An Ethiopian Diary: Day 8


A part of Jane Kurtz’s childhood. She passed this way on her home to Maji. It is a bit enchanting!

The adventure today would bring, we did not know. Thankfully, we woke up and were painting this morning, as the rest the day would have us immersed in one unexpected experience after another, each more enriching than the next, and one view after another, each more breathtaking than the next. It was just one of those magical days but everything from morning to putting my head on the pillow was just perfect.

A hike to a waterfall at the bottom of a valley, following the sound of rushing water. Each step down is a slice of magic, the climb back up worth every breathless step. We are above 8,000 feet up, and the air is thin and crisp. The photos can not do this place justice, as we are finding is true of most of this area. So mountainous and green, so lush and tropical.

Just when we feel we all may be on beauty overload, we hop in the truck for our bump, bump, bumping next adventure. Nifas Bir, a tiny divide between two deep and lush valleys. I’m told I can see Kenya and the Sudan from here, but all I see are extreme, luscious and ever-enchanting landscapes.


Nifas Bir, where it is said you can see all the way to Kenya and the Sudan. Either way, it took my breath away.

The mountains seem to roll on forever, little strips of hazy blue the farther away they get. Somewhere out there is Kenya, the Sudan, the whole continent of Africa.


More magic

I don’t really care, though; I’m right here, right now, among my team, the lovely people of Ethiopia and a landscape that would be worth the long journey here all on its own. I am happy here in the highlands of Ethiopia, and that is enough.


This kind of beauty … Electricity? Water? Nope, I’m good, just leave me right here!


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On the road home from Nifas Bir, we decide to stop in the town square, which is bustling. Bring along a Polaroid and the party is on!

What a thrill watching people see their own image. By some of the reactions we got, some might have been seeing the first photo of themselves. Laughter, glee — and almost a mob scene. Never did I feel afraid, but my bodyguards (other Odyssey team members)  might have. Everyone wanted a photo of themselves, of course. I obliged as much as I could. Certainly, it broke the ice, and made for some connecting. My Odyssey teammates got a ton of great photos of the magic.

Warriors, kids, village elders, moms, sisters, friends — everyone took part, and the joy was all mine. Many times, when a “forengie”(Amharic for foreigner) shows up at a rural market, there is a bit of a standoff, each side of the cultural divide scoping out the other, uncertain, not remembering we are all more alike than different. But when you show up with something to offer, it is different: You are not just a observer, a taker of photos, but now a giver of images. And as artists, this is what we do: We put images out into the world for ourselves and others. And a big cheers to that!

About Stephanie Schlatter Art

Stephanie Schlatter is an Artist who draws from the world for inspiration. While she calls Grand Rapids, Michigan, home she’s often off on new adventures. For more than a decade, her journeys have taken her across the globe. She has studied art both locally and abroad, including time in Mexico, where she decided to shift her focus from photography to painting. Stephanie's travels led her to found Absolutely Art: A Project for Change in 2006. Through this non-profit organization, she brings art instruction to the children of Ethiopia while supporting their education. Stephanie's work reflects an expression influenced by other cultures which resonates a variety of influences that have given her work direction.

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