Monday, April 6, 2015

Traveling around Ethiopia with Sonny: Bahir Dar, Gondar, Aksum, and Lalibela

Our friend Sonny came to visit us for about 12 days back in the beginning of January. We hung out in Addis for a couple of days then booked a non-stop tour up north to have our minds blown by some of Ethiopia's best sights. When all was said and done, we were like, WTF just happened. We saw so many places it seemed like we were out much longer than we were. No regrets, pure fun and craziness.  
Ana getting checked for Ebola. Kudos to Ethiopia for being proactive on countering the outbreak. Of course I'm closer to a confirmed case here in San Diego than when I was in Ethiopia. Just a reality check for the haters out there.  
Hand written airline tickets are all the rage in Ethiopia. You saw it here first on Camels and Tacos.
Another Camels and Tacos exclusive, Self-service Immigration Counter in Bahir Dar. 
Waiting for luggage. 
Market day in Bahir Dar.  
There isn't much water in January at the Blue Niles Falls. 
When Ana and I saw this in the fall it was intense. Not much going on during the dry season. You can check out our other post to compare by clicking HERE
Our taxi that took us across the Blue Nile River.
Boat full of school children. I was once bused to school. 
Kill A Pest brightens up any room. 
A future hotel in Bahir Dar, taking reservations now. 
Gondar has the Dashen Beer Garden. Skip the bottle and get the fresh unfiltered stuff from the tap. Delicious.
A Dashen Beer Garden customer. More evidence that thrift store clothing fashion is all the rage in Gondar. 
I don't always stay in Debarke, but when I do it is at the Semen park hotel. 
Simien Mountain National Park natives. 
A Gelada male.
The Gelada monkeys were moving to another spot when we arrived. 
We opted for a 3-4 hour hike to check out the majestic Simien Mountains.
Zonies be jealous. 
We had to hire a guide and security in Debark before driving into the mountains. 
To get to this point to see this waterfall was tempting fate. One had to climb on some rocks to pass over to see this view. It is a long drop. I didn't quite get to enjoy it as I was still shaking a little. 
Somehow I made the mistake and booked 2 nights in Gondar. I'm not a fan of discrimination and places like Ethiopia and Egypt have widely different prices for locals and tourists. I don't mind paying a little extra, but 20 times as much is a bit extreme. After hemming and hawing we finally went into Fasil Ghebbi where Ethiopian emperors once lived. 
The structures were amazing to explore.
On the other side of town was  Fasilides' Bath. They were getting ready for the Timket holiday, a time when people flock to the bath.  
Ana and Sonny taking advantage of the roots. 
Another view of  Fasilides' Bath
Next up was Askum. We were on a late flight and missed getting into Aksum Stelae Park, sort of. We arrive a few minutes before it closed, but we figured out a way to make it happen.

Obelisk of Axum. 
Church of St. Mary of Zion. Just over the wall and a couple of buildings in, lies the Ark of Covenant. Sonny had read that the ark was recently stolen. The story is a couple of  helicopters landed and knocked out the guards and flew off with the ark. So we asked around and the story seemed to be made-up unless there is a town gag-order.
The church in the midst of Aksum Stelae Park. 
Our friends hanging out at Queen of Sheeba's Bath. Photo by Sonny. 
Aksum is known for a white type of flowery honey. I bought a kilo. Photo by Sonny.  
Our final stop was Lalibela. A van picked us up from the airport and Sonny made friendly with the two young ladies sitting next to him. One of the guys in the back busted out some tella and passed it around. That my folks, is how you get the party bus going. People visit Lalibela for the churches. Our guide was amazing, his grandfather was a priest at one of the churches so he told us a lot of insider information.  
Reading and praying.
Traveling through tunnels from one church to the next. 
The space in the churches are dense. We only saw 6 churches out of 10 that afternoon. 
On the way to the Church of St. George
The Church of St. George is the most famous of the bunch.
Obligatory group shot with the church. 
Another view.
The sun was setting. 
Final view. 
For a nice meal with a view in what seems like a spaceship, Ben Abeba is a must in Lailbela. Go at sunset, you won't regret it.

Friday, April 3, 2015

New Orleans and Punk Rock

The appropriate title of this post should be: Taking the long way back to see my baby's mama. I had successfully left Addis Ababa and started heading home via Doha, NYC, Atlanta, New Orleans, Denver, and finally San Diego. It was a 14-hour ride between Doha and JFK. When I got off the plane the Delta help desk pointed me to the gate but didn't tell me they moved my next flight up by 90-minutes. "Sorry, we'll send you to Atlanta and if you run really fast from your gate you can make your flight to New Orleans." I did exactly that. I arrived in NOLA a little after midnight. 

The National Art Education Association national convention was in NOLA and it was essential that I attended it. I spent 2-days in NOLA checking out museums, galleries, and getting chased out of the convention center by security because I wasn't wearing a badge. The city and landscape had changed since I was last there pre-Katrina in 1999. I rented a bike and conveniently missed the French Quarter since I was no longer in college. 

Next was a 48-hour stop in Denver to do some last-minute research for my book. Talk about a whirlwind. The longest I stayed in one place was 6-hours and that was only to sleep. I could have lived in the backset of my rental car. The trip was fruitful and I got to see a couple of friend's bands who rolled through town. It was all gravy. 

I finally arrived in San Diego and have been here a few days already. I even caught some waves the other morning, saw a dentist, ate a California burrito, sampled beer and wine, seen a friend or two, walked on the beach, drove on the freeway, went to Target, Trader Joe's, picked up photos at Wallmart, attended a birthing class, met midwives and Ana's doulas. It feels strange being back. I find myself talking to my wife's stomach telling the little Nacho/a to come out. My time back is finite, I have to be on a plane back to Addis on April 20th, that's when my paternity leave ends. I can always stay here, drop out, buy a Winnebago and go live on the beach down the road in Baja. I would teach my kid how to surf, make beer, make food and be a good person. Really, what else is there in life. That sounds way better than ever going back to work.   

The first morning in NOLA was clear and warm. 
Riding around the hood. 
Who doesn't love a colorful home? 
Who thought that hot dogs could be famous. See the number on the building, call it. 
One of the advantages of being below sea level is cool above ground cemeteries. 
The New Orleans Museum of Art had a nice sculpture garden with heavy hitters like Robert Indiana...
and Botero's Woman and Child.
Travelin Light by Alison Saar reminded me of a bronze piƱata. 
I think Arman's piece would have been better if he used real fiddles like he did in Paris.
Window with Ladder - Too Late for Help by Leandro Erlich.
Moss cover trees by Planet Earth.
Karma by Do-Ho Suh
Large Seated Cardinal by Giacomo Manzu will convert just about anyone. 
Civitas by Audrey Flack
Standing Man with Radiating Words by Lesley Dill. 
George Segal sculptures taking up bench space. 
Monkeys by Rona Pondick is what happens when to take too much LSD as a teen. 
Man of Letters by Jaume Plensa
Riace Wariors by Elisabeth Frink is what nightmares are made of. 
Claes Oldenburg is always a crowd favorite. 
My sweet ride.
I got lost riding around, which was fine by me. 
In transition. 
K-Doe Ernie Mother-In-Law Lounge in the Seventh Ward. It looks serious on the outside, I could  only imagine indoors. 
The couple on the wall, Antoinette and Ernie K-Doe are the real deal and boy do they belt out the tunes. 
And why wouldn't you go here? 
Number one reason not to smoke in bed. 
Some art just leaves you speechless. 
Cruisin Bywater.
Bywater has Frady's and they serve a tasty po'boy. The lady at the counter taking my order told me to ignore the phone ringing. She said it was a lonely mental patient that calls there frequently. One of the patrons walked behind the counter, picked up the phone and said, "The girls behind the counter were busy and to call back later." He honored the request. I ate my po'boy in peace minus the big dog sitting down in front of me licking his chops why I chomped away.  
Art car. 
Since I had a crazy lunch, I figured something healthy was in-order for dinner. 
A hot sausage will always seduce me. WTF is a Turducken Sausage? 
More hotdog art. 
If the Crips had a street band it might look like this. 
The next day was rainy. Rain on a bike is no bueno. 
I rode over to Dr. Bob's art compound. Got extra carousel horses laying around the house? Here's a little nifty craft idea. 
Dr. Bob ships to anywhere in the world.  
On a budget? For $30 you can purchase the "Be gay and stay" sign for the porch. 
So I had a rough time at the art conference. Instead of drowning my sorrows in a beer, I went to Elizabeth's for a dose of food coma on a plate. I couldn't decide on praline bacon or the french toast breakfast burrito. The waitress told me to "Go big or go home!" That is the best up-sale line to date. 
Some art at Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
This is what "the man" does to you.
Is is a problem in your home? 
Crucified fish. 
Dixieland Jazz
An artist decided to take all the famous art nudes and put them together in one painting. This in only a detail, If i showed the whole piece you wouldn't be able to taking about anything else for the remainder of the day. 
Kid art is always good. 
Need something for that empty wall in the dining room? 
This looks like a good time. the rest of the painting has an enormous watermelon the size of the building. Perhaps watermelon makes you act like this. 
OCD art at the CAC (Contemporary Arts Center) is also fine.
The CAC's top floor was dedicated to Carnival. 

Looks fun, but...
Cardboard sculptures. 
If husky males dressed up as nuns playing Clash covers is your thing, drop what your doing right now and move to Denver. 
Keith and Steve of OFF! at the Ogden.
Some more OFF!
Going OFF!
Keith looking insane.
getting OFF!
I could only get to one side of the stage.
Keith ready to go OFF!
Farkkk OFF!
After the set. 
A little Bad Religion. 
Brian Baker not only likes the Cockney Rejects but sports a Discharge sticker on his guitar.