Ethiopia 4 The ambulance is returning.....
There's been a war going on using bacterialogical weapons.and I just lost! In preparation for this trip,knowing the very basic conditions we'd experience, we took Dukerol as a preventative against traveller's diarea. Dukerol is a vaccine against a wide range of bacterial illnesses in the Cholera family, and will help you avoid a lot of nasties.But not effective against everything.It's a 2 shot course, and at $50 a shot you really do want it to work! Supposed to adjust your intestinal microbial flora so they can fight off invasion from Cholera and similar bacteria.
So yesterday( I started this blog 12 days ago but have only finished it today) was a massive defeat for my guts and the price of defeat was a day in bed.We're at 2,500 metres and the altitude coupled with feeling ill is sapping. But we managed to get out in the morning.We visited the Red Terror Martyrs Museum.This opened in May 2010 as a monument to the millions that died in Ethiopia of murder,or starvation during the time of the Socialist DERG rule after the overthrow of Emporer Haile Selassie.In many ways there are parellels with the Cambodia Pol Pot era. A popular revolutionary movement, and it's ideals being hijacked by 1 man and his cohorts with an extreme ideology and a will to eliminate any opposition.
We walked into the reception area and asked at the desk if we need to pay.The staff cheerfully indicated we can make a donation if we wished.Quite a cheerful exchange as we explained we'd like to visit just to learn more about Ethiopia's recent history.
We entered through the door on the left,expecting just some historical portrayal of that period.I took two steps through the door and stopped.I don't have the words to describe how I felt.Something was getting at me.I hadn't even looked at any of the many photo displays, but felt a huge sense of grief, and loss. The only way of describing how I felt was as if some tragedy had taken a loved one or close friend.
I said to Kay "There's something strange about this place."
"In what way?"
"There's something weird I can feel here."
We moved on, viewing the sometimes graphic and very moving images from Ethiopia's DERG era of Socialist rule from the deposition of Haile Selassie in 1979 to the revolution against the DERG in 1991. I have viewed many war displays,watched and read countless films and books on human conflict, and have remained dispassionate to such portrayals of woundings and deaths.But as we moved further through the museum,I felt even stronger feelings as if I was attending a funeral of someone very close to me.That's the only way I can describe it. I somehow felt as if those feelings were coming at me, rather than from within. I have felt this sensing of other worldliness or spirits reaching out before, at Tuol Sleng, S21 Museum in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. And I was beginning to think that I could only be walking closer towards death and earthbound spirits. But why here? It was just a museum with photo displays afterall. In such a situation I would normally blank out my mind and try and sense or feel what, if any other influences were around me. But with a queasy stomach and slight nausea there was no way I could truly meditate into sensing that "other world".
I moved on, barely looking.
At the very end of the displays, when those feelings were strongest,I came across a display of coffins, each open and holding the remains of clothing items once worn by some of the slaughtered. I stopped to read a sign beside a doorway and this said that the families and relatives wanted the remains of the victims to remain in the Martyrs Museum.Through the doorway were about 10 coffins, flag shrouded, laying on the floor.These contained the exhumed remains of victims of the DERG regime.
I stood in the doorway,and found myself saying a silent prayer for them. Slowly that depressing and tortured feeling lifted, and a calm peace settled upon me.
The Red Terror Martyrs Museum opened in May this year. We had seen no literature about it prior to our visit. We had spotted it's new modern building as we taxied down Bolle Road and noted it to visit if we found time. So we knew nothing of any of it's contents.
And in Mekele, capital of Tigray province we visited there, the huge museum to the liberation from the DERG. Many of the photos at the Red Terror Martyrs Museum were copies of the Mekele Museum. But as I walked through that museum,I felt nothing. It was just a museum with the expected war relics and photos.
The difference, for me anyway, is that the Red Terror Martyrs Museum is also a mausoleum.
Perhaps there are spirits there? Perhaps those are the souls of those victims who died so violently after torture and humiliation? Are they reaching out?
As I write this,the Ras hotel staff are crying. One after the other,grief breaks out. I look out our window at staff grouped in the car park, many crying , and wringing their hands, or comforting each other. There's been another staff death Kay was told by the desk boy.
"Yes the second today!"
I had seen an ambulance leave the hotel car park 4 hours ago taking the first away.And now it is returning......
We never did find out the cause of the hotel deaths.