August 4, 2011 – Lake Turkana, an expansive landscape in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya that stretches into the borders of Ethiopia, is a place where dreams are cultivated, memories are etched and understanding the human condition is at its purest. In a place where modern conveniences are not the issues of the day, spending time in the Great Rift Valley communities is not only a humbling experience, but also a mind-blowing one.
My trek through parts of the Lower Omo River, which empties into Lake Turkana on the Ethiopia side, was spectacular. The expansive landscapes were magnificent and the people were unexpectedly charming. I was extremely fortunate to have been invited by a village elder to spend 24 hours in the home of a Hamer family.
The Hamer people live in an extremely fertile part of the Omo River Valley in Ethiopia. They are generally pastoralists and build their lives around their cattle.
There are more than fifty completely unique tribes that live in the Omo River Valley in Ethiopia, and all of them have their own distinct dialects and cultural traditions. The common misconception is that all of the tribes in the region are extremely dangerous and unfriendly to say the least. The truth is that there are only a handful of traditional warrior tribes in the region, and even then, they don’t pose a threat. However, it is advisable to travel with a guide to ensure that no misunderstandings occur.
The Hamer Village
My hours spent with the ladies of the Hamer Village were mostly spent in silence and communicating with flailing hand gestures. Though we did not understand each other through language, I believe we experienced an even greater understanding through the most authentic form of communication – body language.
As the beautiful warm cascading rays of the sun began to set upon the humble home of this Hamer family, I was overcome with a sense of peace that is virtually impossible to obtain in the city lives of urbanites, such as the one I lead myself.
My new friends simply just gazed into the orange horizon and basked in the sun’s golden glow in silence as a sense of calm came over all of us. Even the young infants stopped crying and wailing, and in that moment, we were all filled with joy because we were truly content.
PHOTOBLOG: Photo Credits Susan Wong © All rights reserved.