Hamar girls with Bana hairstyles!
Some of the first ladies we encountered coming into Omo Valley from Arba Minch, Ethiopia. They were on their way to market and wanted a lift but we were headed the other way. They would not reach the market for another day by foot.
The 4 naked Hamar boys looked at me quizzically, fingers in their mouths, but the eldest said “how are you” in bold English. I said I was fine and that I was setting up my hammock. He wagged his finger at my tree and went to another. He broke off a branch, peeled back the bark, and began to brush his teeth. Then he broke one off for me. My mind traveled quickly to friend of mine in Fairbanks who brushed her teeth with willows. I smiled at the connection. We laughed and walked back to the huts. He had not understood what I was saying.
Inside the hut one of Emany’s cousins wives made us tea, however, this buna was the husk of the coffee bean steeped in water and served in a massive dried gourd. We entered the hut with smoke pouring out the small entrance. Two women, baring their breast, had arms clad in copper rings above the elbow and one wore some sort of necklace. The fire light hid may features but accentuated their bright smiles and whites of their eyes. They asked Emany (my guide, short for Emmanuel) if I was married, kids, etc. Certainly they found it strange I was not. They laughed. Wait, strange? No, I am just a biological loser to them. I have no kids, I wear no bling. Must not be very special in my society. Their interest wanes. I asked Emany about them. They were both married. The one who wore the necklace was the first wife of the man in the next hut. The woman who prepared our buna was the second wife of Emany’s cousin. The lack of necklace indicated her status. Emany said there is no jealousy among the Hamar people. When a man wants to bring another wife, he tells the first and she says its good bc the other wife can help with the work. One of the women blows her nose in her hand and rubs it into the sole of her foot.
We step outside into the bright starry sky. I swear I see the Aurora borelis for a minute but tell myself I must be crazy. A dog barks from the animal hut next door. The women make a fire for us but honestly I am so damn hot, it’s not even funny and the sun’s been down for an hour. Brad asked the meaning of the arm bands, necklaces, clothing, etc. Emany says if you ask them they will tell you it is tradition. There is no written history nor oral history like the found in native western cultures. Only the necklace of the wives has significance it appears. Later at museum I learn there is some tradition for jewerly but not much.
I check my email on my guides phone. It’s a welcome irony to be in one the most remote places with an age-old culture and have 3G because I actually need to monitor some news from home. Emany smiles broadly when he announces to me that there is 3G. No news is good news. Also my brother and a special lady in Fairbanks will get an email from me with a photo taken on my guides iphone in the morning as I drink buna with the Hamar. In the village somewhere, Emany’s wife brought us lentils with meat layered in injeera (pancake base of all traditional or “habesha” foods). I reached into the pot in the dark and pinched bits of meat into the injeera as Emany explained the different tribes in the area. I had only met Emany a few days ago and knew he was Hamar but could not have imagined where I would be spending the night…As I lay typing in my hammock I can hear children singing in some distant hut.
Video coming soon.
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