“You” I point at the screen of the camera “you, it’s you”. The boy looks at me and smiles. In Addis ‘you’ is used to get the attention of foreigners walking down the street. Now I’m using it to communicate with children working with livestock in a rural town. It’s Monday at about 10am and the field is full of children working with sheep, cows, and other livestock. Do they go to school? I’m unsure, but they are more knowleable about farming than I am at a quarter of my age.
As I posted a few days ago, portrait photography was one of my goals to pursue this trip. I hoped that today as we walked into the park I would get the opportunity to take one or maybe two portraits. I vastly underestimated the openness and friendliness of the Oromo people who live here. With a population of over 25 million inhabitants in Ethiopia, the Oromo make up more of the population than any of the 80+ ethnic groups. In this town of Dinsho, where the population is largely Oromi and speak Oromic before Amharic (official national language), I find myself in the right place to have a camera. On our way out to start the hike, Tamam stops to get a few liters of water for the day. I notice a couple of guys looking at us and I point to my camera. They smile. I was ecstatic, already getting an opportunity!
Onwards and in the community grass field the children were even more engaging. A few ran over, donning clothes from brightly colored scarfs to beige blazer jackets. Many did not know what to do when I pointed the camera at them. Starting with smiles, at times they would sharply transition to a look of severe sobriety and solitude. Sometimes I captured the serious, and other times I was able to catch their initial joy.
A 50 meter canyon, carved by the river below divides park from the townland. As we approach it I can see villagers from the other side making their way across. How many times this trek has been made I can only imagine. Beneath us, a bridge connects the park to the town. I ask Tamam how long the bridge has been there but he can only say ‘before the time of my father’.
As we climb above 3500 meters and reach the summit, Jostein and I ask Tamam whom a lifelong resident of Dinsho if he is tired. ‘No, no problem’, he grins. This is his habitat. I see this both in his appearance – the highland dwellers of Ethiopia have increased hemoglobin levels - and how comfortable he is walking the cattle paths and talking with the local highland farmers.
Coming back to town we once again cross the well-worn bridge. Two boys with a curious look on their faces stand near the canyon cliff. I wave at them and they excitedly return one. I point to my camera and they nod. It’s hard to contain my excitement when anyone here has let me take a photo, but this scene was particularly pinch-worthy.
We then entered Dinsho on our way back to the lodge. We stop in at a local coffee shop for some oil-thick black lightening. From my time looking out windows (a future post will focus on this), life in Ethiopia cannot be separated from the roads. Kids run around using their homemade toys, the cements reflects hums of many voices while livestock shuffle with the whip of their owner’s wrist.
Just before we get back to the log, we pass an elderly gentleman, clearly enjoying his afternoon with style. Before I can approach him for a must-have photo opportunity, he says to me ‘camera’ and does his best 1950’s Hollywood pose. He starts to get up and I insist he stays in his chilled-out state. What I hoped would be one or two photos turned into many more than I could have hoped for. I’m not sure I’ll have another day like this one with the Oromi people for a long time.