An Aggie in Ethiopia
July 11, 2013, 8:30 am by Katheryn Hoerster
Dust billowing across desolate landscapes, the harsh sun beating down on the last withered plants still clinging to life, temperatures soaring to unbearable highs. It might sound like the description of an Ethiopian summer, but itís not. In fact, summer, called Kírempti, in the mountainous country is just the opposite: cold, rainy, dreary.
In the days and weeks leading up to the start of the long rainy season, the first description might gain some merit, although temperatures at such high altitudes rarely exceed ninety degrees. Then one morning, as though itís been the same all along, clouds billow over the mountains from the east and eat up the sun. And it begins to rain. And it does not stop.
Kírempti is a beautiful and remarkable season in Ethiopia. What was once a primarily brown landscape transforms in just days into an Ireland-like swath of green across the desserts of Northern Africa. Steeply terraced hillsides play host to dozens of different crops, from maize to lentils to chickpeas. The flat, dirt roofs of the Tigray style houses grow an extra few inches of insulation overnight and occasionally goats can be seen happily grazing on the tops of low lying structures. All of this striking lushness, bathed in the ever present cool mountain mist, gives an impression of overwhelming abundance in a country where that rarely seems to be the case.
More bewildering than the green, grassy appearance, referred to as lemlem in Tigrinia, are the chilly temperatures. Ethiopians spend their days wrapped in layer upon layer of scarves, blankets and shawls, sometimes covering all but the personís expressive brown eyes. Coffee ceremonies last even longer than before, with thick perfumed smoke lingering to warm the cold drafty house. Between cups, when the coffee is steeping, the tiny charcoal stove is moved into the middle of the group of chilled observers so that each may warm his or her hands.
When the summer months end and the saturated soil cannot hold another drop of moisture, the country emerges from warm little houses to observe the renewed and rejuvenated Earth. With a similar rejuvenated energy, everyone gets back to a normal schedule. The downpours are no longer disrupting schedules or drawing out the coffee ceremonies, yet things are visibly different.
And the long wait for the next rains begin.
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