Turmi and the Hamer

Turmi is primarily a crossroad. A big, dusty roundabout connects Ethiopia’s south-western corner with the rest of the country. While the roads coming in from the north, east and west are dust tracks, the one leading further south to Omorate becomes a perfect tarmac road some five kilometres out of town.

the Turmi roundabout
the beginning/end of the (tarmac) road near Turmi

After many hours of waiting after a night out with the Banna near Keyafer, I hitched a ride to Turmi in a 4×4 that featured a no-AK47 sign like many others. I suppose it was there to tell (beg?) people not to shoot at the car. I checked in at a place near Green Hotel, of which the latter had electricity and sometimes even WiFi. As my place was completely dark at night, I first missed it when I came back from Green Hotel, and it was a good reminder of the increasing remoteness of the area I was traveling in.

between Turmi and Keyafer
coffee station at Green Hotel

Back to Turmi

selling charcoal by the side of the road
the Berlin lawyer who gave me a lift

On the way back from Omorate I stayed in Turmi again, in a cheaper place, where I met two quite flirtatious girls who both said they’d marry me. Heilo, a Hamer woman and mother of one, divorced her husband for whatever reasons. She has the tribal scars all over her shoulders and back. Apart from that, I find she just looks like a pretty African woman, and I find it remarkable how easy it seems to be to change your looks from tribal to, well, now I lack the appropriate term. Modern? Urban? Average? Which of these, if any, is it?

Addis and her colleague working the coffee station. If they even have any local tribal affiliation, there is nothing obvious that would give it away. At least not for an outsider like myself.

Turmi market

Again, I handed my camera to local people. First a Hamer woman, who took this picture of me. Then, some teenage kids who I had to stop fighting over my camera every once in a while. At any rate, this policy did the trick, and people around felt less offended or called-upon to pose for money, and I do like some of the shoots the kids took. However, when I asked them to take pics of the farangi (as in Arabic, whites are referred to as ‘franks’), i.e. a group of some tourists, they were too shy to follow through. Or maybe they didn’t understand why I asked them for it. The people in the market are mostly of the Hamer tribe.

From Turmi I hitched a ride back to Jinka with a guy who works for Omo Child, an organization that tries to stop ritual infanticide. Amongst the Banna and Hamer and perhaps other tribes as well, a “mingi” child, for instance one that grows the upper teeth first, will be left in the bush to die. Here’s the trailer for a movie on the issue. I hate the way they turn this into an “adventure”, the overdramatic music for something that needs no dramatization in my view. See for yourself.

At one point he stopped every minibus coming our way, asking whether there was a member of the Surma tribe on board. In the second bus there was one, and my driver handed a large amount of money to him and asked him to pass this on to a certain family, along with the information that their child was well in the hospital. Traditional mail, impressive, and just another reminder that I was quite far out there.

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