On The Road Again by Katie Rancourt

Today we had to say goodbye to Lalibela and it’s beautiful rock churches. Our next stop was Kombulcha where we were staying overnight before going back to Addis Ababa. Sisay, Mulate, and Abel were ready to load the cars around 8:30 a.m. while the group mentally prepared for the six hour drive ahead of us. After the car was packed up we left the gorgeous Mountain View hotel and made a quick stop at the bank, and a local shop to pick up a box of pens so we were prepared for the children we saw along the drive. On our previous car rides children would yell “Money, money!!” at us, but we noticed on our drive to Lalibela that the majority of the children asked for pens so that they could write in their notebooks for school.


Children chasing after the cars.


Some of the children posing for a picture.


Busy streets that we drove through.

About three hours went by and we stopped for lunch at the same hotel that we ate at on the way to Lalibela. Overall I don’t think this was everyone’s favorite place to eat but we made due and enjoyed our break from being in the car.


Brianna catching some zzz’s after lunch. Sometimes we get tired.

Another couple of hours went by and we stopped to stretch our legs and take in spectacular view of the mountains and winding roads we had driven on. There was no one in sight when we first got out of the car but as usual, about thirty seconds later the local children and people passing by with their animals stopped to see the foreigners, or as they like to say “forengis”.


Veronica using her Amharic phrase book to talk to the locals.


Classic car selfie with Sisay!


Mulate posing for a picture in his sunglasses.


Sunglasses selfie with Mulate!


Locals coming to see the “forengis”.

Shortly after our last stop, we pulled up to the Sunnyside hotel in Kombulcha. We unloaded the luggage and were given our room keys, so we scattered to check out the rooms. Some of us were in regular hotel rooms, and the others stayed in a bungalow, which was basically a suite with two beds in it that was located in round buildings behind the hotel. Something new at this hotel that we haven’t had before was the provided mosquito nets that hung over our beds. We noticed the larger amounts of bugs here so everyone that had the nets made sure to sleep under them.


The bungalow!


Our first experience with the “bimbi”, or mosquito nets.

After getting settled in, we gathered in the restaurant where the majority of us ordered French fries for dinner. A combination of not knowing what to order, not wanting to spend too much, and craving American food contributed to the multiple orders of French fries. We finished off the evening by taking a tour of a local St. George brewery, which would be similar to a beer such as Budweiser in the United States. We were able to sample some beers before it was time to go, and returned to the hotel rest up. We had to get some sleep before another long car ride back to the country’s capitol, Addis Ababa.


Being goofy and posing in front of the St. George banner!


The Long and Winding Road to Lalibela-By Devon Rezac

Today is the day our group left what has felt like our first home here in Ethiopia to travel from the town of Dessie, to the town of Lalibela. Our group had one final breakfast to fill up on before we began our 290km drive to the north. According to Google maps the drive should take around 4 hours and 23 minutes to complete from start to finish. However, we have all become quite accustomed to time never quite being what we have anticipated. Since our time here in Ethiopia has begun, we have learned to really adopt the mantra of “Chegre Yelmo” which is the Amharic way of saying “No Worries”, and man do the Ethiopians truly live this lifestyle. Never being able to drive higher that about 60km an hour due to the many curves and constant dodging of people and animals that line the streets, the drive took about 8 hours from start to finish. Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.33.10 PM

Once the bags were packed and the cars were loaded with tired students from the previous night we set out on the long drive. Thankfully our drivers had the whole route planned and knew exactly where we were going to be making a stop for lunch. They had informed us that at the half way point we would be able to find the best place to stop for food during the drive, and so with that lingering in the back of our minds we settled in, ready to take on the next four hours of cramped quarters. Thankfully we had the pleasure of having new music freshly added to our flash drives, and the next thing we knew we had arrived at our lunch destination.


Our three faithful drivers, without whom we would be lost.


DSCN5194 A man carries a traditional wooden plow home from the fields.

After stopping for a quick bite to eat, mostly consisting of spaghetti bolognese, shiro with injera, and soup for Brianna, our bellies were full and we decided to give some time for digestion to occur before climbing back in the cars to continue our journey. We could only think of one way to pass the time and that was to do some shopping at these little street vendors who were selling traditional clothing, and footstools covered in cow hides. Many purchases were made and then it was back on the road as we still had another four hours of driving ahead of us.

Thankfully the second half of the drive went just as fast as the first half did. As we continued our drive up into the highlands we got to see the gradual transition from the lush green landscape, full of trees, and fields of sugar cane that were growing alongside our path. To the highlands where we saw only hills of grassland, and the occasional tree. It is also interesting the gradual cooling in temperature that we felt along our drive. When we were still in the lower altitude we were all complaining about how incredibly hot and humid it was, but about thirty minutes later and a few thousand feet higher in elevation and we were all ready to put on our jackets and enjoy the brisk cool air that easily as refreshing as having the air conditioning turned on in our cars.

Group shot

Had to take a group photo to capture the scenery, minus myself.

Group 2

Finally though, we had arrived in Lalibela and our beautiful hotel was insight. Excited to finally be in this historic city and all desperate to stretch our legs we climbed out of the car, and entered our new home for the next two nights, excited for our adventure to continue in the morning when we would have the chance to see a UNESCO World Heritage Site, at the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.


mountain view Mountain View Hotel, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Until next time Dessie! by Olivia Willis

We all got up around 6 this morning and had our filling breakfast at our comfortable hotel in Dessie.  We were set to do more assessments of the middle school children at 8:00 am at Gerado School. We left the hotel later than expected but arrived there pretty quickly, and we were all eager to get some work done and meet some new children. It turned out that the kids weren’t available until noon. We made our way back to the hotel, and some students got some fresh fruit juice from the local juice shop. We all took the time to pack up our stuff and used the wifi as much as we could. (Of course!)


We left for Gerado school, yet again, around 11:30, and began the dental and measurement assessments when we arrived. This being my second time to Ethiopia, as well as my second time visiting this school, it was nice to come back to a place that I was somewhat familiar with. The children were so intrigued by us, and they all crowded around us, with their sweet little smiles and adorable little giggles. Pang and I were assigned the job of doing the measurements of the children today, and those who had the job yesterday were assigned to doing dental exams today. Pang and I quickly came up with an efficient way to get the job done well. We both discussed how saddening it was to see the children with such extreme health issues – one of the most noticeable ones being that the children are incredibly small for their age. What’s so amazing to me and the rest of the group, is that these children still manage to be content and have a smile on their face even with so little, which is what Tau’Toya and I discussed today. We got all the assessments completed earlier than we had hoped, so we allowed some younger students to go through the assessment process for fun.

One of the many ingenious ways Ethiopians have dealt with excess plastic bottles.

One of the many ingenious ways Ethiopians have dealt with excess plastic bottles.

We left the school around 2:45 and got prepared for the banquet at 6:00. Everyone got dressed up and we listened to the presentations, ate some delicious traditional Ethiopian food, and had many laughs with our wonderful drivers and the Wollo University students and faculty. All of the presentations were wonderful, each of them having their own unique facts and points of view. The students expressed their gratefulness to be on the trip, and they also explained how the trip has affected them so far. Their research was all very interesting and it was great hearing what they had to say – I think everyone enjoyed it. At the end of the banquet, just before everyone said their goodbyes, the president of Wollo University presented to us beautiful scarves for us to keep. Also, Solomon, the Dean of Agriculture at Wollo University, gave us mini flags of Ethiopia!


Visiting Ethiopia as a 15 year old for my second time has definitely changed my life. I have gotten the opportunity to see things that many people in the US won’t ever get the chance to see. These experiences have changed my perspective on life – they have brought things to light about myself that I didn’t notice back home. They have taught me that there is no reason to complain and whine about the things that I normally do. They have made me realize that I am so incredibly lucky to have the things I have in my life, as well as for all the things that I get to do. I have gained memories that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and be able to share as well. Although our trip to Dessie is complete, it was awesome meeting so many new people, including the university students, and also learning so much while we were here! Can’t wait for what the next few weeks bring us.

Mengaga! by Brianna Hekrdle

Of all of the 10 perfect days in Ethiopia, today had to be the best. At the very least, it was what we were all waiting for! We piled in the cars and drove to Korke to take part in the anthropometric measurements of school children; which was part of the bigger research project spearheaded by our fearless leader, Dr. Willis, and her PhD student Yirga.

But, the day began with another round of home visits; this time in Korke, a primarily Muslim community. Each group, along with an Ethiopian student, went our separate ways for the morning to experience again food preparation and life in Ethiopia. My partner Pang and I went to a health post with Yirga which serves the community of Korke, which was also an amazing learning experience. Nearly 5,000 people depend on one woman at this health post for preventative care and health education. An amazing and huge job! Meanwhile, the other students were observing beautiful people and families like these:

A family our group visited today, photo credit to Jon Kerrigan.

A family our group visited today, photo credit to Jon Kerrigan. 🙂 

When we all met back up around lunch time, we were invited to a coffee ceremony to celebrate the partnership of UNL, Wollo University, and the middle school in which we were working. The smell of incense welcomed us as the coffee was being prepared in the prolific traditional pot over coals. A beautiful ceremony and breaking of bread later, the school supplies and books we brought to the school were presented to and accepted by the school’s headmaster. It was a gift to see the supplies brought to where they were needed. The school officials even gave us a tour of their new, bright yellow library! Speaking of, they are in need of english school/ text books for elementary and middle schoolers… to fill that beautiful new library. 🙂

After an already great morning, our work with the measurements began!

The children crowding the door to scope out the classroom we took over!

The children crowding the door to scope out the classroom we took over!

For these “anthropometric” measurements, students’ height, weight, and a dental assessment were taken. We set up stations for each, and learned as we went!

Amanda smiling while she measured. :)

Amanda smiling on the job. 🙂

Devon and I doing our new favorite thing... checking teeth! But, we couldn't have done it without Genet translating!

Devon and I doing our new favorite thing… checking teeth! But, we couldn’t have done it without Genet translating.

The materials we used to record dental health.

The materials we used to record dental health. Decayed, missing, and erupting teeth were marked; and a copy of the form was given to the child to take home to the family. 

The best of a few Amharic vocab words I learned today was “Mengaga,” which was the buzzword to get the shy children to open their mouths for our flashlight! Our new, fun word was put to great use. After saying “Mengaga” and a whole host of other Amharic words I’m sure we mispronounced, each student left with some sugary bubble gum and a smile.

We worked until dinner time, putting in an extra long day of highly rewarding work. It’s not even putting down the other days when I say today was really, the best.

So… Where’s the trail? by Pang Matet

The group woke up early this morning to visit the Orthodox church up the street from our hotel. The church looked so beautiful as the morning sun highlighted the carvings on the walls. As we got closer we could see the fine details of these hand carvings which we learned took 20 years to complete.


Hand carved pillars.

Carefully hand carved pillars.


The people of Ethiopia are very religious and devoted and we were able to witness this devotion today at the church as we watched them worshiping and praying along the walls of the church as well as kissing the ground before entering. YIrga told us that some even begin worshiping at 5 a.m. and may not finish until 3 p.m. Currently, members of the church are fasting, our driver Abel being one of them. There are 7 different fasting periods during the year all with varying durations. The group was so fascinated and thankful that we had the opportunity to see this part of the Ethiopian people’s lives.

The next thing we had planned was a hike… on the mountains surrounding Dessie. From the city it doesn’t look too challenging but the group was in for a wake up call. We began our trek up the mountain and within minutes many of us were already out of breath. We were determined to make it to the top so we continued on, making sure to take pictures of the view and see how far we’ve hiked. We were all surprised to discover that Dessie was larger than we had thought. Sweating and tired, we finally made it to the top and what a view!


Yirga fearlessly climbing a tree to get an unique photo taken. It was his first time up here since moving to Dessie 6 years ago, so he didn't want to forget this experience.

Yirga fearlessly climbing a tree to get an unique photo taken. It was his first time up here since moving to Dessie 6 years ago, so he didn’t want to forget this experience.

Libby, Tau'Toya, Katie, and Taryn.

Libby, Tau’Toya, Katie, and Taryn.

The cute little boys we met on our hike.

The cute little boys we met on our hike.

After snapping a few selfies and pictures, we began our descent. “The hard part is over,” we all thought but oh were we wrong. The descent proved to be somewhat challenging for some of us as we tried to step in the right places so we didn’t slide off the mountain. The trail zig-zagged across the side of the mountain and was covered in loose rocks and dirt that made the path hard to distinguish so many of us repeatedly asked “So… where’s the trail?” With help from the Ethiopian students and Solomon who seemed to have no trouble mastering the descent, we all eventually made it safely to the bottom and the only thing we all wanted was a nice bottle of wuha cascasa (cold water).

John and I trying not to look down.

John and I trying not to look down.

"You can't fall if you're already on the ground," was the motto for the climb down. You can see Devon in the back laughing at and videotaping us.

“You can’t fall if you’re already on the ground,” was the motto for the climb down. You can see Devon in the back laughing at and videotaping us.

Solomon nonchalantly making his way down while the rest of us struggled.

Solomon nonchalantly making his way down while the rest of us struggled.

We have mastered the mountains of Ethiopia (survived I should say) and are looking forward to spending the day tomorrow measuring school children and doing dental exams.

Fruits, Vegetables and Natural Pesticides, oh my! By: Tau’Toya Broadway

A few of the students and Yigra admiring teff, used in the traditional Ethiopian injera.

UNL students and Yigra admiring teff, which is used in traditional Ethiopian injera.

The agenda included going to an irrigation site with mainly fruits and vegetables and visiting a natural pesticide site. The day started off bumpy, literally. After several days of driving up and down the mountains you began to get tired of the fast and furious driving, along with twists, turns and bumps, every two seconds. But the good thing is we made it to the site safely. Upon arriving we met with a young man who led us across a large field, to the crops. On our way to the main attraction, the crops, we were shown a primary canal, secondary and tertiary canal, which receives water from a river.

Even animals make use of the primary canal.

A young farm boy and his sheep…even animals make use of the primary canal.

The handmade canal is approximately 20 years old and in impressive condition. When we made it to the main attraction we were immediately intrigued by all of the crops the farmers produce. We saw cabbage, tomatoes, mangos, avocados, teff, coffee beans… the farmers had a large variety of crops. Despite the scorching heat and long walk, we were all able to learn a thing or two about agriculture in Ethiopia.



Coffee beans

Coffee beans





Next destination, natural pesticide site. What is amazing about this site and a lot of farms in Ethiopia is that harsh chemicals are not used to keep the pest away. They have found natural repellants to be more sufficient. The first thing we were shown was a classroom. In the classroom, 21 farmers learn how to keep everything organic. A great deal of the repellant remedies are from common knowledge and a few are tradition. The farmers were more than willing to share their knowledge with us. We learned that fermented cow’s urine can be used as a natural pesticide. Indole can be used as a laundry detergent. Azahar is a multi-purpose plant, one use is to treat human warts. The farmers had elephant grass, which can be used in the “push-pull strategy”. The elephant grass was planted around the parameter, near a desired crop, to “push” the pest away from the crop and “pull” towards the elephant plant, and then out of the plot. The site is fairly new, only 7 years young, but they have done so many great things thus far. I see nothing but ongoing success within this site.


A plant that repels corn pesticides.


The classroom where the farmers are taught how to make natural pesticides.


Yigra, a Wollo University professor and the farmer showing us a few plants that are used to repel pest.

Note to self: Never piss off an Ethiopian coffee pot vendor by Taryn Smith


Views from the top of the market

Patience is definitely a virtue that we have all come to understand on this trip! Off to a late start yet again, we began our day with a short ride up the mountain to the Hayik market. The streets were bustling with Ethiopians of all sizes and ages on a mission to either buy or sell their product. Whether it was sorghum beans or a caravan of camels, you name it, they had it! The thousands of people that covered the streets was somewhat intimidating but we all just had to put our “don’t mess with us” face on and plunged into the unknown. We spent about three hours up and down. Our guide, Yenenneh, was just amazing with his bargaining techniques. He never rested. Not until he got the best price for us. He even bargained so much with one lady for my coffee pot and she became so irritated that she refused to sell the pot altogether! However, I convinced her to sell it to me again after some ten minutes of pleading. Hey, you do what you have to do for coffee!


A vendor selling her beans in the market


A camel just chilling in the Market

Burnt skin and three hours later, we left the market. The majority of us either satisfied with our purchases or too hot and tired to even care! We hopped in our caravans and said goodbye to the market. We then took a short drive down to the lake were we got lunch. Yirgi though, somewhat underestimated the size of the fish of which we all ordered our own! When they came to the tables, all we could do was laugh! They were huge! No one was able to finish however, the fresh tilapia from the lake we overlooked, was delightful! We all took a minute to catch ourselves under the shaded tree and watched the birds dipping down under the water for fish and popping back up every so often.


The overly large fish we ate!

After a relaxing lunch, we headed out to the monastery on the opposite side of the lake. We purchased traditional garments, bed linens along with other small trinkets. Our driver, Mulay, and Devon decided to take a dip in the cold water while the rest of us watched and pathetically tried to skip rocks. The breeze was refreshing and calming. I think we all really enjoyed the cool breeze at the end of a hectic day. We finished our adventure with a tree climb and a routine group photo. Today was, by far, the best in my book as we proceed on this adventure through Ethiopia!



Me, Katie and Veronica standing at the top of the market