Tuesday, May 15, 2012

From NYC to Ethiopia, May 11th to May 13th

About a month ago I received a funny email from an organization called Winrock International.

“Hey Tim,” it said (paraphrased), “would you like to go to Ethiopia for two weeks on a USAID-funded Farmer to Farmer technical assistance grant and help teach local subsistence farmers about modern apiculture techniques?”

My first instinct was to be skeptical. Was this the newest variant of the Nigerian prince scam? Please, sir, if you send us just a little money, we will send you something much better and send you to Africa to teach about something you love.

I mean, how did they even get connected to me? I’m not a commercial beekeeper. I’m not a state apiary inspector. I’m not even a famous blogger. Some days, I’m pretty sure that my top reader is my mom, hitting refresh every 10 seconds. As I talked to the people at Winrock, I soon realized that they were both serious and on the level. Sam Comfort, of Anarchy Apiaries, had recommended me as a possible recruit and a good educational resource. Talk about flattering.

I spent the next couple of weeks scrambling to get ready. There was a lot to do, and I wasn’t sure that everything was going to fit before I start training for the NYC Teaching Fellows in the summer. Amazingly it all got done. Vaccinations? Check, six of them. My doctor apologized for how sore my arms were going to be. Medicine? Check. A prescription for anti-malarials and Cipro for when I am stupid and eat something which makes me horribly sick. Equipment? Check. My own fancy-pants Michelin-man style bee suit from Ultrabreeze and a bag full of donated beekeeping gear from Walter T. Kelley, Dadant, and Maxant Industries to share with the local beekeepers. Awesome. Bees? Check. I extracted (womp, womp) promises from Chase Emmons and Meg Paska to keep an eye on the Brooklyn Grange Bees apprenticeship program and Emily Vaughn to check my personal bees while I was gone.

I departed at 11:20PM on Friday. 3635 miles to Paris, France and a ten hour layover. A layover that long was an accident, but a happy one.

It's Paris!

I was picked up at the airport by my cousin Marie-Anne and her two children, Sascha and Irene, to spend the afternoon eating and exploring Paris. We met her husband, Louis, my cousins Max and Sophie and her baby, Vincent, at a 125 year old brasserie close to the Jardin du Luxembourg, the garden of the French Senate. After a lunch of duck foie gras soup, steak tartare and ice cream, we walked to the gardens to have a cup of coffee, meet my cousin Pauline, and see the bee hives in the garden.

Irene, Sascha, and Marie-Anne.

Me and Sophie.

Max and Louis.

(Relatively) normal faces.  Vincent in the pram and Pauline next to Irene.  Both were too serious to make faces.

The French Senate building from the Luxembourg Gardens.

Their garden hives were beautiful, copper-topped and buzzing with activity. Near them was the famous insect house for solitary and social bees, pollinating flies, and insects.

Les Abeilles!

The insect house in the senate garden.  For bumblebees, stingless bees and other pollinators.

From the gardens, we walked to the Parisian beekeeping and honey boutique, Les Abeilles. I met the proprietor, talked about the differences and similarities between French and American beekeeping, showed him my Ultrabreeze suit, bought some honey made from butterfly honeydew (really!), and got the telephone number of the man who keeps bees on the Paris Opera House. If I finagle a long layover on my return journey, I may have the opportunity to see the most famous bees in Paris!

The famous Paris honey store.  For some reason all the asian tourists stop here.

The proprietor and I.  We had a lot to talk about, but not enough time.
His store is very popular, and many customers came in.  I showed him my suit and he showed me French beekeeping equipment and honey.

Hooray for Honey!

From there, Marie-Anne, Sasha, and Irene drove me back to the airport for my connection to Addis Ababa. Irene tried to sneak along with me, but she didn’t quite fit in my carryon so I had to give her back to her mother.

7 hours, 3464 miles, and very little sleep later, I touched down in Bole International Airport at 6:20AM. I was picked up by Daniel, the Winrock Field Office coordinator, and a driver who took me to my hotel where I took a short nap. At 3, I woke up and was picked up by the driver to do a little bit of sightseeing.

I saw the Lion of Judah, the symbol of Ethiopian monarchy and sovereignty, stolen by Italy and returned to the Ethiopians after their liberation.

Flowers bloom year round in the garden surrounding the Lion of Judah.  Emperor Menilik II is on the side.

I went to Holy Trinity Cathedral, the highest ranking Ethiopian Orthodox church in Addis and saw the tombs of Haile Selassie and his wife. I went to the Holy Trinity museum to see their collection of illustrated manuscripts, embroidered vestments, and ecumenical paraphernalia.

Holy Trinity Church, through the palms.

They have very nice seals, but are missing several letters.

From there, I went to eat in a restaurant housed in one of the former houses of the Emperor Menilik II, where I had doro watt (spicy chicken in sauce with a hardboiled egg), fresh cooked cheese, injeera (flatbread made from fermented tef), and a bottle of tej, the local mead. My driver gave me lessons on how to eat and drink properly (never with your left hand), how to be polite to the wait staff (clap, don’t whistle) and how to tip (any tip at all is considered a gift.)

A palace.

A feast.

My entire meal with two entrees and the bottle of honey wine cost $10.

Full and exhausted, I headed back to the hotel for my first full night of sleep in 3 days.

1 comment:

  1. This is so wonderful to stumble upon through trying to get a photo of Emily Vaughn of Brooklyn Grange [& MORE] as she is giving a talk at our Harvard Square store, "Follow The Honey." Thank you!!!