Christmas, computers, water and religion in Ethiopia


January 7, 2014 – Today is Christmas Day for Ethiopian Christians. My usual cues for Christmas are not present for me here and that’s ok. It must have been 80 degrees today!

What has been more present for me is my struggle with the power cord for my Mac Book Pro. I thought it was indestructible, but alas it was not. At home it would cost me $75 or $85. Here it cost $150 and the plugs are for the Chinese system! Luckily I could use the plug adapter from my old power cord on this new one. Then I also have to use an adapter so my U.S. plug can be connected to the Ethiopian power system.

So I have been without the use of my computer for two weeks. Of course a good portion of that time I was “on the road to Lalibela”, one of the sacred and historical sites I wanted to see while here. We just got back last Friday evening and it is now Tuesday and noontime as I write this. Hopefully by tomorrow I will be able to return to the Jupiter Hotel in downtown Addis and use the Internet signal that I have not had access to for the past 2 weeks.

Being outside of the United States, I find it is very useful to be patient, flexible, and open to the fact that any number of things will not be available or available when I may want. I find that this environment has been very helpful for my Vipassana meditation practice in terms of “being in the present moment” without judgment. It takes practice and my particular preferences and habits are really not a big deal especially in the world I am now residing. What we think of as “needs or necessities” in the Western world seem sillier than usual to me now. I expect to learn something about my personal blind spots in this journey.

I am not quite sure how this next installment will unfold. There has been so much happening. I am not sure how I will make order from all the images, vivid dreams, emotions, encounters and exchanges. I have had many dreams of people living and dead…not really stories, but faces and voices of people I love and like. Besides that I see the faces of so many of you in the faces of the people here. This is a very emotional experience. I often feel on the verge of tears of joy and wonder or tears of grief and rage. I breathe through it all. I let go and feel gratitude for this time in this place. If nothing else, I feel I am developing as a writer, which you may be surprised to hear. I have not had a strong identity as a writer. I am not sure that if I have a gift, it has been about the mainstream Western literary world. Enough said about that or I will never get to the purpose of this blog.

I am adjusting to the time change and am sleeping reasonably well at the same time others do here. Another factor that defines life here for everyone is the precious element of water. It is increasingly scarce. We buy drinking water. I was warned by my clinic to only drink bottled water or take several steps for purification before I drank the local. My Ethiopian family doesn’t drink the local water. We bathe in it and cook with it, but that means it is always boiled for food preparation. In the back of the house are two water tanks. One is water for daily use, which is on an elevated metal structure that resembles a small water tower. The second tank is made of a thick industrial plastic and rests on the ground. That one is a water reserve.

One of the blessings about being here is that I have not had to struggle to avoid processed food. Organic is the norm here even with Monsanto eager to get its clutches on the Ethiopian food system. I think the claim is that they have the expertise to increase food production. I will begin meeting with Ethiopian activists, entrepreneurs and educators soon.

I feel that by Monday I will have a more concrete plan for my stay here. Right now I think it means that I will be back before the 22nd of March, but I hope it will include at least a 24hour stopover in either Roma or Alexandria if I continue to be blessed as I have so far. Paris was a pleasant surprise!

The next substantial post should be the Road to Lalibela, but that will take me a few days to pull together now that I have a functioning computer again. I will return again to the Jupiter Hotel to continue posting stories from Ethiopia. I should also have photos from the cousins in Italy to add to the narrative. The expansive landscapes are amazing. I have nothing to compare it to except the Southwestern US. Indeed this is an unique version of “amazing”!

In the meantime I post this entry and a poem that came to me in the middle of the night and it’s called A Healing for the Jewish/Christian/Muslim Nightmare. Given that I am a practicing Buddhist, I have no idea why this came out of my dreamtime in the voice that it does. It feels rather edgy to say as I have said about many of my poems in the past: Not from me, but through me. Please forgive me if I offend. I think some of the language at the beginning comes directly from the New Testament. The imagery reflects multiple religious traditions woven together. I dedicate it to my precious friend, Pastor Alika Galloway of Kwanzaa Community Church in North Minneapolis. I feel her to be an emerging environmental voice rooted in a solid Christian tradition of renewal. Pastor is also a student of World Religions. I am also thinking of my Muslim and Jewish friends and relatives and all of us who breathe the same air and drink the same water that has been recycling since the beginning of time through all life on this planet. We are all relations.

A Healing for the Jewish/Christian/Muslim Nightmare

If you, my people,

Who are called by My Name,

As children of an ancestor called

Both Abraham & Ibrahim,

Will humble yourselves,

Praying, and seeking My Face,

Turning from greed, hatred, delusion & destruction,

I will hear you from heaven,

& will forgive your sin,

& will heal the land.

Seek the Oneness of My Creation

And what that means

For all nations.

I invite you to feel the pain

Of what has happened

To each & all

Until you arrive at the New Land

In mind & body

Learning your lessons,

Evolving your understanding

And letting that go

And letting that grow,

Let that go and let it grow,

As you move on

With something more than “courage”

In your becoming

In your blessing

Unfolding like a

Sacred blossom

Of perfection

Constantly unfolding

Into what I always intended…

So soften

Into your true power

Your true nature

Your true self

Human beings/inter-beings

Breathe together

Living Love

As a holy family

In this Life!

Paradise now


Hell on Earth?

You reflect Me,

You celebrate Me,

In your oneness.


Louis Alemayehu, Addis Ababa, January 7th 2014