After Lalibela we flew back to Addis to wait for T. I halfheartedly tried to book an overnight tour to Awash National Park but couldn't justify the US $400 pricetag. Instead we stayed in Addis, ate fir-fir at Depo St. George House, went to the Edna Mall (Ethiopia's version of Chuck-E Cheese), saw a movie, went to the Natural History Museum, swam at the Hilton pool, and visited with our old Amharic tutor (yay!) who was in Ethiopia for a wedding. Arafat took us to the airport to wait for T on the night of August 3. We had to wait in the parking lot, since they only let travelers into the airport. Funny D quote - when T came out he was backlit and hard to recognize; D scolded me, "Didn't you see his BROAD shoulders? His RIPPLING muscles?" Umm, no, I didn't see those things.
We gave T one day to recover from jetlag and then flew to Arba Min'ch. We stayed at the Tourist Hotel, which has cramped rooms but the best restaurant, with garden seating that takes up the entire grounds of the hotel. Unfortunately, maybe because Arba Min'ch has fewer tourists than the historic circuit in the north, it seemed like every store, bajaj driver, and tour operator was trying to rip us off.
The next day we did a tour of a Dorze village, which was sort of interesting but a very fixed set of experiences - go here, look at this, taste this, buy, buy, buy. The best part of the tour was when we stopped the car on the way back and walked through the conifer forest - a completely different ecosystem than anywhere else I've been in Ethiopia. It looked like the Rocky Mountains. Back in Arba Min'ch I found a print shop to make photo albums for our kids' family - I got LOTS of opinions about which photos I should include - and took A to get his hair braided.
The following morning we were sitting in the garden restaurant when a man sat down next to us and holy crap, it was Chuchu!!! The guy who had rescued us from the river back in 2011!!! We had kept in contact with him for a while but over the years we had lost touch. It was great to see him again and as it turned out, he helped us out again. Our plan that day had been to go to Konso and spend the night at the hotel owned by our friend's family but Chuchu told us it was a bad idea. A man had been killed by security forces in Konso that morning and there were soldiers everywhere. He told us to go ahead to Konso but he would arrange for us to continue straight through to Burji. So while we were on the 3-hour bus ride to Konso, he was making phone calls. Outside Konso soldiers stopped the bus and had everyone get off and show ID. They were friendly to us but we were very aware of their big guns and unrestricted authority. Back on the bus we continued until the outskirts of town where a group of people flagged the driver down and asked, "Do you have two ferenjis with two kids with you?" Chuchu had sent them. We got off and they immediately drove us out of town.
A few hours later we arrived in Soyema, Burji. The local teacher who would be our interpreter in our kids' village came to meet us and took us to dinner and the local "hotel."
Read Part 6