You need to give me my space

Before I even left Halifax, I got a day-by-day schedule of the trip trip ahead. Most of which was pretty self-explanatory (Market, Museum, Theatre with Kids, Dinner), but I noticed three days listed as ‘Lelibala’ which obviously meant pretty much nothing to me. Since my new thing is making calculated guesses and running with them rather than actually have to think about something for more than two minutes, I assumed that like the other times blocked off for Tenagne our guide in Addis Ababa, that Lelibala was just some dude who was a heck of a lot more needy. I mean, c’mon. Three days, Lelibala? Pull yourself together. We’re very busy and important.

Of course it wasn’t until I was sitting in War Child’s board room in Toronto with three hours to go before getting on a plane that someone mentioned the ‘Lelibala trip’ that I figured I might want to do a wee googley-goo before I started to look like a total idiot. (Obviously I was a few weeks too late, but hey, I could always make a good second impression.) I did a quick Google Image scan and saw cool sunken cathedrals and churches, read the intro paragraph on the Wikipedia page that mentioned cool sunken cathedrals and churches, scanned my brain for any need to dig any deeper than that, and called it a day feeling good about the fact that I’d be seeing cool sunken cathedrals and churches.

A quick two-hour flight north from Addis landed us in Lelibala the place, not the imaginary high-maintenance person, and onto a van that would take us to our new hotel. And guys, I know we’re all in agreement that I’m a calm, cool, collected, and level-headed individual, but in that van? I may have made a little bit of a scene. After about ten minutes of stunned silence, I had a bit of a word vomit: “Holy shit. This I so legit Africa that I don’t even know what to say right now”

Yep. THAT’s how I reacted to the fact that we were driving on winding dirt roads through villages of clay and grass huts while people worked on hundred-(thousand?)-year-old African farms in traditional African clothes, with goats and cows and birds and trees and mountains and all sorts of other really freaking African things that I completely forgot about after Addis Ababa convinced me that the culture shock of visiting Africa was over exaggerated. Addis was a urban centre–and an AFRICAN urban centre, but it was still more city than it was Africa. Lelibala? Now THAT shit is Africa. Seriously. I’m still so blown away by how protected people here have been in their way of life that I’ve gone all inarticulate and MTV generation and junk. No really…we had to stop the van because a herd/harem/pack/barrel of monkeys ran across the road.

We did end up seeing eleven of sunken stone churches and it was incredible They’re some 900 years old and were chiseled out of solid rock over the course of 25 years so that people here wouldn’t have to do the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and so that the churches would be protected from olden day pushy Muslims. I might be oversimplifying. We Indiana-Jonsed our way through 20-foot underground tunnels where you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face or that rock that just punched you like a fistful of Africa, we saw 15th century paintings, a pile of over 5,000 mummies of people who worked on one of the churches, and all sorts of other cool business that will make my religious symbolism researching dad really mad that I got to see it first.

And because War Child probably assumed that while I can play rugged, I have my limits, we got to come home to this stupidly incredible hotel with a view so mind-blowing that you just want to write poetry, or learn to paint, or do yoga. I actually did do yoga…I’m so balanced and centered you don’t even know. Except before I got balanced and centered, I geeked out over how awesome the place was.