Dee Dee Yates, Dr. Alemseged, Lucy, and Me

This trip was not all work!  I got to see the real bones of Lucy the 3.5 million year old human ancestor, found in Ethiopia.   It turns out my guide was none other than the paleoanthropologist, Dr. Zeresanay  Alemseged, who found her and studies her.
My colleage Dee Dee Yates and I went over to the National Museum not expecting much.  We were told by our more cynical friends that Lucy’s bones would likely no even be there, because they travel around the world to be studied and shown.  We set off anyway, happy to at least see a replica, but as you can see from the photo we got lucky.  Lucy was home! And we got to spend time with Dr. Alemseged.  At the time of our visit he told us was very close to publishing a more recent discovery, a complete specimen of a baby, who would have been of the same species as Lucy.  He had named the baby Salam, which means Peace.  My eyes darted around, betraying my  my hungry eyes.  Alemseged grinned and told me to put my camera away…..Then he showed us Baby Salam!
Note:  In June of 2007, Zeresenay gave a TED talk  about his work which you can view at:http://bit.ly/lwZEx.
I also visited the  St. Georges Coptic Church and  a smaller Coptic church in the neighborhood where my colleague from UW-Madison, Dr. Girma Tefara,  was born.  I met his sister and his mother, and visited the house where he grew up.  His mother gave me a beautiful woven Gabi.  She made the thread from cotton herself, her daughter told me — hand spinning is a great hobby of hers, and a traditional Ethiopian craft..  She also made me coffee the traditional Ethiopian way (roasting the beans right before drinking them).  I was so thankful to be her guest.
With a busy work schedule and new friends to visit, I had been too busy to shop for even one gift.  I could not go home like that!  On the last day I made a quick trip to the market place to buy some scarves and jewelry and got a henna tattoo (my tattooed sisters would have been proud). From the tattoo shop I hurried to my hotel, packed and got on the evening flight to Amsterdam.  That’s 8 hours, followed by a second 8 hour leg to Detroit, then on to a final leg to Madison.  Miraculously all the snow did not affect my trip, and I was  in Madison within 24 hours of leaving Ethiopia, including layovers.  Now I am home, with everything normal, marveling at how large and small the world is.
Journal entry, February 2007.
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