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November 7, 2009

Apologies for the long delay in updating. Paul and my Yemen visas expired at the end of October, so we’ve spent the last three weeks out of country, exploring Ethiopia and Somaliland. We did a little reporting, two 24-hour mini-bus rides, and indulged in a few much-needed beers — all in all, a lovely time.

The Horn of Africa is a beautiful, sort of vaguely-apocalyptic region of the world. It’s impoverished, ancient, and both bustling and empty at turns. The countryside is peppered with igloo-like tents made of plastic, cloth and aluminum siding where the nomadic people live. Most of Somaliland (the breakaway republic in the north of Somalia) looks like West Texas. Hargeysa, the capital, is a run-down desert outpost, gridded by once-paved streets, donkeys, cows and money changers who hawk bricks of Somaliland Shillings (a made-up money for a made-up country) on the street corners. Because Somaliland isn’t recognized by the international community as an independent country, there are no banks. There is no foreign investment. No infrastructure. No economy besides the trafficking of goats. The vast majority of the roughly 3.5 million self-titled “Somalilanders” live off remittances from the Somali diaspora.

The north/eastern part of Ethiopia is as fertile and green as Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It’s easy to understand why Humanity Began Here. You can even visit Lucy — the three-foot tall Australopithecus afarensis, our oldest ancestor — at the National Museum in Addis Ababa. (She’s pretty cute. Feisty, but cute.) Addis Ababa, the capital, is sprawling, verdant and, at 8,000 feet, also freezing cold. We spent a few days trucking around the city, but feel like we haven’t even seen half of what we’d like to see. Luckily, we were coerced into buying multiple entry visas from the fake-Ethiopian embassy in Hargeysa, so we’ll be back…

We’ll post some photos soon and if any of our stories get published (ah, writing on spec is so much fun), we’ll post those, too.

In the meantime, check out my story about Kashmir in the November/December issue of Mental Floss. I reported it as part of my master’s thesis last January, so it’s not exactly cutting-edge news (but hey, when it comes to a 60 year-old conflict, it all starts to sound the same after awhile anyway.) The story’s not available online yet, so you’ll have to pick it up at a bookstore. I think they’ve got ’em stocked at Barnes and Noble.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe & Joan Stephens permalink
    November 7, 2009 10:04 pm

    We all enjoyed your article, Haley, about Kashmir in Mental Floss. You have a terrific writing style.
    Joe, Joan, Bill and Buddy

  2. Loreal permalink
    November 12, 2009 9:17 pm

    “I didn’t know they had food in Ethiopia. This’ll be quick; I’ll order two empty plates and then we’ll leave.”

    Love the blog. Love the stories. Love the photos. Love you guys.

    xoxo,
    Loreal

  3. MMB permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:37 pm

    Haley and Paul –
    I love your images – middle earth, west Texas, goat collateral, multiple visas! Men at weddings with their cheeks loaded for bear as they say. (Of course, bear v. qat might be a short story.) I hope you two have a cloud full of stories and photos! MMB

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