Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day 15 - Ethiopia on my shoes and in my heart - February 4

The dust will settle and be washed away but not from my heart will Ethiopia soon be gone.

Well we made it and accomplished many goals. It is truly hard to believe. 

As I decompress to take in the variety of experiences I have had I recall the one true statement I made to Emma DeVries when we purchased the tickets several months ago: "Flexibility is the key to this trip". No doubt about that statement. 

The goals of the trip were simple, yet became more complicated as the trip when on. It was Dr. Bascom's deep knowledge of the place that helped us construct new goals while we were there and reflecting on what was accomplished I believe there are many more things to attempt. I do not know what the future holds, but as I continue to write down ideas, perhaps I will be in Ethiopia again working with these and other geographers. 

We left Bahir Dar in the early afternoon after a small pool-side sleep complements of the Bascoms. They have a membership at one of the two pools in the city linked to a resort on the edge of Lake Tana.  

We flew to Addis and waited until midnight to catch our international flight, which took us to Khartoum, Sudan for a while (it was 73 degrees at 5500 feet altitude above Khartoum - hello hot) before heading onto Amsterdam, Detroit, and Grand Rapids. In honor of the 31 hours it took to get home, I end with the wonderful variety of travel options throughout Ethiopia. Thanks for being a part of this blog.

Until I get a little more geographical street credit.....

 Travel by boat, note the papyrus boat in the foreground

Travel by cart and donkey

 Travel by bus

Donkeys are sure-footed indeed


Truck it

 Fly over this amazing and rugged landscape

Cars (Fiats and Toyota dominate)

The Bajaj. 

Wild ride on a bajaj:  5 Birr
Cup of coffee from a local farm: 12 Birr
Helping Ethiopian geographers deepen their skill and knowledge of mapping:  Priceless

For some things money can buy; for everything else there is dedicated committment to the field. ^
(God, family, country, and discipline of geography)

Day 14 - Ending Well - Feburary 3

Today marked the end of the workshop. What a time it has been! Geography faculty from all around Ethiopia came to Bahir Dar to be trained more on GIS and develop an atlas of Ethiopia to be used in the classroom and for geographical knowledge. The maps produced were great. Here is an example of one by a faculty from Mekele University in the north:

During the morning we worked hard to complete maps and I gave a final lecture on how to do Internet Mash-ups using Google Maps and ArcGIS. It was really cool to see the faculty totally excited about web mapping and interactive content. It was an honor to work with them.

In the afternoon we finished up a few odds and ends and then I burned DVDs will all of the data that Emma and I had collected during the last month. It was extensive. In fact, we didn't even get to HALF the good GIS data that we gave them. It is a huge boost toward the development of new labs in GIS for geography university students and much of the data can also be used for research by the graduate students and faculty. They were generously thankful and expressed great appreciation. We handed out certificates of completion and then headed off to dinner.

At dinner along the shore of Lake Tana, we had a wonderful time celebrating and sharing one last time together as a faculty. Many kind words were spoken the participating faculty gave each of us gifts to take home in appreciation for all the work that we did during the work and before.

I have made many new friends during the week and look forward to possible collaborations in the future.  Here is the chair of Addis Ababa Geography and Environmental Studies department sharing his heart in appreciation at our dinner. Dr. Desalegn Wana is a
brilliant leader and scholar and here he is:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 13 – I’m not an Ethiopian, I’m not an American, I’m a geographer February 2

Just a short note today. We worked all day on Thursday to produce a ton of maps. During the day there was a historic conversation among the faculty to organize and revive the Association of Ethiopian Geographers. It was amazing to be in the room and the faculty were kind to invite Johnathan and myself into the process of reviving an Ethiopian Geography journal that has since been by the wayside. It was a special day from a professional standpoint. It was incredible!

Day 12 – Lake Tana & Academic Capacity Building Februrary 1

Yirgalem Mahiteme (Pronounced ‘Yer’ ‘Golum’   -  Yirg means ‘Stability’ and alem means ‘World’), a wonderful geographer from Addis, told me today the story of the pencil he loves to tell his students when they are finishing his class. I hadn’t heard it before so here it is:

He said, “Be like a good pencil as I send you out into the world.

1.The most important thing to remember is that what is on the inside is more important that what is on the outside – do not forget this.

2.You will do many great and wonderful deeds if you let yourself be held in the hand of someone else – humility, patience, and sacrifice lead to greatness.

3.At times you will experience difficulty and challenge and need to be sharpened – allow the sharpening of life experiences to make you better.

4.When you make mistakes, remember that things are never so bad and often can be corrected with an eraser.

5.Always leave your mark wherever life takes you – impact this world and the people who live in it.

Isn’t that great! 

Yirgalem shared this with me as we exchange conversation on a boat in the middle of Lake Tana. He, like me, teaches the history and philosophy of geographic thought course and I was asking him to describe his pedagogical approach to the course. It was a tremendous and fruitful exchange. All of the geographers joined us on the boat to our destination – the big island of Lake Tana. We left shore at Bahir Dar in the far south. There are many islands and peninsulas and all of them have Orthodox Copitc monasteries, so we went to one of the most famous churches around the lake.
(image compliments of Google – do no harm)

This trip gave me a chance to interact with so many of the geographers on a more personal level – what a blast!

Once we went ashore and after hiking up the terrain of the island and passing many local vendors we arrived at a sort of old museum. Standing outside, inside one of the open windows were the original head crowns of many kings of Ethiopia, dating back to the twelfth century. Yes, just kinda sitting there with only one priest as the guard – that is the Ethiopian way. I knew a few of the stories of the kings, but nothing too detailed. It was a pleasant surprise to all of us. As I learn more about Ethiopian history, I will be able to reference those pictures as a base of visualization along with maps of this wonderful place.

Next we moved over to the church which was nearby. It was really amazing. I like to visit churches in different countries and really enjoyed my time in some churches in Spain. The detail of design, the art and iconography and the history are what appeal most to me. Ethiopia is no different. So many churches here are designed like the old destroyed Jewish temple in Jerusalem, with an outer court, and inner court and a Holy of Holies. This church was round with an outer courter all the way around the church. In the inner courts, the Holy of Holies was protected not by a curtain, but instead by a H U G E four walled structure with a door on each wall. The walls went high to the ceiling and were covered with art paintings of Biblical and Orthodox Christian scenes. It was totally different than anything I had ever witnessed.  A priest walked us around the structure and described much of the art and kindly many of the Ethiopian geographers were kind enough to translate. It was a very nice experience and now when I see the island, I will be able to truly describe it to students and friends in detailed ways – thus the name of my blog – street credit geography. You see, I just want more and more street credit, so I can truly excel in the classroom with students relating geography to them in fresh and relevant ways. VP Henry, what do you think, can we purchase a nice boat to take students on for a summer and I can lead the excursions around the world to different ports of call?

We traveled back to the main land for a bite to eat. I taught the chair of the geography department in Addis, Desalegn Wana, how to play Rock-Paper-Scissors. He beat me straight up. It was fun and funny too.

In the afternoon, JB and I were to meet with the University President again, but things didn’t work out, so I took a nice nap.  JB and Emma went and got some Ethiopian styled pizza and we had that for dinner while we did something different and watch the cycling movie of The Flying Scotsman. It was great and Johnathan and Betsy gave it to me as a gift. What kindness they show. Tomorrow is a big day as we continue significant GIS work in the workshop.