A new blog and update is long long overdue. 3 months is definitely a record for a lack of news!! I've been so busy with many different things that have happened, and have been chasing my tail trying to catch up with it all. I'll post a couple of posts, to try and cover everything that has gone on here!
Back in January, over the New Year, a number of us at Bingham went for a trip to one of Ethiopia's most incredible landscapes, the Danakil Depression. This is an area of Ethiopia about 120m below sea level, the 5th lowest place on earth, and the hottest place on earth in terms of average year round temperature. We travelled north to Mekele by plane, and began our trip in 4x4s. We travelled to the North East of Ethiopia, very close to the Eritrean border, so we were travelling with a security escort. The terrain very quickly became dry, hot and arid. We were shown the beginnings of the salt flats, before we were shown our accommodation for the night; a wooden bed frame each with an old mattress, underneath the stars. Toilet facilities were non-existent.
These go on for miles.
We began our second day with a trip beyond the salt flats, to an area which has been coloured by sulphur deposits. The landscape was incredibly beautiful, with all the vibrant red, green and yellow colour. We were also taken to an area of large salt-statues which tower over the landscape; the locals call the area "New York" as if the towering salt structures are buildings. There was also a large hot pool area, where the liquid had an oily consistency; the guides insisted it was good for our skin, so we tried rubbing some on our skin (after watching the guides do so first!)
Our second night was spent in a small "guesthouse" but we were able to have a bucket shower which was nice.
The next morning we set off to visit "Erta Ale", a live volcano. The terrain on the way to the volcano was extremely rough: evidently volcanic. Black, rough rock that the 4x4 landcruisers we were travelling in had to traverse slowly and carefully, whilst shaking us around inside. It was a very tiring day; we had no chance of rest, and had to hold on tightly to anything around us to avoid banging into each other. We arrived at the parking location, and spent a few hours napping, before setting off that night to trek up to the crater. It was a three hour hike up, pretty dull and boring! However, once we arrived at the crater, we were rewarded for all of the strain and tough journey that had gone before. The crater of the volcano was literally a pit of molten lava, swirling and bubbling. Fire shot out from holes in the rocks around it, and waves were traversing from one side to the other. Occasionally, an explosion of molten rock and fire burst forth spraying red hot fireworks out in the darkness. It was an awesome view. The amazing thing was just how close we were allowed to go; only a couple of metres away. Occasionally, stray sparks and red hot lava would land close to our feet, one of the guys from the group stepped on one! It was pretty mind-blowing :-)
After we headed back down from the crater, we slept for a few hours and then began the long, tiring journey back towards Mekele. After this, some of the group headed back to Addis, but others of us headed north to visit a particularly breathtaking Ethiopian Orthadox church. Breathtaking because of the entrance, which has been dug into a cliff face, and to visit requires a precarious careful walk along a thin walkway to the door. Not for the faint-hearted!! Inside, we found a spacious, beautifully painted church. The church is still operating, and church goers young and old have to make their way up the cliff face to attend services, baptisms, funerals etc. According to the priest there, no one has ever fallen. Quite a pilgrimage at the same time!!
Our guide showed us the way..
..but it's still quite scary!
The priest inside the church.
At the end of January, Bingham held its annual field day. This is an incredible, school wide event, everyone is involved. It's such a special, community event, many families from Addis come just to hang out, even if they don't have children participating! It just feels like a family day out! I helped timing races, Other than that, January was a usual busy month at Bingham, spent mostly preparing my students for their iGCSE and A-Level Mock exams. Busy busy busy!!
My other big news for January was that I got engaged! I'm sure almost all of you have heard this, but for those who perhaps have missed it, I got engaged on my birthday, January 13th to Sian Roberts. Sian and I met last year when she arrived in Ethiopia to teach in the SIM English language school called Bridge. We really hit it off, and got together a month or so later. After a long summer where we didn't see very much of each other, she arrived back in Ethiopia in November. We're hoping to get married in July of this year, in Southampton where she is from. God willing, we then return to Ethiopia next year together! We're very excited :-)
I think that those are the big news items for January, I'll continue February in the next post...
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