proper state structure!). In addition to that, Ethiopia is the country with the oldest official Christian church, founded in the fourth century (Adigrat, our "final destination" in Ethiopia, is situated in the area where a lot of rock hewn churches are). In 615 also the very first Muslims who escaped persecution took hostage in Ethiopia, as well as some ancient Jews, the Beta Israel. Ethiopia also is the only country in Africa which has never been colonized. So, if you look below the surface western media present, you discover far more that just the negative stuff! Still, that does not tell us what life in Adigrat will be. Will there be cars on the roads? (we heard that the "school bus service" is done by donkey cart) How will the people react to us? We have heard that they are really polite and a bit shy as well, but will our children make a difference? What food will we get? Far too many questions ... we'll have to wait and see.