Barentu - Agordat - Keren - Asmara
Eritrea - September 30th 2004
In the morning I explore the
outskirts of Barentu. The sky is blue, I leave the main road, and follow
riverbeds and small tracks between the traditional huts. People think I'm
lost. "Where are you going?" I point at the nearest hill or an
other landmark, to suggest some kind of planned hike.
Nothing exiting happens. I
guess I am the most exiting phenomena in the area today. The people are
watching me climbing the slopes of the small hills and direct me to the
easy exits of the river bed, and they are interested in my nationality.
"Holland is a good country" they all say. "And so is
Eritrea" I answer. I have to explain why.
Back at the bus station there
is no bus to Keren, so I take a small van to Agordat. Halfway a herdsman
is boarding. And so are his five goats. With pieces of rope the livestock
is secured on the roof of the van. It is clear that the animals do not
agree with this mode of transport. But the driver is careful. Knowing the
animals are suffering on the roof, he slows down every time the road
passes a watercourse, and is watching the well being of the animals in his mirror.
In Agordat I change buses to
Keren. All the seats are occupied, but the driver creates an extra seat in
the middle. It is a small stool. Not very comfortable, but it is only
temporary. Not all passengers are going to Keren. In Hagaz I change the
small stool for a regular
From the Keren bus station I walk to
restaurant Stuttgart, to greet Rahel, Hidat and Elen and to have a drink.
The girls have a typical German temperament, inherited from their 15 years
stay in Stuttgart, combined with Eritrean hospitality and friendliness. So
it is always a pleasure to meet them when I am in Keren.
In one of Keren's fast food
restaurants I watch the other
guests. I order an egg burger and seeing the men
drink pints of juice, I ask the waiter to bring me the same, having no
idea what the name of the drink is. They tell me it is guava juice.
A young men at the table next
to me asks my why I visit Eritrea. "Eritrea is no good. The
government is now in such a bad shape, that it cannot even provide
gasoline to its own people". I question his opinion, and tell him
about the situation in Iraq. "Your government is not in a position to
secure oil supplies by force, like the US is doing", I try to explain
I buy him a beer. He
introduces himself, as Fitsum. We talk about politics. I try to convince
him that he should not blame his government, but the Ethiopian government
and mother nature for the economic crisis. The western world doesn't care
about Eritrea, because it has no economic value. And dollars are the only
thing valuable nowadays. Human lives only count when they wear the stars
and stripes on their shoulder.
Fitsum invites me to visit his
house. It is just one room. One large bed for him and his wife. Two very
small beds for his two children. A ask him about his work. I shouldn't
have. "I an in the army. That's no job." I feel sorry for him,
but what can I say? I ask him to be my guide for an hour, only to have a
good reason to give him some Nakfa's.
We visit Afworki in the labor
office, the markets, the roof terrace of the Keren hotel and the
observation tower . I point at the
building activities and the reconstruction of the roads. "Your
government is doing a good job, in spite of the Ethiopian
aggression", I say, trying to cheer him up. In
front of the Keren hotel I say goodbye to Fitsum, leaving 50 Nakfa in the
palm of his hand after a firm handshake.
I walk back in the direction
of Hansu and Afworki's house. Two blocks further is the house of Afworki's
family, his father and mother, his brothers Gebre, Habte, Tsehaie, and
their sister Hansu. I knock on the iron gate in the wall that surrounds
Hansu opens the door and
kisses my hand as if I were a priest. Hansu
is a bit weird. One of the victims of the 1961 - 91 war. They have told me
an Ethiopian soldier put the barrel of a weapon in her mouth to scare her.
She did not recover from the shock.
Hansu makes us tea, with lots
of sugar. For me there is kitcha, a very thin bread. With egg. She
remembered my favorite food. Habte asks me how long I will stay in Keren.
There will be a wedding this weekend in their street. I tell him I will
leave to Asmara this afternoon.
When I meet Yohanna, on my way
on Afworki's house, I HAVE to come in. She tells me she saw her pictures in
my travel story. I give her the copies. Again we drink tea, with Fortuna
and the mother of the children. The father is working. He owns and
operates a taxi in Keren.
When I hear the gate of
Afworki's house, I know Hansu came back from her work. When I tell her I
cannot stay tonight, she doesn't understand. "Why hurry? Why don't
you take some rest?" I explain to her that I only have one more week.
I have to be in Asmara this evening to sign some papers early next
Traditional village -
Traditional village - Barentu Eritrea.
Kunama woman - Barentu Eritrea.
Women - Barentu Eritrea.
Bird life - Barentu Eritrea.
Bar and restaurant - Barentu
Life stock loaded on the
mini bus between Barentu and Agordat.
View from the roof of the Keren
hotel - Keren Eritrea.
Gold smith - Keren Eritrea.
Bar and restaurant - Adi