Tuesday, November 27, 2018

African Woman Travelling Solo

As I embark on my last travel back home, assisting a young Russion mother next to me on Ethiopian airlines, I am joyful, grateful and my heart is filled with love realising the gift of being part of this universe. Reflecting back through my current journey as a black woman travelling Solo through three
countries (Spain, Morocco & Portugal), discovering more than 18towns/cities, and sharing intimate moments with people from every continent in the world, using my wit, intellegence and heart; manuvering planes, blabla car, trains, buses, ferry, taxis, uber, walking and family carppool, I am in owe of how far my Solo travel has inspired who I am.

I have been travelling solo since I was 12yrs old, and I have always enjoyed every step of venturing towards making my inner & outer dreams come true. From working hard to saving, planning the script of the trip, figuring out the inner purpose, the butterflies, the packing, and being flexible once the journey starts. Its not just the amazing countries I see, the wonderful people and moments I have experienced, but its also getting to know who I really am, that is priceless.
Lots of people let me know their fears about woman travelling solo, racism in the countries I explore, what if something happend to me alone, are you sure you have enough money, don't talk to strangers, and so on. Yes to all things that could happen, but strangers I meet on my travels have also been the solutions, as well as learning to trust your instinct and inner will. There is no equation or guidlines in seeking your joy, be bold, trust your instinct, be kind, and always be curiouse, the rest God weaves to perfection, and innovation is definatly a life saver in the university of the universe.

I am sure of one thing, Love, kindness and intuition are truelly the glue that holds humanity together, and I know after travelling Solo more than half my life, it has equiped me of all three!

Your purpose is not something you seek, its inside all along, peel away the masks you have accumilated, listen to your heart, and be brave enough to allow your truth to shine, stand firm in what you believe, be kind yet still, simply be you, it will always be enough!Travelling with myself, allows me to sit still, connect to my being and get a front seat look at my raw emotions, reactions, behaviour and strength, to give way to accepting all of me, and live an authentic life.

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Melkam Guzo (Happy travels)
By Dutchess @Deldeyoch

Friday, October 26, 2018

ኢትዮጲያ - A country with a Soul

Moments of bliss overwhelms my core, as I take my senses to realign their radar to transcend through new destination, overwhelming my imagination to go beyond its impulses, forcing my mind to stay still, and allow my intuition to guide my being & strengthen its position…Travelling!!

As an avid traveler, addicted to the unknown, adventure, challenge, relaxation and at times inner quest. I tend to ponder on basic questions that can ease the itch to transform the feeling to contempt, not satisfaction. Furthermore the research, anticipation, journey, discovery and not just the destination fuels my passion and refuels my hunger to travel more.

I have tried to share MY Ethiopia, the experiences & beauty I have seen discovering it within. So the question is not whether you should see Ethiopia, but, where you should start from -
- Heading west to discover Ethiopia's uniqueness,
- North to experience the cradle of mankind,
- South to cross paths with rich human diversity or,
- East where nature gracefully co-habits with man.

How far do you want to travel? What risks are you willing to take? How intense and thrill seeking do you want the adventure to be? Who were you willing to share my travel time with? Is it a spiritual, physical, emotional or explorative quest? Are you on strict financial budget, or do you feel like splurging? What mode of transportation are you willing to take i.e. private, public, sharing?

Melkam Guzo
Safe Travels!!



Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Brain Gain of the African Diasporah - Ethiopia!!

When a newly elected prime minister of an ancient civilization like Ethiopia and the leader of the fastest growing economy in Africa, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, within a span of 3month has influenced & given hope to Ethiopia, horn of Africa and the continent at large for peace, reform and reconciliation, makes a ground breaking travel to seek the assistance of the quarter million Ethiopian diasporah to invest their money & capacity to transform the Ethiopian economy, it shows a commitment to a neglected yet influential segment of an untapped resource.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), about one-third of African proffessionals have left the continent. To return back to Africa or to stay where one is and contribute to the society, economy, environment and well being of Africa has been a complex yet timely conversation that needs to be addressed on a policy level with discussion, debates, research, proper feedback channels and analysed transparently. As they are and can inject billions of dollar annually into the African economy as returnees & potential returnees, as well as be positioned to positively influence the overall transformation of the continent, if proper guidelines, support, recognition, transparency & uniformity is adhered. Unlike the western society that has branded its immigrant, expat and dual citizenship as a wealth & positive force, the African diasporah is fearful, distrusting and unaware of its power & influency in unity.

 Those of us that have returned back & have consciously made a decision to stay & somewhat integrate uniquely into the Ethiopian economy, society and environment can also be an asset. I am invested in the committed journey of Africans for Africa, and providing a creative, ethical, effective, mindful, productive and inclusive forum/dialogue to influence the policy, reform & transition into a progressive Ethiopian economy. Having established a strategic management advisory firm, its evident to me Ethiopia doesn't have a case study in the western educational system, its our duty as the next generation leaders to stand firm, learn African/Ethiopian leadership history, open our hearts to the unknown, sacrifice our emotional bias, take advantage of the current wave of positive government reforms, and do concreat changes like our forefathers. It starts with efficient & effective policy reforms that we all need to contribute too, even potential returnees...

Although I agree somewhat with the PM, I think like any international organisations that have expat privileges because of the fund, or capacity building, brain gain they provide should be able to atleast get incentives, guidelines, support to effeciently invest their money, time and resource into the country, in what form/to whom, that's up to a debate. Having said that proper orientation should be given to returnees of our responsibilities as expat Ethiopian investorts to respect, work hand in hand & build up our fellow people..

There are lots of systemic, social challenges and barriers, but in every endeavor we are on, when we abide by our ethical values and moral compass and ploug through obstacles, we are paving ways to many others to come through smoothly and contribute greatly. Our forefathers believed in this ancient land that has given birth to the world, and streached its citizens all over the world to have profound effect on the economy & society it serves. As a returnee you ought to have passion and the right motive in what you do. Ethiopia is not for the thin skinned, nor does it tolerate those that don't have self respect and can truily embark on uplifting another human being. It will demand a pioneering spirit that can tolerate like a mother, is sharp like a serpent, and kind like a dove.

 Like any emerging continent trying to shed its past, make peace with its history and refocus for a better empowering future, we as Africans whether in the continent, or living outside have to be the ambassadors that while standing firm and confident with our diversity need to work even harder, focused and diligently for the well-being of Africa in consideration of how the world has constantly taken advantage of its people, land and resources. It has become apparent that healing is much needed, as well as a clearer understanding of the uniqueness of each country within Africa. So let us all make an extra effort to travel, work with and get to engaged in a dialogue with Africans and Africa itself to reimage our Africa and tell our stories for the next generation.

By Dutchess @deldeyoch

Monday, May 14, 2018

Spirituality, Ecotourism and physical well-being! An Active Weekend into Wonchi Mountains!

An extinct volcano, Mount Wonchi located 155km from Addis in western Shewa. Mount Wonchi lies between the towns of Ambo and Woliso, rises to 3,386m above sea level, passing though the Afroalpine moorland of its upper slopes, and patches of natural forest, we get to the top of the mountain to discover a crater with two islands, hot mineral springs, waterfalls, beautiful valleys and farmland. In one of the islands there is an ancient Wonchi Kirkos monastery said to have been discovered by Atse Teklehaimanot in the 13th century.

The majority of the +100k inhabitants practice Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. From the vast number of tabots, the holly water of Giorgis at the hot springs, and devoted followers that come to visit Wonchi on festival days, as well as the ancient manuscripts found at Wonchi monastery, the area with its natural beauty, does have a feel of a spiritual heaven. Recently it has become an ecotourism destination where guided treks, boating, camping, vacation home scouting have been encouraged by the community association to boast tourism for income generation.

A local boatman will take you across the lake by boat to the small Wonchi Kirkos Monastery Island from where you can observe the beauty of the lake and the Kirkos church with his ancient Gonder bell. If you get permission from the Wonchi Holy Synod you can also get a special viewing of some of the old manuscripts that have been stored though hundreds of years.

The trail to the hot spring valley takes one and a half hours, and one can observe and see the crystal clear water lying in the deep Crater Lake, mineral spring water, beautiful aquatic and terrestrial birds and mammals to watch, Kigebi village, indigenous forest and alpine vegetation, as well as Tilika valley.The Dawala hot springs and waterfall, uniquely shaped deep natural basin and circular slopes, which are covered with alpine vegetation and trees are a must trek, which is a wonderful route for horse riding.

So whether you are doing a more historic Loop starting in one of the oldest cities in Ethiopia to visit the museum, Addis Alem Mariam church and Emperor Menelik palace, going for a bit of a swim in Ambo hot spring, heading into Wonchi Mountains, and turning back to Addis past the town of Welliso to Addis, or simple doing a day excursion ino Wonchi crater lake, Wonchi Mountains is a great active weekend getaway from Addis.

Dutchess @deldeyoch

Friday, May 11, 2018

Empires, Spirituality and Cultural Mecca – Dire Dawa & Harer!

Whether by overland from Awash Saba, passing through the southern Rift valley escarpments which rises to the Chercher and Arba Gugu mountains, by train (And hopefully the new train in 2018), or flying Ethiopian that feed you a tasty cake and drink within 45minutes (which is more than what you get when you travel from Washington DC in the East coast of American to Seattle, WA in the west coast), entering Dire or Harer feels like you have entered another historic part of Ethiopia’s’ past. 

Growing up my family used to travel overland every year for pilgrimage to St Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox church, Kulubi , and every time I come to this part of Ethiopia it has a wonderful childhood memory, which comes to life in its hot, arid climate, its colorful houses, diverse community, exotic shopping scene, and the ever so open and progressive community that live in it. 

Well in 2018, what made my trip to Dire Dawa and Harer more appealing was the start of the new Addis-Djibouti train (759km), the backbone of the Ethiopian National Railway Network that took 6years to inagurate. It provides landlocked Ethiopian with access to the sea. It was a bit of a challenge to find Furi-Lebu train station as it was actually in Sebeta and not Lebu, and there were no signs leading to the train station. All train tickets are purchased at the station, but they are thinking of opening a ticket office at legehar. Traveling schedule from Addis to Djibouti is on even dates, and from Djibouti to Addis is on odd number dates.The train ended up being a 7hrs smooth journey, overlooking somewhat scenic route to Dire dawa. Except for the lack of food despite the nice cafe compartment (that I was prepared for), and extreme security checks, the seats were comfortable, the hostess’s friendly, the stations well built and the train leaving on time on both ways. Make sure to come an hour early to buy your tickets to Dire dawa, and a day early to Djibouti. All passengers to Djibouti and Ethiopia must have a visa to both countries.  The station is a bit of a distance to all stations so you need to arrange a pickup or take the taxis available on all stations. I have taken cross country trip in America, Europe, Asia and other African countries, for the mere $10 for a  trip to Eastern Ethiopia, I found this train to be exceptionally simple and unique, the passengers diverse, the hostess’s friendly, the AC temperature on point, ample room on my seat, and the train efficient, maybe the coastal train in Washington train may come close. There are times the electricity may go off, so the train will wait for while, or go with plan B which is to use diesel the rest of the way.

Dire Dawa is a modern city, clean and paved, that was enlarged to service the Chemin De Fer railway that connects Addis Abeba to Djibouti, which is strategically located. Dire in the 20th century experienced a significant economic boom, mainly due to the contraband trade in that region, the unfortunate reality that the rail is the only connection of Ethiopian trade to the Indian ocean, and also the decline of the role of Harers’ location when trading with the Asia and the rest of Africa. My love for Dire, started as a young teenager from Addis, walking around the colorful houses, noticing the confident & colorfully dressed woman with mesmerizing jewelry trading around the open Taiwan Market (Which is now closed off), my owe of the cultural and language diversity, the beautiful dria the woman wore, riding around town after 4pm in a bicycle and visiting the Railway station always brightens up my mood. Although it is hot in Dire, I have noticed that since the city has an amazing varieties of trees everywhere, the humidity is great for the skin, and the breeze helps to cool off. So please don’t overlook Dires’ uniqueness when traveling to Eastern Ethiopia. 

As you head out of Dire, up the winding road, zigzagging through the mountains (which used to be gravel road and very dangerous, especially since most drivers will not tempt to drive that route without consuming chat, the local drug), I am always inclined to visit my Godfather, St Gabriel Church, Kulubi, which are visited by both Christian and Muslim pilgrims. The harmony of the mountainous environment, the church with its surrounding allows one a moment of silence and reflection, especially if you go when its not the day of celebration, as there are only a few people at mass, allowing you to fully experience the church.  Giving you the energy and openness to travel up the mountainous terrain to reach the exotic and charming city of Harer, at 1850m above sea level. Almost 700m, ascend from Dire Dawa to Harer, so please observe the change in climate, & topography, as its quite a journey.

Before entering Harer, or passing Alemaya university (Where most Famous Ethiopian Agriculturist are Alumni to), there is a chat (Local Herbal Drug) Market town, Awedey, where if you are there between noon-2pm, one might be alarmed at the intensity and overwhelming amount of Chat that’s being bought and sold. I guess Ethiopia has really moved from specializing in Hareri coffee to cultivating the cash crop, chat, especially in this area. Chat used to be consumed by mostly people from these parts of Ethiopia, that have had a spiritual and other connection to the plant, yet the last 20years, it has become apparent that our youth have been misusing it and have become addicted to this plant. 

As you enter into Harer, one is disappointed as it looks like another town in Ethiopia. But as you travel deeper within the city, and see the walled city for the first time, my heart stopped, “Am I in India, Zanzibar, or Middle East”, no I was in Ethiopia, you observe that Harer is situated in a plateau with deep gorges, surrounded by desserts and savannah. There is something magical, playful, enchanting, and spiritually heightened, within the walled city of Harer, especially in Jegol, that was built between 13th & 16th century. Sleeping at the heart of the walled city, in a Harari house over 300years old; chatting with the children and elderly of Jegol, who speak a minimum of 6 languages; walking through the colorful houses and private mosques of Harer (Amongst which are those built in the 10th century); opening my palate to Harari food & sweets; immersing oneself in the vibrant market and visiting museums, as well as people watching the diverse community of Harer is an experience that will make you wonder and fall in love with Ethiopia’s diversity, strength, complexity and endurance. It truly is the fourth holiest city in the world, I have been to both Jerusalem and Lalibella, and Harer is near and dear to my heart.  

I am always astounded at the civilized and progressive people of Harer, both woman and man. Their openness, assertiveness and communicative nature is a breath of fresh air, as well as the Muslim woman’s strength and courage in embracing themselves is a Globally. I was culturally shocked to see Harari woman enjoying ladies night out, dancing in clubs with their hijab, so much so that we became friends the whole night. One has to make an effort and get to know the cultural, economic and historic significance of Harer, it has seen its share of wealth, prosperity, wars, empires, explorers, exploiters, traders from as far as china and west Africa. Sitting on the streets of Jegol, I had tears in my eyes, thinking of my ancestors historic significance as Ethiopians, not just to fight foreign insurgencies, but also to transfer such immense importance in the significant role African has played in the advancement of globalization. If only the world can learn from the children of Jegol, their embrace & fluency of more than 6 languages around them by the age of 10; their tolerance to people from all walks of life and color; their friendly yet frank demeanor and grace; their appreciation and respect for the religion of the world; and their pride and apathy of those around them was a huge lesson that I will forever cherish …

Melkam Guzo

“Take only pictures, leave only footprints, kill nothing but time” ☆Conciouse Traveler 

By Dutchess @deldeyoch

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Science of Meditation

What is  I but a mere presence,
What is Mine but an absence,
Are we not mind and matter,
And our breath, a guide to our soul.

Fear, Anger, Jealousy and Revenge roams freely in our mind, Sensing every moment to elude our present, Gradually placing its firm grip on our identity, Going back & forth to past and future, it owns us.

Sit still  know that I am God,
Such profound saying, so true,
Yet that’s the one thing we don’t do,
The simplicity of sitting with oneself frightens us.

This too shall pass, Going deeper we recognize its treasure, Every thing and every experience changes,
Only the present is real.

Spirituality is acceptance of ones Ego,
Knowing that there is a being inside without judgment or reaction,
Being tolerant, compassionate & peaceful  is an empowerment,
True self-esteem is being alert, aware and mindful.

Through awareness you recognize the roles you play in life,
By taming & purifying your mind your reactive impulses subside,
Allowing your minds discomfort of being present,
Gradually leading to surrendering, non-reactivity & transparency.

 Be immune to criticism as well as praise,
Awareness & equanimity subsides the force of the thought,
Meditation tames & purifies the mind, awakening your soul.
The present is aware, conscious, & intelligent.

You are the light of the world,
Through stillness & silence,
You will find your way,
As only your truth will set you free.

In reaching that Joy, Peace, and Harmony,
Only then can you share your truth through Meta Bhavana,
The presence in you is not indifferent but compassion,
Only through your insight can you spread love & kindness.

By Dutchess@Deldeyoch

Friday, January 27, 2017

Old & New India - A contradiction to the Senses! (Part Two)

 Within the inception stages of preparing for my travel to India, I had a checklist for things I should do in Addis before my travels, allowing my journey to incorporate an element of surprise mixed with a accurate estimation of budget and managing my finance & people I needed to assist in researching about the do’s and don’ts of traveling to Asia alone. Other than that I wanted India to speak to me while I traveled in her soil, and for the first time, allowing the moment, situation and the regions to transition my trip while traveling, I let fate be my guide. In order to meet my challenge set for myself to visit atleast 10 places in India, from historical Rajasthan and Dessert Safari in the North; Mumbai in the West, the home of the Bollywood and the financial elite; following pilgrims at the foot of the Himalayas, Rishikesh in the East; and venturing to the tranquil beaches of Goa in the South; and so many interesting places in-between, so as to challenge all my senses and get a clearer idea of the social, political, historical, infrastructure, and economical aspect of India. The most adventurous part of my journey was the diverse means of transportation that I used to travel from one area to another, as I didn’t hold back on my curiosity, which included Rikshaws, Ola cars, Metro, Train, Boat, Airline, Bike, Camel, Motorcycle, Scooter and so much more, leaving me a little exhausted, excited as well as full of phenomenal travel stories.

Flying into Mumbai from Addis on the festival of Devallii, I was pleasantly met with a festive mood in India while I took the first glimpse of the Arabian Sea. Touring around the gates of India, Taj Mahal hotel, and the imprint of the East India Company on Mumbai’s feel and look, my mind kept on reminding itself on the realities of life in a city with 25million people, those living in the poorest slums in the world as well as those living in the utmost luxury, passing each other side by side in the busiest cities in the world. I must admit I was challenged in almost every city by the overpopulation, and the impact it has on infrastructure, pollution and hygiene that can be seen vividly. Yet on another hand, like all the other contradictions I saw in India, once one gets used to the first confrontation of the overwhelming surge of population, one starts to truly see how despite the population the greenery I saw in almost all cities in India is quite impressive, and the co-habitation of animals, plants and humans is quiet impressive.

I was meet with plenty of scary moments during the week of Devali, as it was a week-long blast of fireworks, random outburst of noise and so much pollution, especially in Delhi that came with the festival. And then there were the amazing sweets and the colorful outfits I witnessed throughout my trip. Thus so began my taste, feel and intuition for India’s cuisine, garment, traffic, population, the hustle of Touristic venues, and the cultural as well as customs that I should be respectfully be aware of as a woman and a tourist.

My adventure to Delhi I must admit was a combination of pollution exhaustion, in awe of its historical significance and landmarks in Old Delhi, as well as discovering the emergence of the New technologically savvy and globally influenced young professionals I encountered in and around New Delhi. These two largest cities in India that I ventured to at the beginning paved the way to venturing into the cities that amplified the larger than life imprints of the Maharajas of Rajasthan in Jaipur, Udaipur and Jaislmer, as well as the influence of the mighty Mughals in Delhi, Agra and the diverse significance of Earth, Wind, & Fire on religious temples & buildings. Leaving me wanting more I let the super moon take me to the foot of the Himalayas, the pilgrimage towns of Rishkeish and Hardiware, that left me a little shocked to see the influence of the Beatles (The band) on sacred grounds, more catered to western tourist than I would have liked it. But also the majestic Ganges River, and the amazing locals that shared their pilgrims with me will forever be imprinted in my heart. My encounter with the Ganges River also took me to Varanasi where my heart stopped for a few seconds observing a wedding, cremation and Hindu sunset celebration in one night, all on the Ganges River. Such acceptance of the different phases of ones life, as well as death and the synergy as such, stayed with me through out my travels in India. My curiosity of the inception on the first glimpse of sexual liberation through art, the Kama Sutra, also led me to venturing to the 3D temple sculptures at Khajuraho. I was not just fascinated by the honesty of the portrayal of life in those days in the temples of Khajuraho, but the ingenuity of the sculptures as well as the tranquility of the environmental settings of all the temples within that region, which also includes the Tiger Park not far away.

In need of relaxation and to fully grasp the high speed at which my senses were working to catch up in India, I made sure I sat still where my intuition felt the need, which happens to be near water, whether it was Udaipur, Varanasi or Goa. I sat still, and marveled at the things I have seen, the people I have meet, how much I was blessed to be able and privileged for so many to open their hearts and homes to make my stay and experience one of marvel, challenge and utter joy. I read a lot wanting to connect the pieces of what I knew, my travels, history, global trade, world politics, experience, knowledge and a few misguided understandings. I wanted more, so I experienced Rajasthan cooking class; garment making & dying, learning the different skills required to make the clothes we wear; went tea tasting to get a feel of the various teas in the world; did heritage walks and audio guides to fully comprehend the influences of the empires that colonized India as well as the Rajs’ of India; and ventured to Hindu/Jain/Buddhist Temples and mosques to immerse myself in the religions of India, tradition and diversity of India. I meet scientists, military men, housewives, business people, royal families, world travelers, people that have quit their jobs for a year or more, and so much more travelers & locals that shared their experience, travels and knowledge, as I patiently asked the whys, how’s and where’s, making me feel at home, as a global traveler. It made me realize I was just part of a nomadic soul that had through time accepted and submitted to my inner quest to be part of the universal calling to create a New Earth. I feel the most at ease with such fellow travelers, a sense of belonging, safety and inner passion as a nomad discovering ones inner make up tested by the unpredictability of the world as well as in Joy with the vast similarities of these fascinating world we call home.

Of all my encounters one will always be imprinted in me forever, it’s the moment in time I knew we are all connected in the universe. After my dessert safari, I wanted to see the Jaislmer castle, so I walked up to the inner parts heading to the ticket office, when a young teenage boy tapped at my shoulder and pointing to my shoes showed me his sack of mending tools, my heart and eyes swelled, I realized he had seen that I was limping a little as my shoe strap was detached and he had wanted to fix it. I realized he was deaf and mute, so holding back the gratitude that he had chosen me, I wanted to seem like a knowledgeably tourist so with sign language we negotiated a price to fix just my one shoe. Quietly he spent almost 30minutes fixing my shoe, and I sat silently letting the moment of being in & around a fairy tale palace setting, and an encounter that warmed my heart. Realizing I was fortunate to be so present to witness the meeting of two soul to exchange greetings and needs. When he finished the one shoe he looked at me and with a few signs told me he wanted to fix my other shoes with the same price, I had a lamp on my throat, I prayed for him and me, bid him thanks and Namaste, and thanked my blessings for such a heartfelt moment in my journey.

And ofcourse the tragedies, war, love stories, religious disputes, trade expansions, unique temple architect, and blend of the global world can clearly be seen in the impressive buildings I witnessed at Taj Mahal & Red fort in Agra, Majid Masgid in Delhi, Khajuraho temple sculptures in Rajasthan, and Varanasi. Leaving me craving to understand, and comprehend the influence of Asia on the world’s social, emotional and intellectual intelligence thus far.

Such was the wealth of knowledge that I felt with my mind, body and soul, and a solidification of the purpose of my existence. I have used travel as a way to move between my past, present and future, as well as to test my inner shifts and balances. By far this phase in my life seems that I have made a good investment internally that has finally meet my outer success, making India a unique part of my personal journey. I am forever grateful to India and everyone that I was blessed to cross paths with to making my journey a blessed one, who knows I might return, as the Indian embassy was kind enough to give me a ten year visa!


By Sofanit Mulugeta

Friday, January 13, 2017

Sodere - Thermal healing with History & Hidden Adventures

As Addis was freezing in the evenings, and wanting to not get the New Year Gunfan (Flu), I opted to venture out of town for a weekend, desiring a combination of activities, an inexpensive budget, and wanting to go somewhere in Ethiopia where the weather was warmer, thus I contemplated a few places. I vouched for the warmer lowland Rift Valley region, and traveling in a private Vehicle with friends, going Southeast to Sodere seemed the best choice. Considering its vast availability of hotels on route, a choice of ample transportation options, plenty of outdoors activities and relaxing thermal pools to be topped with Filwoha, Sodere was the ideal choice.

Sodere’s History
Some 120km Southeast from Addis Abeba in Shewa region at an elevation of 1,466 Meters, situated in the lowlands where Awash river zigzags through the land, lies Sodere Hotel and Resort. 

 Most Ethiopians that were born after the 60’s in Addis are bound to have endless childhood memories of spending their holidays as a family in Sodera, or traveling with friends to a natural resort where one can be in beautiful nature, that combines hot spring and a bit of partying. Although I wasn't too found of Sodere growing up, we did travel often to Abader Fliwoha (Hot springs that revitalize ones body, mind and soul). But as far back as I can remember my family had been going there for more than 50 years, and staying more than a few days in Keremt (rainy season), thus I do have ample memories of Fliwoha, Awash River and sneaky Velvet monkeys. 

So how did Sodere become so popular?
Emperor Haileselassie in the 60s was consulted on the Rift Valley Development around the Awash region, which includes both Wonchi and Methara Suger factory, thus most urban dwellers were being encouraged to Invest in those areas. After the Emperor built his Palace up the mountain from what is now Sodere, the Emperor wanted to attra

ct public Investment to that region, which gave rise to the idea to build a resort on the Oasis of Sodere. The area at that time was well known to travelers coming from South Easter Ethiopia to the Shewan Highlands or vice versa. Locals and traders saw it as an oasis where the hot springs/Filwoha around that area was known for its medicinal healing powers.

The story goes that the land that we know as Sodere in the 1960’s used to be owned by a private individual, Balambaras Girma Yayeherad. At that time Emperor Haileselasie had the right to use any of Ethiopian lands for public use, but because of the Emperor’s tactful ability he wanted to diplomatic as to see the Balambaras for his consent.

The Emperor tactfully preceded to ask the Balambaras of his affection towards the emperor & country, as well as his trust, and the Balambaras answered with joy for being acknowledged into the confidence of the late emperor. Thus the emperor proceeded with his request for the well being of the country's economy, reinforced the Balambarasis commitment to his country as well as making an old man happy, with that plea the Balambaras couldn’t refuse & gave away his land to establish a state owned Sodere Resort for the public. 

Thus Sodere Resort was established and started operation in 1963, attracting the “Who’s who of Addis” during the time of the Emperor. Unfortunately during the last 50 years, nothing significant has changed, and considering it has been privatized in 2013 and prices have hiked more than 300% from 2010 to 2013, other than the natural habitats being affected, not much has been done in an eco-friendly way. As my aunt who has been going there since the 60s mentioned, apart from more rooms that are unkept, a few new buildings, new main kitchen built during the socialist Era, in 2013 there still seems to still be bad service, lack of efficient staff & facilities, bath rooms that don't quite work, and inconsistent food choice's during buffets, it seemed to her the 60s were the highlight of Sodere.

The positive aspect of things remaining the same is that the natural Flilowha at Abader is as magnificent, and is truly healing for not just your skin, but for your mind, body and soul. The magnificence of the topography, with the flow of Awash River, mountains, hot springs, and warm swimming pools does make it now one of my destinations. And in time I have realized that the weekends should be avoided if you want a quiet time, and weekdays are the best time to visit Sodere, when you can give it due time, and enjoy the adventure that Sodere has to offer. Even more so if you decide to camp in Sodere’s natural setting.

Things to do and See:
- Swimming in the Thermol Olympic sized pools; 
- Hiking; 
- Fishing, watching Crocodile, Hippo and a variety of wonderful birds at Awash River; 
- Cleansing in the thermal Filwoha at Abader; 
-Dipping in the steamy bathhouses where locals come for healing 
-Hiking around the community outside, behind and on the mountain; 
-Visiting Kidane Mehret Church Holy water for religious pilgrims; 
- Watching the family of quick-witted Velvet Monkeys co-exist with Humans.

Sodere Resort offers bungalows’, apartments as well as campsites with breakfast included. Full sized restaurants, Pool snacks, Conference center, TV with Satellite in Bungalows are also available. Make sure to call Sodere Resort in advance to reserve rooms, as it is usually booked in the weekends and during Keremt (Rainy Season). Prices for Ethiopians and foreigners are different, to encourage Ethiopians to travel around their country and due to the low salaries paid, Ethiopians get a discount to most hotels as well as entrances fees. So ask in advance, or call days or week ahead of your travels, to guarantee a room. Sodere is more than a resort, it’s a natural wellness destination, to revitalize ones soul!

Happy Travels (Melkam Guzo)!

By:  Dutchess @deldeyoch

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Old & New India - A contradiction to the Senses! (Part One)

Part One
“Are you traveling alone, aren’t you scared?”
I get asked this question a lot, whether I am backpacking Africa, America, Europe, Middle East or Asia. And the most interesting thing is I am never alone, more so when I travel solo, because I travel with a purpose and an inner will.  Ok I admit I am a bit of a history, cultural and geography nerd so I spend a lot of time reading, meeting locals, and discovering the places and people while I am traveling, as well as asking life changing questions, so my days are usually packed with sight seeing, learning, discovering, evolving, watching and writing. And during downtimes I allow God/universe/higher power to put in my path similar travelers, locals, situations, challenges, as well as other relevant situations that allows me to share, learn and connect with global citizens & experiences that inspire me, push my comfort zone, and quietly confirm my inner drive of how I live my purpose.  Thus sharpening my intuition, and letting it be the lead on decision making, so as to rely less on my mind, logic and mental calculation and more on the seat of my Soul, the heart.

Venturing into India has been more of an organic metamorphosis of a trip, which has had a more life changing impact, internally. One that I will cherish, not just for the things I have witnessed, the history lessons that have impacted my view of the world, the people I have encountered, the excellent cuisines that has expanded my palette, the exquisite garments I have learnt about, the Indian Entrepreneurship spirit I have marveled at, the vast technological advancements I have taken advantage of, and the constant contradictions on my senses that has challenged my perception, but also an inner peace, silence and acceptance that I felt for the first time, internally, for the duration of the trip and a profound recognition of my African wit, patience and endurance.

I couldn’t have chosen a more relevant, challenging, and diverse country than India to solidify my life-altering journey that started six years ago. Hence practicing living mindfully & in the moment, as well as a more purpose filled life. The subject of existence, responsibilities, duties, living and mortality as well as searching on the quest of finding ones truth, couldn’t have been more potently felt than in traveling around India. Witnessing its thousand of years of history, as well as constantly having had foreign super power intervene in its regional stability, has allowed India’s creatively charged architecture, diverse cuisine, textile, technology, and Industrial revolution to be embodied within what we know as India. Thus allowing India in currently to have the diversity of the world within its culture, clothing, religion, food, work ethic, and tradition, as well as influencing its Industrial advancement. Leading it to be the fastest growing economy, thus coming up in this globally competitive world as a competent force, with its 1.3billion population as its number one customer (Incidentally African with over 54countries, and much larger in size than India, Northern America, China, and Western Europe combined with only 1.1billion people).

While traveling in most of my adventures, I am always comparing my upbringing & experiences; Ethiopians past and present; contemplating how to reimaging Africa; as well as finding ways and means of incorporating lessons learnt in my life, career and behavior, by watching people live in their own environment, with their family, friends and work environment. I have travelled Solo in America, Africa, Middle East and Europe, yet since I have shared my interest to travel to India, so many people had warned me about the challenges of traveling alone in India as a black woman. Yet in the weeks before and after I was heading to India, the outpour of support and encouragement of friends, & acquaintances to assist me in making my trip worthwhile is one of love, joy and a genuine reflection of the hard inner work and network I had built thus far. Furthermore my inner well, and my matter of fact approach to disappointments, challenges, unexpected outcomes and issues, such as the dramatic approach of India to change its currency overnight affecting India’s and tourist, has allowed my time in India to be a trip that has solidified my transformation into the woman I want to be when I grow up.

Part 2 to be followed!

By Sofanit Mulugeta

Friday, September 16, 2016

Discovering Hidden Gems Deep South - Ethiopia

I have read, and heard stories of how lushes the Southern part of Ethiopia was, but I was not ready for the experience of a lifetime.

In order to explore & discover hidden gems of our Southern Ethiopia, I used 4WD’s, public transportation, trekked, walked, hitched on a motorcycle and hitchhiked on trucks. Some might argue that for a female traveling alone in remote parts of Ethiopia, I am a bit of a daredevil. I am confident that if one has the attitude of an explorer,  considering I speak Amharic, & am well versed with the culture, then my intuition decided that it was worth all my hidden fears & warnings from others…

One can go to South Western Ethiopia either via Ambo or Welliso. This time I went via Welliso, stopping over first at Jimma , which used to be the center of trade in the 18th-19th century, but is now a sleepy town full of controversy, where unfortunately  almost everything from hotel to eating out is overpriced. One things that you see plenty of in Jimma is a variety of products made from the many trees that have been chopped down south of there. But yet again I will admit most of the wood furniture’s in Addis are decorated by the woodwork of Jimma. This is where life in Ethiopia or Africa in general you realize the contradiction of those of us that are conscious professionals that have to balance the reality of living in a country that is working hard to develop employment for its youth, encourages creativity and using its limited resources, but then again in order to compete with the global community countries are given guideline as to how to lead and operate small and Medium business’s without catering to the diversity of the country, region and other unforeseen circumstances that inhibits the regular person from the luxury of being ethical, & conscious in how resources and labor is used. Not many of us that can create policies go down to where the society and community reside, take note of the environment, natural resources, cultural and religious dogmas and fit Entrepreneurship polices catering to each region.

Venturing deeper South from Jimma is when it all starts! Its home to the Bonga Forest, vast plantation of coffee, grains, crops, tea, sugar cane, a variety of fruits such as mango, banana, pineapple, papaya, and such overwhelms ones grasp of Ethiopia’s potential. Crossing rivers, and streams from the highlands, and seeing the topography change every hour, made me think how perfect the cinematography would be for the African discovery channel.

My purpose was to give back to the amazing Peace Corps (PCV) team that were assisting the youth in Ethiopia, so I helped them develop a speakers engagement, and bring in those business people that are living and working in Ethiopia to share their journey. I was excited to join them in Bonga as I had done in the North, as I hadn’t gone that far South West in my exploration of Ethiopia. It was a win-win situation for me, traveling to explore as well as volunteering to spread the importance of Self Sufficiency using Social Entrepreneurship for Micro & Small business’s in Ethiopia.  This would be my 3rd year volunteering to be a speaker at Camp Glow, as I feel I have really good friends amongst the PCV & they focus primarily empowering the young girls around Ethiopia. My surprise was that how candid, forthcoming, and curious the kids down south were, and the relevance of the question they asked about my presentation on “Entrepreneurship 101” impressed me. Since I was from Addis, the capital city, and there weren’t many books for me to read about the culture of those living in that area, I was as nervouse as the kids while preparing for my presentation. Yet once I started their eagerness to learn, how comfortable they were around me, and my examples of what Social Entrepreneurship for profit was using examples from Ethiopia really resonated to them. It was wonderful to participate, learn, give feedback, assist those currently doing business with their family, and brain storm what can be done if one wants to be an Entrepreneur from bonag, and that was plenty. Bonga, its misty and sleepy town on a hill had so much lush, and character, I feel in love with how nature intertwined with the history of the town, as a trade route for coffee, tea, fruits and other priceless things. And lets not forget  Kaffa, is where Coffee, not just the world but the actual bean that we now call Arabica coffee comes from.

I had planned my excursion a few weeks ahead to see how I can explore what the South had to offer for potential Entrepreneurs, and knowing that it was rainy season I was up for a little adventure in the famous muddy road leading to Bonga & Mizan Teferri. My surprise was my extended travel to Tepi, Gambela & Wush Wush tea plantation.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover how diverse the landscape, people and tradition was as one heads further South. From the Kafficho, to the Bencha, Oromifa and other Ethnical people from all over Ethiopia, they all treated me with warmth, curiosity, hospitality, and immense helpfulness. From the midnight chat with a coffee estate farmer/owner from NewYork; to an ambitious female daycare owner in bonga; a high school teacher in Kibish; the agriculturist Expert from Jimma; an ex-body guard (Kebur Zebegna) of the Emperor who we hired to rent his 4WD to visit the coffee Estate in Gambella & offered his hotel room in Tepi when the entire town didn’t have a room to rent; the amazing managers of Tepi Coffee plantation that hiked with me around the plantation and I discovered a crater lake surrounded by lushes vegetation, where trees had were surrounding the lake and no access to cars; Wush Wush tea plantation that opened their doors for a stranger that argued based on my backpacking skills as an Ethiopian woman going on an adventure to see her country; the security head of the tea plantation from Tigray who fearing my safety gave me a ride on his motorcycle back to town as it was past 5pm and I was trusting the God of adventure and love to guide me; The Bonga residents that gave me a ride in their truck in the middle of nowhere; and all the chefs & restaurants on route that complied with my Vegan Diet, as well as random strangers that shared their experience, laughter, stories, challenges to a complete stranger. I was very blessed in my journey, reinforcing my sentiment that Ethiopia is more than Addis, or just the touristic destinations, and I pray I am privileged to pay it forward. Hopefully one of you that have read this will be inticed to venture into the path less taken.

So as a Curios & conscious traveler, listen to what your intuition tells you, set yourself free from bias & prejudice, be open to the adventure & simplicity of those you cross path with, allow your imagination to flourish, be kind and not necessarily nice, challenge your notion of status co., and above all relax & enjoy the moment as is, you will be surprised of who & what you discover.

By: Dutchess @Deldeyoch

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Dust to Dust ! What’s your contribution?

Were we given breath into this world for mere survival? Or could there be a more profound notion of mastering our own self, so as to be phenomenal beings.

Adam and Eve started out in heaven on earth known today as Eastern Africa, with love as their light, to marvel at the beauty of existence. Mental curiosities lead an avalanche of circumstances limiting the knowledge of humans and starting the journey of self-destruction, doubt, anger and jealousy. Setting the earth to encounter centuries of man made destructions, and degrading of every inch of the earth for greed, power and fear of death. To be followed by mind lead existence for thousands of years, setting its course from horn of Africa where man learnt to walk, talk, feed, hunt and procreate.

This African civilization gave the world the innovation, wisdom, greed, power struggle, manipulations, Art, and work design of being human that man knows today. Civilization moved north to creating empires that lasted thousands of years striving to tap into mans’ innermost secrets within. Simultaneously between Africa and Mesopotamia, rose the Art of living, the survival of devotion, faith and love within. Realizing it would take an immense effort for those seeking to go beyond the surface of existence and harness the love and compassion within. Giving birth to saints that devoted their lives to share their path to enlightenment as an Art and science. Not to create religion but to allow the earth a path to exhale, replenish, nurture, survive and leave the earth in a better place for the next generation. Unfortunately like everything man has touched, these saints were used to quench the hunger for power and greed of man. Through institutionalized rules, rituals, condemnation and evil acts, the essence of love was overshadowed by mans inability to sit still, follow the temp of the universe, work on inner self and rebalance. It has thus far become hard for those that seek good to do good, and be an anchor, leading to enlighten the world.

Like all things on this earth, everything changes and pass’s, Nothing is permanent! From empire backed by religion to another all over this earth, we seen thousands of years of misery, and unfortunately will be witnessing more to come. Today it has reached an epic proportion of alarm, where technology has taken over the human race. Children are no more aware of enjoying their birth on this earth for survival, adolescence have become zombies fighting for a place on this earth without an anchor, and adults are no longer in control of themselves, but making ends meet to not starve with unconscious motives to survive. And those that have gradually been given the right away the lead and financial wealth have disrupted the environment, exploited every inch of the earth dehumanizing and oppressing fellow humans they want to dominate and minded every resource to be left with a depleted, bare and impaired earth that is crying with its climate change, wars and conflicts in every part of the world as well as natural disaster and man made religious wars.

Each individual is given a breath, and a choice within, although the path less taken by most.Requiring quiet moments to stay still and seek the truth, compassion and love within as all human race. It starts with the farmer, banker, fisherman, tour operator, airlines, politician, traveler, restaurant, banker, housewives, footballers, CEO, president and everyone to step forward and master ourselves.  Tapping into the quiet voice that comes from awareness, patience, diligence, equanimity and balance, that lets you see the human race and the world Greener.
Using ones skills, voice, and gift to harmonies with nature, the environment and the living things around us. It’s in all of us to synchronize with our inner-self so as it can gradually overflow into this earth we have been entrusted in. Maybe we shall find the peace, harmony, and love back where the first breathe to man was given, in East Africa.

By Dutchess@Deldeyoch.com