the very inspiring blogger award

Thursday, March 21:  Back in November, the amazing Elisa of Eat, Travel, Photograph nominated me and african meanderings {& wanderings} for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  Elisa describes herself as a traveler and a dreamer.  She’s a 24-year-old girl who comes from a small village the Trentino-Alto Adige region in the North of Italy, even though she admits she hasn’t been there much lately.

In the last 6 years, she’s lived in 7 different cities in 5 different countries, in some just for a couple of months and in others longer.  She speaks 3 languages but hopes to add a 4th one soon.

I apologize to Elisa that it’s taken me so long to accept this award.  I was very flattered by her compliments about my blog: “This amazing lady has quite a lot of blogs and I actually love them all, but Africa is Africa. Check out the one about Oman and Greece too! Great travel pictures!”

As the other awards do, this one has some rules for whoever accepts it:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.

2. Link back to the person who nominated you.

3. State 7 things about yourself.

4. Nominate 15 bloggers for this blog and link to them.

5. Notify these bloggers of the nomination and the awards’ requirements.

Here are my 7 “things:”

1. I feel perfectly happy having a few close friends and don’t feel the need to be friends with everybody.

2. I have a special playlist of songs that take me back to special moments in my life, and I love listening to these songs over and over.

3. Don’t get me started on any cheese snack, because I won’t stop eating it until it’s finished.

4. I love French & Italian romantic films, especially Bread and Tulips and Apres Vous.

5. I am ready to stop being an ex-pat and go home. 🙂

6. I love wind chimes and windmills and Tibetan Buddhist chants.

7. I have a huge collection of colorful scarves from all over the world.

Ok, now for the nominees!  This award requires me to pick 15, which is a lot!! But I follow & love many more blogs than this.  Here are some of my favorites (& this list is not all-inclusive!).

Carol of The Eternal Traveller, who describes herself as “a wife and mother, a teacher, writer, quilt maker and a grower of roses.”

Lynn of bluebrightly, who blogs about “photography or philosophy, birds or flowers, zen, maps, psychology, travel.”  Her photos are gorgeous!

Dallas of Crazy Train to Tinky Town, who tells the funniest stories about her crazy romance with a Turk and about her family in Britain.  She describes herself as “a thirty something, single woman who has packed my bags for what promises to be the adventure of a lifetime. I should have been married by now to my childhood sweetheart who ditched me, just a hop, jump and a skip away from the altar, to sweep my former best friend off her Jimmy Choos.”

Sylvia of Another day in paradise, who writes about “anything and everything” and goes back and forth between her home in South Africa and in her other home in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Francine of Francine in Retirement, who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and shows us that city through her beautiful photos.  She always encourages her fellow bloggers by saying BE ENCOURAGED!  BE BLESSED!  in her thoughtful comments on our blogs.

Robin’s new blog, breezes at dawn, which explores her meditative side through inspiring and meaningful quotes and gorgeous pictures.

Kathryn of vastly curious, who shares her adventures through beautiful photographs.

Annette of The Beauty Along the Road, whose blog is dedicated to the discovery of beauty in all its nuances.  She loves “nature, health, simplicity, self-reliance, truth, and life-long learning.” Originally from Germany, she now lives in Virginia, USA.  She’s a therapist, health coach, writer, photographer, and organic gardener.  I really hope to meet her when I return to the USA in August.

Madhu of The Urge to Wander, who loves to travel and posts the most amazing photos and stories about exotic places that are dear to my heart.

Lisa of Zeebra Designs & Destinations, who brings the outdoors of Central America into her amazing art.

Terri and James of GALLIVANCE, high school sweethearts, lifelong soul mates and global nomads who post about their travels with fun stories and beautiful photos.

Vladimir & Johna of Wind Against Current, a blog in which two kayakers explore, with friends, the many ways in which opposing forces shape our world.

Gilly of Lucid Gypsy, a poet, writer and photographer from the south of England who is passionate about travel, writing, reading, and life in general.

Jo of restlessjo,  a traveler and explorer who writes about her home in northeast England and her little place in Portugal’s Algarve.

Carol of Wanderings of an Elusive Mind, who writes about her life, her family and her struggles with her husband’s and her own illnesses with an honesty and openness that I truly admire.

Rosie of Wondering Rose, who shares her “real world” exchanges and meetings at her cash register at an Art Museum in California.  She also likes to share about what it’s like to keep moving countries.  I love her stories!

Thanks again to Elisa for her kind nomination oh-so-many months ago. 🙂

Categories: Blogger Awards, Very Inspiring Blogger Award, Wordpress | Tags: | 23 Comments

travel theme: soft

Saturday, November 10: Ailsa’s Travel Theme for this week is Soft.  Here are a few soft things from Ethiopia.

a soft spider’s web from Lake Langano in Ethiopia

some soft and fluffy shore birds at Lake Langano, Ethiopia

The rising moon casts a soft glow over the marshland of Lake Langano in Ethiopia.

soft moonlight

And finally, a soft field of tef, the grain used to make injera, the spongy bread eaten as a staple in Ethiopia.  This field is in northern Ethiopia, near Lalibela.

a field of tef

Categories: Africa, Ethiopia, Lake Langano, Lalibela, Soft, Travel Theme | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

weekly photo challenge: renewal

Friday, November 9: The theme for the Weekly Photo Challenge is Renewal.

Liturgy is like a strong tree whose beauty is derived from the continuous renewal of its leaves, but whose strength comes from the old trunk, with solid roots in the ground.  ~ Pope Paul VI

This priest in a church in Lalibela, Ethiopia is engrossed in spiritual renewal…

Education involves a continual renewal of the mind.  These three Ethiopian girls are on their way to school.

renewal of the mind: going to school

Renewal can also be just relaxing with friends and playing a game, even if the game involves using bottle caps for checkers.

checkers with bottle caps. Games can renew the soul….. Lake Langano, Ethiopia.

Renewal. This word conjures a variety of images, from bright blossoms to meditating monks. When I think of “renewal,” I think of starting a new job, arriving in a new city that’s ripe for exploration, walking through a new apartment with white walls, and taking a hot shower after a challenging day.  I think of beginnings. Life. Opportunity. What images does Renewal conjure for you? Get creative. Think beyond the usual images (a sunrise, a birth). We want to see what else you can come up with.

Categories: Africa, Bishangari Lodge, Ethiopia, Lake Langano, Lalibela, Lalibela rock-hewn churches, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: | 17 Comments

travel theme: bright

Sunday, November 4: Ailsa’s Travel Theme for this week is Bright. She writes: So what bright delights have caught your eye?  Show me your brilliant brights. (Where’s my backpack? Travel Theme: Bright)

Here is a chanting church service at Bet Mikael, one of the churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia, with bright light shining over the believers.

Priests and boys chanting in Bet Mikael at Lalibela, Ethiopia. It’s almost as if the bright light is God beaming down on them….

There are beautiful bright paintings found in all the Lalibela rock-hewn churches.  These churches, built in the 11th century, are still used today.

a bright painting of the Virgin and child at the Lalibela churches

At the Saturday market in Lalibela, bright textiles are offered for sale.

the Saturday market at Lalibela, Ethiopia

And finally, at Lake Langano in southern Ethiopia, the evening twilight casts a bright light over the landscape of acacia trees.

the landscape of Lake Langano at twilight

Categories: Africa, Bet Mikael, Bishangari Lodge, Bright, Ethiopia, Lake Langano, Lalibela, Lalibela rock-hewn churches, Travel Theme | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

last day in addis: makush art gallery, st. george cathedral & the ethnological museum

Thursday, November 1:  On my last day in Addis, Ed has to go to work at the embassy all day.  He arranges with his guard to have a friend of his drive me around all day for around $35.  The guide, whose name I’ve now forgotten, is such an easy-going and likeable guy, I end up having a great time.

He begins by taking me to the Makush Art Gallery.  I’m determined to buy a piece of Ethiopian art.  Yesterday morning, while I was twiddling my thumbs at the embassy, someone told me this is the place to go.  I find out very quickly that Makush is an upscale gallery and the prices are quite high.  This trip hasn’t cost me much money and I still have $200 left in my budget.  I end up spending all of it on two pieces from this gallery.

Tossing my two paintings into the back seat, we drive through the streets of Addis, teeming with dusty and obviously poor residents wearing colorful but mismatched clothes.  The streets are dirty and slightly chaotic.  Corrugated tin stalls line up along every street; people are trying to eke out a space to make a living.  It seems there is no rhyme or reason to the layout of this city.  There seems to be no center of town.  It’s just urban sprawl everywhere.

We arrive at the octagonal St. George Cathedral, conceived to commemorate the 1896 defeat of the Italians in Adwa.  It was commissioned by Emperor Menelik and was dedicated to Ethiopia’s patron saint, St. George.  With the help of Armenian, Greek and Indian artists, the cathedral was completed in 1911.  It’s neoclassical style contrasts sharply with the colorful murals inside.

Adjacent to the cathedral is the museum with its large collection of ecclesiastical paraphernalia including crowns, hand-held crosses, holy scrolls, and the coronation outfits of Empress Zewditu and Emperor Haile Selassie, both of whom were crowned here in 1916 and 1930, respectively.  Sadly, we’re not allowed to take photos in the museum.

Next we drive to the Ethnological Museum, set in Haile Selassie’s former palace, and surrounded by the lush grounds of Addis Ababa University. Right outside the entrance to the museum is a spiral staircase that leads to nowhere. The Italians placed one step here for every year that Mussolini held power, beginning from his march to Rome in 1922. The symbol of the Ethiopian monarchy, a Lion of Judah, sits atop the stairs, a symbol of the eventual defeat of the Italians by Ethiopia.

the spiral staircase to nowhere

the spiral staircase to nowhere

the entrance to the Ethnological Museum

the entrance to the Ethnological Museum

Ethiopian artifacts and handicrafts are displayed in the order of the human life cycle, beginning with Childhood with themes of birth, games and rites of passage, followed by Adult themes of beliefs, traditional medicine, war, hunting and even pilgrimages.  Death and Beyond showcases burial structures and tombs.

hunting in Ethiopia



Also preserved intact in the museum are Haile Selassie’s bedroom, bathroom and changing room.

On the 2nd floor is some amazing religious art, especially diptychs, triptychs, icons and crosses.

In another cave-like room sits the collection of musical instruments, put in the dark to preserve them from the ravages of light and to showcase them in an ethereal way.

We eat lunch at the Lime Tree Restaurant.  After lunch, my guide convinces me to try the wheat grass juice.  It doesn’t sound very appealing to me, but he assures me it will improve my health considerably.  I try it and am surprised to find it’s actually quite delicious.  And I have to say, I feel much better for the rest of the day, and throughout my long overnight trip back to Muscat. 🙂

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Ethiopia, Ethnological Museum, Makush Art Gallery, St. George Cathedral | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

holy trinity cathedral & dinner at loti

Wednesday, October 31:  The ornate Holy Trinity Cathedral is believed to be the second most important place of worship in Ethiopia, after the Old Church of Saint Mary of Zion in Aksum, according to Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Eritrea.  It also contains the huge Aksumite-style granite tombs of Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife, Empress Menen Asfaw.

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Holy Trinity Cathedral

The cathedral is a mixture of international styles and boasts a copper dome, slender pinnacles and interesting statues. Inside are some grand murals, rich stained glass windows and two imperial thrones of ebony, ivory and marble.  In one of the large murals, Emperor Haile Selassie stands in front of the League of Nations asking for help against the Italian occupiers.  They refused to help, except for Mexico, which became a long-lasting friend of Ethiopia.

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

In a cemetery surrounding the Cathedral are the remains of ministers who were killed by the Derg in 1974.  Other remains include patriots who died fighting the Italian occupation from 1935 to 1941.  Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, killing 275,000 Ethiopians with illegal mustard gas and bombing.  In 1936, they captured Addis Ababa, and Emperor Haile Selassie fled the country. At that time the King of Italy was made Emperor of Ethiopia.  Ethiopian patriots played a major role before, during and after the liberation campaign, which ended in May of 1941, when the emperor and his men took over Addis Ababa.

In the museum adjacent to the Cathedral, where we’re not allowed to take pictures, are gold crosses, intricately filigreed chalices, and beautiful books of doxology in Amharic and Arabic.  We see a beautiful mosaic icon of the Virgin Mary donated by Haile Selassie, as well as a mosaic of Haile Selassie wearing all his medals.

After our explorations of Addis, we head back to Ed’s house where we relax a bit.  Later, we go to an excellent French-ish restaurant called Loti.  The restaurant has a lovely ambiance,  with pressed leaves and dried flowers decorating the walls, a colorful poinsettia and artsy plates.  We have some red wine and munch on crackers made of oats, barley and sesame seeds, dipped in a delicious guacamole dip.  I order tilapia assay: tilapia with cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes.  For dessert, we indulge on pumpkin pie with ice cream.

me at Loti in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

me at Loti in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Click on any of the images below for a full-sized slide show.

The owner, Mani, walks around to greet all the patrons.  She tells us she studied in the U.S. on a USAID scholarship and she’s proud of her education.  She’s created a beautiful restaurant and is rightfully proud of her achievement. 🙂

Mani, the gracious owner of Loti

Mani, the gracious owner of Loti

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Ethiopia, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Loti Restaurant & Bar | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

lunch at the lucy gazebo restaurant & the national museum of ethiopia

Wednesday, October 31:  After we drive down from the Entoto Mountains, we head for lunch at the Lucy Gazebo Restaurant, attached to the National Museum of Ethiopia.

the entrance to the National Museum complex

the entrance to the Lucy Gazebo Restaurant

The outdoor Lucy Gazebo Restaurant is lush with tropical plants, decorative sculptures and Ethiopian art.  I start with carrot soup and then eat a delicious chicken avocado pizza with tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms and cheese.

Next door, the National Museum of Ethiopia houses one of the most important collections in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Eritrea.

entrance to the National Gallery of Ethiopia

entrance to the National Gallery of Ethiopia

Statue outside the museum

Statue outside the museum

Haile Selassie addresses some young men.

Haile Selassie addresses some young men.

The paleontology exhibit on the basement level showcases the extinct sabre-toothed cat Homotherium and the huge savannah pig Notochoerus.

part of the paleontology exhibit

part of the paleontology exhibit

The most interesting things are the two amazing casts of the 3.2 million year-old Lucy, a fossilized hominid discovered in 1974.  One lies prone in a glass case and the other is standing. Her small frame is a reminder of how small our ancestors were.

According to one of the museum’s curators, the real bones, which are normally preserved in the museum’s archives, are currently on tour in the USA.   Lucy’s tour begins at the Houston Museum of Natural History; after Houston, she travels to Seattle, Boston and back to Houston.  Lucy’s pilgrimage is designed to let the international community know Ethiopia’s importance to the history of humans.

Lucy was discovered in a dried-up lake near Hadar in northeast Ethiopia.  This new species, called A. afarensis walked on two legs, which overturned earlier theories that our ancestors only started walking upright after they evolved larger brains.

When I walk into the basement, one of the museum’s curators is opening the glass case that contains the casts of Lucy’s prone bones. He takes one of the finger bones and hands it over to a group of young men who want to borrow it.  This group is making a film showing primates’ connection to humans through Lucy and they want to borrow the cast finger bone for their documentary.  This seems quite crazy to me, as I cannot imagine a curator at any museum in the USA taking out a piece of an exhibit and handing it over to someone to “borrow!”

The center of the ground floor of the museum showcases a collection of royal paraphernalia including Emperor Haile Selassie’s enormous carved wooden throne.  On the walls of this central area are paintings of Ethiopia’s rulers, including Emperor Menelik, Emperor Yohannes, and of course Haile Selassie.  Surprisingly, among these emperors is a painting of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, the leader of the horrible Derg (Committee) that deposed Haile Selassie in 1974.  Their destructive rule, including the Red Terror, lasted until 1991.


the top of Haile Selassie’s throne

Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam ~ leader of the Derg

Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam ~ leader of the Derg

On the periphery of the ground floor are artifacts from the pre-Aksumite, Aksumite, Solomonic and Gonder periods.

some statues from early times

some statues from early times

On the first floor, what we in America call the 2nd floor, is a colorful display of Ethiopian art ranging from early parchment to 20th century canvas oil paintings by modern artists, including  Afewerk Tekle’s African Heritage.

one of the paintings in the art gallery on the 1st floor

one of the paintings in the art gallery on the 1st floor

Finally, on the top floor, we find a secular arts and crafts collection, including traditional clothing, weapons, jewelry, utensils and musical instruments.

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Ethiopia, Lucy Gazebo Restaurant, National Museum of Ethiopia | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

back to addis: the entoto mountains and the st. raguel & elias historical church

Wednesday, October 31:  This morning we get up at 6:00 a.m. so we can leave bright and early for the U.S. Embassy.  Ed needs to do some work before we take off for sightseeing, so he brings me along to twiddle my thumbs and wait…and wait.  From the embassy, after nearly two hours of waiting, we head directly into the Entoto Mountains.

the view of Addis Ababa from the Entoto Mountains

the view of Addis Ababa from the Entoto Mountains

The Entoto Mountains, north of Addis Ababa, were the site of Emperor Menelik’s former capital.  We admire the sprawling view of the city below.  We pass donkeys carrying loads of eucalyptus, which the locals have cut branch by branch off the trees on the mountain, leading to soil erosion and deterioration of the forest. Some donkeys carry grass to sell to the locals who spread grass over their mud floors when they have guests.  Women trudge up and down the mountain carrying loads of firewood on their backs, day in and day out. Apparently aid organizations are trying to find these women other means of livelihood, but it’s obvious many women are still dependent upon this work.

Forests stripped bare for survival

Forests stripped bare for survival

Burdens of firewood

Burdens of firewood

Near the top of the mountain, we stop at St. Raguel & Elias Historical Church. Inside the church are multitudes of brightly colored paintings that tell bizarre stories. We see paintings, as we do in every Ethiopian church, of St. George, the patron saint of the country.  We see the apostles meeting gruesome deaths.  We see the devil looking quite devilish.  Ethiopia’s Christian stories are rich in legend, and these legends are told pictorially in these paintings.  We find a saint who prayed for 7 years; though one of his legs has fallen off, he does have 6 wings. We see Doubting Thomas.  We see a large painting of the miracles of Christ: here he heals a blind man, there he turns water into wine, and here he raises Lazarus from the dead.

the sign to the church...

the sign to the church…

Entoto St. Raguel & Elias Historical Church

Entoto St. Raguel & Elias Historical Church

the dome on the church

the dome on the church

one of the many beautiful paintings in the church

one of the many beautiful paintings in the church

the holy altar

the holy altar

various saints on horseback

various saints on horseback

Besides the amazing stylized paintings in this church, there is a rock-hewn church on the grounds.  The passageway to this church, covered in moss, leads to a sanctuary where early Christians worshiped.

Click on any of the photos below to see a full-sized slide show.

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Entoto Mountains, Ethiopia, st. raguel & elias historical church | 3 Comments

hobnobbing with the shorebirds at lake langano

Tuesday, October 30:  This morning, we pack up for our return trip to Addis Ababa.  We eat a breakfast of omelets: Ed has an Ethiopian Omelet with tomato, onion, & chili, and I have an Omelet a la Bishangari, with mango, pineapple, banana and sugar. I’m surprised it has more of a savory flavor than sweet.  We drink fresh papaya juice and coffee.  The tea and coffee set-up harkens back to British colonial days and adds a nostalgic ambiance to our morning.  It’s our last day here and I’m sad to leave.

We take a walk along the lake edge to check out the shorebirds.  The day is crisp and breezy; the clouds are in fine form in a hazy blue sky.  Ed is hesitant to cross outside of the fenced-in area of Bishangari Lodge, but I figure we went there last night and it was perfectly fine, so why not?  He’s afraid we’ll be harassed by the locals for money or handouts.  I’m not worried because I know how to say no and how to ignore people who harass me.  I’m determined to cross no matter what he decides to do.  In the end, he comes along.

speckled pigeon

speckled pigeon

acacia trees on the landscape near the lake

acacia trees on the landscape near the lake



Our adventurous foray is richly rewarded.  We see speckled pigeons, little egrets, white and gray pelicans, cormorants, and ducks.  They allow us to approach them without flying away.  We linger for a long time, creeping silently closer.  Finally, after most of them leisurely swim or fly away, showing no fear of us at all, we make our way back to the lodge.  We meet an olive baboon and stroll under more amazing ficus trees.  Then we head back on the road for our trip to Addis Ababa.

a flock of little egrets

a flock of little egrets

pumice-stone moonscape

pumice-stone moonscape

white & gray pelicans

white & gray pelicans

white pelicans and cormorants

white pelicans and cormorants

white pelicans and cormorants

white pelicans and cormorants

more white pelicans and cormorants

more white pelicans and cormorants

white pelicans & cormorants

white pelicans & cormorants

looks to me like a pregnant pelican!

looks to me like a pregnant pelican!

pelicans afloat

pelicans afloat



the lakeshore

the lakeshore

me in front of a huge ficus tree

me in front of a huge ficus tree

olive baboons

olive baboon

pretty tree

pretty tree

tukul huts

tukul huts

local houses

local houses

scenery on the drive back to Addis

scenery on the drive back to Addis



In the evening, when we return to Addis Ababa, we eat a meal that Ed’s housekeeper/cook Kitay has prepared for us: injera, wat, cabbage & potatoes, lentils.  We top it off with some Montrouge Merlot.  Later, Ed shows me pictures on his computer, but when I want to show him pictures of my time in Greece, he’s not really interested.

As there is really nothing to do in the evening, he suggests we watch a movie.  Just as he’s about to put it on, he says he needs to make a business call to the U.S.  I wait.  And wait.  Finally I go upstairs to read, and hear him chatting away on Skype to his sons.  He is heading back to the U.S. on Saturday, and today is Tuesday, so I figure the conversation will be short.  It isn’t.  As a matter of fact, I give up and get in bed to read, telling him I’m no longer interested in watching the movie.  This is one time I wish I had the numbers of my colleagues so I could join them somewhere in Addis for some fun.

Categories: Acacia trees, Africa, bird-watching, Birds, Bishangari Lodge, Ethiopia, Lake eco-zone, Lake Langano, Pumice stone eco-zone | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

a hippo-spotting walk in the blue light… {…but where are the hippos?}

Monday, October 29:  This evening, we go with our guide on a hippo-spotting walk.  Sadly, we don’t see any hippos.  However, we do see a beautiful marshland, glowing acacia trees growing out of a pumice moonscape, and a simultaneous sunset and moonrise.  All this while we’re enveloped by beautiful blue light and a cool gentle breeze.

Click on any of the photos below to see a full-sized slide show.

Categories: Acacia trees, Africa, Ethiopia, Lake Langano | 3 Comments

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