June 06, 2005

Sodore and Downing Street Memo

Good morning party people. Coming to you live in the AM on the QT. Addis is preparing to embrace another sunny day as it slowly arises from a weekend of slumber. The sun is serious. We’ve had trace rain on a few occasions – enough to dirty my car by washing the dust out of the sky but not enough to wash the dust off my car. I’m looking for one of those classic Addis rains and the transition into the rainy season.

Well, this weekend my wife and I made our first of what I’m sure will be a number of trips to Sodere. Sodere is a hotel facility built around a hot springs. Originally constructed for Haile Selassie, it is now open to all Ethiopians. Because it’s a government run hotel, the prices are low, allowing many more Ethiopians to visit than would be possible if it was a private resort. Although I counted five Farenj, it definitely seems to be a place for Ethiopians from Addis looking for a quick getaway.

The resort itself sits about 50 kilometers south of Nazreth, past a collection of boys trying to sell flipflops and soap in the middle of the road (they actually got us – we went for two bars of “Giv” and a pair of flipflops), past groups of dancing kids doing what strikes me as the leg equivalent of the Iskista, and finally, past a number of dusty farms that look like they may not make it. There, you pull over a ridge, a valley opens below – something that looks like it’s out of the Sonora Desert (even the church looks like it has Spanish influence), and you round the bottom of a small mountain to the entrance of Sodore.

The place is beautiful. It sits on a river bank and is hidden amongst trees and shade. The grounds are covered with monkeys which, in the U.S., I’m sure you’d be told not to feed, but here, it seems to be part of the Sodere experience. I joined in on the fun after seeing other people feed them, reserving a few rolls from the dinner table.

I was a bit disappointed that no one at the hotel informed my wife or me that there are crocodiles in the river. There aren’t even signs. In fact, the one sign that is posted says, “Fishing” and has an arrow pointing towards the river. My guidebook says, “In the river itself, crocodiles…can be found. Beware of the crocodiles – they have taken children from the banks." Fortunately, my wife was a bit suspicious as we briefly sat on the river bank, but I think that is definitely something they should let people know, if it is, in fact, accurate.

It is a good thing my wife was suspicious about the crocodiles because I never would have had any idea. To me, it seemed like an idyllic setting, just watching the river pass by in the cool evening air under the shade provided by the trees lining the bank, while monkeys a few trees over were doing whatever it is monkeys do. It never would have occurred to me that crocodiles could have been in the river. I guess it would be the equivalent of taking my wife to a salmon stream in Alaska without telling her to be cautious about bears. Anyway, that’s a point for Sodere to consider – some kind of sensitization for dumb tourists.

The real attraction of Sodere is, of course, the hot spring. I imagined before arriving that the spring would be a series of earthen pools draining out of a mountainside, but it was nothing of the sort. (The reason I thought that was from my experience at the Olympic Hot Springs in Washington State – absolutely beautiful mountainside springs). Sodere is actually a collection of four pipes (at least for the boys) that sit inside large concrete walls, open on the top. The water on the ground is no more than 3 inches deep, but all the water is hot – I’d guess around 50 C. I could handle about 30 seconds before I had to evacuate. I imagine the Habesha got a bit of amusement out of watching my skin go from white to red in such a short time.

During our overnight trip, I visited the springs three times. The first time, I had no idea how to enter the actual bath, as it is a confusing maze of concrete walls, many of which don’t seem to have a purpose. When I entered, there must have been 25 Habesha and if not for the sound of the rushing water, I swear I would have been like someone walking into a saloon and all action stopping in one of those old Westerns. I quickly made my way past the first groups of boys and headed for the third shower – far enough in to be comfortable, but not so far as to challenge the authority of the real Kingmakers in Sodere.

I sat for a few minutes, letting my feet get the feel of the water, then, after some encouragement from a guy sitting next to me, I finally made my way to the tube. It was hot. I don’t remember too much about the whole experience, other than feeling like my scalp was burned and being totally exhausted after walking out of the bath. I slept so well the last two nights.

As I said, we made two more visits, once in the evening on the first day and once in the morning the next day before we left. The evening visit was the best because I wasn’t concerned about getting a sunburn. That, and I was one of only 8 people, including another Farenj. There were a few obvious Muslims, interesting because unlike everyone else, one was wearing his pants in the shower and another, dressed in the full white robe of a believer, didn’t want to enter the water, but kept stepping in like he was going to. The visit the next morning was more hectic, with maybe 30 people in the showers, but by then I was a veteran.

If you have a spare five minutes, I’d highly recommend a Google search for “Downing Street Memo”. The first that came up on my search was a link to the London Times that has a transcript of the memo. It’s as explosive as the political commentators have been saying, even if it doesn’t hit you at first due to the legalese nature of the discussion.

For those of you not in the know, the “Downing Street Memo” came out a few weeks back and refers to an internal memo sent between a high-ranking official in the British Attorney General’s Office (I think) and cc’d to, among others, Prime Minister Blair. The memo indicates that President Bush and those around him have prepared to go to war even though they recognize the case for WMD is weak and that Saddam poses no legitimate threat to his neighbors.

That is enough on its own, and is the main passage that most commentators, especially those outside the U.S., have been taking issue with. (By the way, if you are not in the know in the U.S., you are totally getting fleeced by the media over there – pick any issue and you are getting about 1/3 to 1/5 of the information you should. The New York Times is pretty good, but seems to be without legs to really go after some of the b.s. of this administration and corporations in the U.S.)

Anyway, although the above is the most inflammatory information, the passage I found most interesting was the one discussing possible military interventions. The memo presented two scenarios, one where the forces attacking Sadam would wait until 250,000 troops were in the region, then enter through Kuwait on up to Baghdad. The other called for the use of forces already in place – 3 regiments of 6,000 each, who would be initiated to fight by an Iraqi causus belli. If you ever had suspicion that a war could be initiated not for legitimate reasons but because one side really wants to attack the other, this memo should provide you with great proof.


Blogger baseless said...

Kenneth, you took me in and out of the 'Ashenda' in Sodore. Reminded me of the old days when we would go there for a weekend trip. Best times, as you mentioned, are in the evenings, where you can even claim a pipe to yourself. The only thing I remember is the long walk back to the rooms, eager to retire in one of the beds. It becomes sort of an addiction too, when you are there, as you want to go back for more...

How does the hotel look nowadays? Has it been upkept? Monkeys still roam by the balconies early in the morning?

6:39 AM  
Blogger Tyrel said...

Sodere was one of my favourite gateaways as well. I'm glad you liked it but they definatley need to post some signs indicating that there are crocodiles. humm no fishing instead. hehehehe

9:19 AM  
Blogger Tyrel said...


I think you're the dumbest donkey ass in Stockholm at the moment. Leave Ken alone.

and perhaps do something good in your life.


2:02 AM  
Blogger Visitor said...


Do we know each other, http://tyrel.ca/tb? Let the reader judge who is the dumb ass. Menged kadege gar maworat mech yichalal, bozene.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Quit Smoking said...

Hello fellow fisherman,

Did you know that 16% of the U.S. population goes fishing at least 16 days a year?

Did you also know that over 75% of the nations fishermen do not fish during "prime time"; fish feeding hours?

Those precious few moments before twilight can be absolutely magical. Even up until 11pm at night, the largest predators of any species feed ravenously.

Don't believe me? Check out Daniel Eggertsen's story, and a picture of a couple of his catches here : "Evening Secrets plus more"

I want you to do me a favor and try it out so I can see what you think of it, and if it works for you as well as it did for me.

You will be one of the first to try it out.

Gone Fishin',


4:23 AM  

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