Wednesday 5 November 2014

Mmmmm, Ethiopian food!

So, ever since I got back I've wanted to try making Ethiopian food. The staple food is injera, a flat bread made from a grain called teff. Actually at Guassa it was too cold for teff so they grew wheat and made injera from that, but teff is traditional so I wanted to use that. You can't buy teff flour at Safeway so I ordered some online and it came last week.

Anyway, the idea is you have a big round flat bread thing, then you put stew or meat or any good thing on top. You eat it with your hands, tearing off pieces of injera to scoop up the stew. It is actually possible to eat it without making much of a mess.

I mixed the teff flour and water and yeast to make a sourdough starter, which had to be fed more flour and water over the course of a few days.

Then cooked it like pancakes except you don't flip them. The lid lets the top get steamed so they cook all the way through. They are supposed to be bigger, maybe 50 cm diameter, but this was the biggest pan I had.

Some finished injera. The bubble holes are important for the texture. The cracks in the one at the back are not supposed to happen. The batter was too thick at first so the early ones were not as good.

I also made doro wat (Ethiopian spicy chicken stew). It was tasty but not as red in colour as the authentic version. I must not have got the spices right. I couldn't find the proper berbere peppers so I just used chili powder and paprika. All in all it tasted good and brought back happy memories.

Here's the recipes I used. The authors seem to have done better than I did. I will have to try again!
Doro Wat Recipe
Injera Recipe

This was at a fancy restaurant near Addis Ababa. We had shekla tibs (fried beef with hot coals underneath so it stays hot) and you can see the injera rolled up on the side of the plate. Dawit's family and the restaurants I visited in the city serve the injera rolled up on the side. The first course was raw beef but I didn't get a picture. I can't wait to go back!

Wednesday 13 August 2014


So much happened in Ethiopia but I was mostly too busy living it to blog about it, so I have a few stories saved up. This is from last November.

I was out with the monkeys one day and there were lots of people walking past. There must have been a few thousand people over the course of the day, all converging onto the road heading south. They all wore white, which is the usual colour around Guassa, but today it was extra clean white. I asked about it and apparently they were going to see an angel. I've never seen an angel so I wasn't about to miss it.

It turned out they were building a huge church, possibly to honour the angel. It will take a few years to finish it. They have special services twice a year to raise money for building materials. It looks like it's going to be made of concrete but what I saw was mostly scaffolding made of eucalyptus poles.

There were thousands of people at the church service. Many people had velvet ceremonial umbrellas with sparkly gold bits. Others brought their regular rain umbrellas, which are used against the sun as much as the rain. The bishop is under the big white umbrella.

I never did get to see the angel. All the people must have scared it away.

Ethiopian churches are really beautifully decorated. These paintings are inside a big church in Addis Ababa. I think it's weird that Jesus and all the saints are painted as white people.

Under the Madonna painting you can see the king and queen who built the church. I think it's weird that they are painted looking Ethiopian while the saints above look European. Some of the saints were Ethiopian too but they are painted as white people. I think that's St Yared on the right, with the drum; shouldn't he be darker-skinned? The man on the horse below is St George, Ethiopia's patron saint.

Looking back at these pictures I can almost smell the frankincense. I miss frankincense. I don't usually like smoky things but that smoke smells really good.

Sunday 8 June 2014

Baby Monkey, Baby Monkey!

 I'm back in Lethbridge now and recovering from all the excitement so I wanted to post some more gelada pictures. Here's what baby geladas look like...

Babies spend a lot of time playing. These two are showing the open-mouthed play face. One of the baby geladas' favourite games is a sort of "king of the castle" game. Any sort of rock or steep slope will do, and the babies and juveniles wrestle and jump or push each other off. They are tough little guys and falling a few meters doesn't seem to hurt them. You can see the camp road in the background.

Geladas are born with black fur that gradually lightens to the usual brown colour. The black one at the back is younger than his playmates.

When you're all tired out it's good to get a ride. Twisting your tail around mom's provides added support.

Babies hold onto the mother's fur even while sleeping. They can support themselves within a few days after birth, leaving the mother's hands free for foraging. At first they ride on the mother's belly, with easy access to her nipples so they can suckle almost constantly. Bigger infants usually ride on the mother's back, like this one on the right has just learned to do.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Geladas and Friends

My, what big teeth you have!
 This is one of my favourite photos, a male gelada showing off his big pointy canines. I got this printed in Addis Ababa and I've been showing it off whenever people ask me what I'm doing in Ethiopia. Most people in the city have never seen geladas and don't know much about them. Some popular questions:

Does that live in Ethiopia? (Yes, they are actually endemic to Ethiopia.)

Aren't they dangerous? (No, but maybe the picture doesn't make the best impression. He's just yawning!)

Do they have males and females, like people? (Yes. I don't know why that seems strange, when most familiar animals come in two sexes, but I've been asked more than once.)

Geladas are indisputably Guassa's finest animals, but there are other species present. All the herbivores mostly get along, except for occasionally startling each other. The geladas just ignored these cattle.


The Ethiopian Wolf is the world's rarest canid so I'm really lucky to see them somewhat regularly. They have walked right through camp several times and they can often be heard howling at night. Contrary to what you may have seen on TV, the wolves eat rodents, not geladas. These pictures show a wolf hunting among the geladas, while the monkeys keep right on grazing.

 Guassa also has lots of birds. Tawny eagles are one of the most common.  There are also lammergyres and blue winged geese, but I don't have any good pics of these yet.

The flora of Guassa is as unique as its fauna. These giant lobelia plants grow taller than me. They kind of look like the truffula trees from The Lorax, but less soft and more spiky. When they bloom the flower makes a spike almost two feet long that grows up from the top of the leafy part.

Friday 19 July 2013

You Don't See That Every Day

The other day I spotted some traffic cones around a small hole in the sidewalk. Banff is full of creative and unconventional people, and you see the strangest stuff sometimes, but this was definitely one of the more baffling things. When I got closer there seemed to be a piece of paper in the hole...

 It's a bit hard to see but this was the best picture I could get. Yes, the hole in the sidewalk contained a note: "Hi, I borrowed this brick to complete my house". The whole thing just raises so many questions, like Why?!? It had to take a bit of work to pry it the brick out, and what can you do with just one brick?

Then I saw this rare two-headed elk in the river, just two minutes from my house.

Here it is from another angle. Turns out it also has two bodies, very disappointing. You can see Mt Rundle in the background. It's one of Banff's well known mountains and I really want to climb it this summer.

Saturday 22 June 2013

The Great Alberta Flood

Nobody was expecting a flood. It started raining on Wednesday, life went on, and then by Thursday morning we woke up to news of flood warnings, evacuations, roads closed and bridges destroyed. Banff is not as badly affected as some places. The park is flooded and you can't get out of town to the east, and a few buildings near the river are uninhabitable. We still have power and water and everything is open. The news from Canmore and Calgary sounds a lot worse though. Lots of people have had to evacuate and there are houses falling into the river in Canmore. Canmore was cut off completely for a while, but some buses and trucks were getting through yesterday. There were several helicopters circling over Banff, checking out the situation and looking for anyone who needed rescuing.

I'm not really affected by the flooding since I wasn't planning to leave town anytime soon, but it's always a weird feeling when there's a disaster around you. People naturally want to help but there isn't anything to help with at the moment, so all we can do is stand around in the park and gawk at the water.

I don't know why they bother with all the caution tape. If people are too dumb to notice eight inches of water on the path, I don't think a sign is going to to help them.

This park bench would be a good place to sit for lunch- some other day!