the BIGGER picture


Just a glimspe. Susan's Perspective.

Harar Continued

So other than the monuments, museums, culture and the people in Harar, another popular attraction is to hand-feed Hyenas in the wild. Well I guess these animals were not entirely “wild” since they’re use to being fed everyday, hence they’re as domesticated as they could be considering they still live in the wild. Make sense?Hyenas are generally nocturnal animals. They spend most of the day just laying around in the sun and minding their business. But at night, these animals hunt and scavenge for food. Anyways, the 6 of us drove to the end of the walled-city after dinner and arranged for a man to attract Hyenas. The Hyena Man carried with him kilos of scrap meat and a wooden branch the length of a chopstick. We were in complete darkness – visibility was less than 1 ft. A storm was brewing in the distance and periodic cracks of lightning illuminated the beautiful and massive Shoa tree just before us. As the Hyena Man proceeded to yell, “Alle…alle…”, slowly but surely one after another Hyenas approached us. At one point there must’ve been 15 of them! One at a time, we crouched down by the Hyena Man and was instructed to hold the extremely short branch in our hands with a piece of meat on the other end. Then, all we had to do was literally feed the Hyenas. The Hyenas are actually very beautiful animals. They’re calm, peaceful and lovable at times. However during that night, all I could think about were the numerous Discovery Channel specials I had seen. They’re suppose to be dangerous and vicious carnivores! And I’m holding their dinner on a flimsy stick! So after saying a prayer, with extreme fear and curiosity I stuck out the piece of meat and watched the jaws of two Hyenas fight over it only inches away from me. I tried to flinch away but their jaws were holding on to the stick. Finally they let go. I looked down to check my limbs, they were still intact. What seemed like 10 minutes was probably just 1 sec. My photographs are extremely deceiving because I have a huge smile on my face, but that smile was all fear baby! The rest of the group were more adventurous because they tried to feed the Hyenas again, but this time with their mouths. Sorry, but I’ve got Chinese blood in me so I’m suppose to be conservative. No mouth action for me thank-you. I’ll just stand back and continue to be the designated photographer 🙂After a great night of Hyena-bonding, the girls headed for some traditional Harar culture. Our friends had arranged for us to visit Harari women and to receive Henna on our bodies. I just had a traditional design on my right hand and forearm. The swirls begin on my middle finger and twist all the way up to my elbow. Quite beautiful. It was nothing like our “Henna Tattoos” on the boardwalk. I’ve been officially Hennafied!We spent our last day in Dire Dawa, another culturally rich city. Our friends had arranged for us to ride Camels in the city! Apparently, we were the first foreigners to ride Camels from a tourist perspective so it was a huge deal to everyone. As we mounted our majestic Camels, we were instantly surrounded by locals. Children followed us around the streets as we marched further into the city. We were a parade of Foreigners – American, Canadian and Mauritian. Cute no?! Random people welcomed us and bystanders took pictures with their cellphones. Buses and cars slowed down to take a look at the commotion. It was dramatic! Now we just need the Key to their City!p.s. Riding Camels is really painful after a while… When you get off, you realize you’ve got a very butch walk. Attractive.


Filed under: Africa, Camel, Ethiopia, Harar, Hyena, Life, Thoughts, Travel, , , , , , , ,

Good Morning Addis Ababa!

It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for 2 weeks already. I think it’s probably because I had a 1 week vacation to Harar… gotta luv the Millennium holidays 🙂

Harar, an ancient mystical city 600km away from Addis, is a spiritual center for practicing Muslims. With hundreds of mosques and unique places of worship, Harar is seen as the Mecca of Ethiopia. I did not plan on going on an independent trip so soon, but once again I was blessed with an amazing opportunity. I learned that my coworker and her friends were renting a 4WD and their guide was a an Ethiopian friend! So 3 Feurenjis along with a driver and 2 Ethiopian friends set off to Harar for 5 days!

The 10 hour drive was incredible! A 4WD is a must, even if the roads are paved. For the first few hours, we drove through a dusty desert. The land was dry, the water holes were like sand pits, the sun was painful and the hot air was intense. Before long our vehicle stalled. Yes, in the middle of the desert we encountered our first challenge. We all got out of the car and pretended everything was cool, but I could feel the anxiety and tension in the air. Luckily after a few moments we were back on the road. Moments later, we were greeted by dozens of camels and a few Afar people.

Afar people are traditionally from a warrior tribe, hence they were all carrying AK47s. I suppose the guns were just a precautionary measure. Camels here are worth a lot of money. Their meat and ability to work are prized possessions. At first glance, I wanted to snap some action pictures of the cute animals, but my friend asked me, “Do you really want to take that chance Susan?” We have heard stories where tourists, no different from us, have been randomly shot at or had their cameras smashed. All I could think was one shot from any one of those guns would kill me. So, as we slowed down to allow the herd and warriors cross, I just smiled and kept my camera as low to the floor of the 4WD as possible.

The pothole-filled-Chinese-paved road took us through the dry desert and into the winding temperate mountains and valleys of Ethiopia. The temperature must’ve dropped by 10 degrees, but it was absolutely stunning! It was just as I had imagined. Since the rain season was just ending, everything was a perfect shade of green. And as the sun cascaded down through the clouds, the laddered mountainsides from farming were highlighted in a bright gold. I’ve always been in awe of Nature’s beauty, but to find such beauty in stereotypically bare land was just jaw-dropping. Then suddenly, we caught ourselves swerving uncontrollably on a tight turn just steps away from the cliff side. A flat tire – inevitable. Or as Tania puts it, “A flat flower”.

We all got out and our second challenge of the day brought us to an area where farmers and less aggressive tribes lived. The driver struggled to jack up the car but curious bystanders began to check out our small problem. The children and teenagers got down underneath the car and laid on the wet road and jacked the car up for us. We didn’t ask, they just did it. The driver realized he didn’t have the correct wrench. Luckily a passing pickup truck stopped and gave us theirs. So while we were momentarily detained, I took the liberty of capturing the beautiful mountains. It’s quite ironic how we managed to get a flat tire right at the perfect spot on the mountain for photos. It was a God-designated Kodak spot.

Perhaps I’ll save the rest of the trip for later. Until next time…

Filed under: Africa, Ethiopia, Harar, Life, Thoughts, Travel

Through My Eyes


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