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January 19, 2008


[First night of camping, in our temporary set-up. Photo: David.]

We watched the sun come up from our sleeping bags, and now that dawn has broken we have visitors to camp: First, the two girls that lingered after the rest of the kids last night: A girl who looks about ten with a scarf wrapped round her shoulders, brown-tinged hair around her face, and the pocket-size girl, as Charlotte and I have deemed her, a very small girl who looks to be collapsible and pocket-sized. Very, very sweet. She wears a dark dress with a light-colored pattern on it, and a beaded headband. Both girls, especially the small one, look very skeptical.

[Polly Pocket. Photo: Charlotte.]

[I so wish I could take credit for this photo but this one, too, is Charlotte. I'm so glad that *someone* got pictures of Polly Pocket, at least, because she's got to be one of the most beautiful girls in the world.]

Donkeys bray.

Looks like we’ll be staying in the school compound after all, so most the group is busy unpacking the water. Two locals walk out of the compound, one with a radio in his arm playing music.

[Tim had asked Ethioder, the travel company that we always use to provide vehicles and drivers, to take care of water. Because, although there is a borehole well in Digdiga (right behind our camp, by the way), we needed to bring our own water. All of it. Water for drinking, cooking, washing. And someone for some reason (and it may be a perfectly good one) decided that it made the most sense to bring this huge amount of water up in 2 liter bottles. Or, as it turned out, 1.8 liter bottles. Unloading the water truck took all of us over an hour.]

[Our water stash, unloaded into one of the classrooms. Photo: David.]

[Later] Tim and Gezehegn and I think Mohammed student and Abdu and Loraine and Charlotte and Osman are in the neighboring (one hour away) town of Teru meeting with officials and arranging for camels for the petrology group’s camel trek.

I am working on getting organized. No shortage of flies here. In the large red tent, which is open on one side, sitting ‘round with David and Talfan. I have a mild rash on the backs of my hands.

And, I just got my elbow kissed. Sitting outside one of the drivers’ tents to say hello, and an older woman walked up to me, dark skin creased, a beaded necklace—she’s outside our big tent now, just walked up, is patting her belly, just asked for water but she’s already got Eyaya’s bottle in an arm. He happens by and gives her an almost-empty bottle of water anyway, and she is grateful and looks happy.—the same woman, she took my hand in hers and kissed it, and then again twice, and then took my elbow and kissed it, and then my hand again, and I was wondering if I should then kiss hers and Meron looked back, said baka (enough), and then the woman went to her instead and stood her up and kissed her hand and Meron kissed hers and I escaped back to the big tent.

[There is a hand-kissing custom in Afar whereby instead of a handshake two people greet by taking turns kissing the other's hand, generally 1 kisses 2, 2 kisses 1, 1 kisses 2 again, and then I think it's done. But none of us really wanted to get into this because none of us really knew how to know when to end it.]

[Another visitor to camp: He asks, Is it valuable?]

When Tim and the others come back in the afternoon, we decide to venture out in search of cold beverages.

The big local event is walking down the length of town to it's one cafe, which we call Ismael's because it's run by Ismael.

[The street of Digdiga.]

Of course, the big event for the locals was watching Tim walk in his local attire.


Digdiga is a town of about, say, 100 or 200 people and 20 or 40 homes (I'm bad with numbers). The whole region is pastoralist, mostly nomadic with only a few permanent communities. There are places like Saha and Digdiga with government-built clinics and schools, which attract year-round communities. There are others, like Yirga Alita where we had a GPS site, that disappear when the water does.

Digdiga is somewhat major because, like I said, there is a borehole well, and also it is along the main road. I mean, that's obvious, right? It's pictured above. Busy, busy, busy.

[Through our barbed wire.]

[The borehole well just behind camp.]

[Lonely tree.]

[The neighborhood.]

[Eyaya, driver extraordinaire.]


[Our newly-set-up tents, glowing in the evening light. The glow won't last long--oh no, oooohhhh nooooo.]

[That night] Our first camp meal: Fantastic! *Rice* and break and ingera and vegetables (carrots and potatoes and onions) and shiro (bean paste). Very good. If I keep eating like this, I’m going to be putting on weight rather than losing it. [Note: They cook the rice with cardamom, and it ends up resembling something like love. David and I kept looking around and ladling just a little more rice onto our plates, and then a little more, and then—what, no one else is going to eat any more of this?—just a little more.]

Amazing lighting tonight, the low yellow light of the sun. Fabulous.

Another Land Cruiser arrived with the first part of the MT group: Graham and Kathy with driver Workineh. That puts us at I think 23 people in camp.

Posted by beth at January 19, 2008 2:56 AM

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Beautiful pictures!! Hope you are well!

Posted by: andrea (dre) at March 27, 2008 3:18 PM

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