These are the people being hurt by the madness that is going on now. I was on a photo-shoot of the people and sites of Ethiopia. The photo shoot used an Ethiopian Army helicopter (a Russian built Mi-8). From the helicopter, I watched people running, in apparent terror from the noise and image of the helicopter. I thought at the time that they, in ignorance, were running from the memory of the past war. It turns out that I was the one living in ignorance. These pictures were shot near Lake Tana, Gondar, Axum, Mekele, and Lalibela around May 21, 1998, right when the conflict that began slowly on May 6 was heating up. I didn't realize that Ethiopia and Eritrea were at the first stages of a serious conflict. As usual, the American proved to be the one ignorant of world affairs. The folks running on the ground were much better informed than I was. Here are a few pictures of these beautiful, gentle people.
I'm sorry for the sloppy formating, but,
in light of the problems with Ethiopia and Eritrea, I thought
I should get these images onto the WEB. I'll try to get
the page cleaned up, optimized, and get a little text added.
These little girls typify (I think) the friendly people of Tigre. We landed the helicopter in a remote village in between Lalibela and Lake Tana. The village had no roads connecting it with the rest of the world, just foot paths to other villages. The villages looked to me like the stereotypical African village: thatched roofs, a few buildings, patchwork quilt of farmland around them. When we landed, people came from everywhere to see us - just like they would if a helicopter landed in front of my house in California. (The one wonderful lesson of travel is that people are exactly the same everywhere on the planet. They may have different languages, food and dress, but they are exactly the same.)
The little girl with the sheep (or is it a goat), above, and to the left could not quite figure out what the comotion was all about. She did know that I was about the strangest thing that she had ever seen - even stranger than the helicopter that made so much noise and dust. When the crowd saw that I took notice of her, they urged her to the front, without her four legged companion. I shot the second picture and crouched down to take another, face to face. Her expression, as you can see, is a mixture of terror, excitement and awe. When I crouched down, she began to pee, urine spraying and streaming down her legs and onto the ground. I thought that I'd terrified her and retreated, missing the picture that I'd planned. In looking back, I think that she was just excited. Like her, I wasn't quite able to interpret all that was happening. I'm still not totally at grips with it.
I carry ball point pens and hard candy as small gifts, when I travel. I know that I may be making a mistake, setting the bad example of giving things away, but I feel that I should give something for the pictures and memmories that I take away. In many places, the people ask for money or other gifts. These people in the middle of Ethiopia didn't ask for money or candy. They had no place to spend money and they probably didn't know what candy was. What they asked for broke my heart - they asked if we had any medicine for malaria.
Their suffering is an almost direct result of western (so-called) civilization. I just took my last Larium tablet for malaria, so I have a little personnal investment in this disease. Lariam doesn't prevent malaria, but it does decrease the severity of the infection. Malaria isn't the ancient scourge that the media would have you believe it is.
Most Westerners think that malaria is an ancient disease, that's just a part of living in third world tropical countries. They're wrong. Malaria is a disease that was nearly eradicated, before the so called 'Western environmentalists' arranged for its return. About one to three million people (brown and black people are hard to count, and maybe don't count quite so much) now die each year from malaria and another fifty million suffer the miseries of catching it each year.
Before Rachael Carson pushed the false stories about DDT and eagle eggs, the mosquitoes that spread malaria were almost gone from the earth. DDT is a wonderful poison for mosquitoes and other bugs. It's almost completely non-toxic to mammals and it's cheap, so cheap that it was probably over-used. But there was one small study that showed that it may cause thinning of the eggs of predatory birds. Rachael Carson used this flawed research to sell her book. The research was later shown to be flawed, but not before the US banned DDT and its export. The chemical companies didn't care, they sold the more expensive alternatives. The only losers were those who couldn't affort the more expesive alternatives, alternatives that were extremely poisonous to people, but less persistent in the environment. As a result malaria has made a resounding comeback - and quite a few farmers die each year from the new poisons.
Malaria's now becoming more resistant to treatment. Quinine used to work, then
chloroquine lost its potency, now mefloquine (Larium) is losing its
effectiveness. Quinine was cheap as was chloroquine. My health insurance company
and I paid about $100 US for the eight 250mg Larium tablets that I took,
one a week, for limited protection from Rachael Carson's disease. That's
more than a years income for the people we touched in the remote parts
of Ethiopia. Not to worry, another drug is being developed for us rich folks.
It's probably not completely effective at the disease, but is guaranteed to be
out of the reach of the millions of souls that will die this year, thanks to
Rachael Carson. Think about her and these babies, who will be subjected to
her disease, when you look at my pictures.
The courtyard around the monolith churches in Lalibela were
crowded with worshipers. Unlike a lot of the world heritage
sites, like Petra, the churches of Lalibela continue to serve
their parishoners as they have for nearly a thousand years.
These school girls, near Debre Zeyit south of Addis Ababa,
typify the friendliness of the Ethiopian people. My friend,
Tilahun, drove us down for a quick tour of the crater lakes of
This fellow was selling chickens, live chickens,
by the side of the main road to Debre Zeyit. Tilahun's driver
bought 2 for 20 birr (about $3US) plus a small tip for the
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