Day 2: This morning we had our first cup of authentic Ethiopian coffee to start the day. We broke into groups and half of us went to the bank to exchange currency and the other half went on a hunt for lunch supplies. We visited four different stores to find bread, peanut butter and water before being dragged by a stranger to a vibrant market in order to find a knife for our peanut butter. It was interesting how it was so difficult to find what we needed even with someone who spoke the language. We also experienced mobs of people gathering around us and following us down the street, mesmerized by our every move. Once both groups got what we needed, we met up and drove an hour north to find the forest. We had to off road it on a very bumpy road and found a degraded forest.
The objective of the ecological research is to determine the ecological status of a subset of forests. We do this by establishing plots within each forest and measure tree growth and diversity, seedling density and diversity, and overall human use (e.g. trails, buildings, gathering areas). Our first forest was certainly overwhelming, especially because Lindsay and Kayleigh had never done this before. The bishop was singing on a loudspeaker while we had to walk through gatherings of people praying. There were many people and many worshipping because Ethiopian Christmas is on December 7th.
We set up our three plots and collected litter, foliar, and soil samples rather quickly before taking a break for lunch. Alemayehu, a collaborator and expert on these sacred forests, convinced everyone to go out to lunch in town instead of making sandwiches. This was our first authentic Ethiopian meal. We ordered cokes, injera, and various stews. We concluded our lunch with coffee, which made Professor Klepeis very happy. Feeling refreshed and refueled, we headed to our second forest of the day. We had trouble locating it since it was about three miles off the main road. Our cars drove us across the planes, over piles of dirt, across rivers, all the while chased my children yelling “you, you!”. When the cars could not take us any further, we got out and walked the rest of the day. It is important to recognize that this forest would not be accessible during the wet season. We arrived at the church and only had time to complete one plot. We cut it close in terms of timing because the sun went down before we were able to reach the main road, making Alemayehu very nervous. When we returned to our hotel, we quickly realized that there was no water to take a shower or flush the toilets. We ended up going to dinner fairly dirty and staying up late to process all of the samples in the room. The hotel is in a very noisy area, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Field research at its finest!