An Association is formed and history is made
As the car made its way out of the dust of Addis on the climb up the wooded Entoto Mountain, we could breathe the clean sharp air of the countryside on our journey to Fitche, about 2 ½ hours’ drive north through incredible scenery, now quite familiar to me and something to which I had been greatly looking forward. What I was not looking forward to was embarking on another hair-raising dodgem-car ride, narrowly avoiding the “Al-Quaeda” (as they are dubbed locally) trucks and crazy minibus drivers. Oh yes, I remembered this bit, and it is sobering to see the number of overturned minibuses and semitrailers by the side of the road.
But we made it thanks to Lakew’s skill at the wheel and pulled up at the Doyu-Armon Garden, now proudly sporting an entrance gate made from eucalyptus saplings, and mounds of red soil and sand ready to be ploughed in. As I had been warned, the clay soil was cracking in the intense dry heat, threatening to crush the tender rootlets of the new plants. Lakew said that his job over the next few days was to supervise the filling of a long stone-edged trench with the good soil so that the most vulnerable plants can be transferred until they are strong enough to survive.
Abiyu and Lakew showed us the line of Set eret (Aloe pulcherrima), surviving but looking a little burnt at the edges, and Tefrindo (Gomphocarpus purpurescens) looking quite happy. Abiyu showed us the sap from the Tefrindo and explained how it is used to paint on warts. Another area sported the erect pointed leaves of Wonde cheret (Sanseviera ehrenbegii), used for ear infections. We were shown other plants, looking a little straggly but protected with straw, and, with some concern, an empty borehole. Lakew is onto it, arranging to have it dug deeper. Abiyu tells me that if the plants can be nurtured along to survive a year, they will be strong enough to flourish and cope with both wet and dry seasons. So, progress has been made but we have some work still to do in getting the conditions right.
We checked in to the Abiido International Hotel. Disappointing to find that the bath didn’t work but the trickle of hot water from the shower was a surprise bonus and quite adequate to remove the dust of the drive and reinvigorate some stamina. Heading to Shikerker’s house, I couldn’t wait to meet up with the community members who had been so generous with their herbal information for my research and it was a fun reunion. Of course they asked where daughter May and son Alemayehu were and I had to explain that the travelling team has shrunk a little this time, but they were happy to meet Kristin who was in charge of both the film camera and (even more importantly) containing my (and Lakew’s) enthusiasm to keep us on strict track. That woman has impressive skills and increasingly I realise how much I need her to keep this project aligned with objectives and being the voice of experienced caution. Although I have to confess to that heart-sinking moment when she says (as she so often did) “Yes, Lizzie, but are you considering..?” and I was glad to see Lakew looking equally crestfallen as he is worse than I am in the Big Idea stakes.