Archive for the ‘Fun Fact Friday’ Category

Today is a very fun Friday…yesterday I put the cheque in the mail!  Yahoo!

I was nervous to mail the cheque. We just had a postal strike in Canada, and it surprised me by how inconvenient it was not to have the mail service.  I hadn’t realized that despite email, I still rely on the post for many things!

Anyway, this prompted me to think about our stamps and how beautiful they are.  You can really learn a lot about a country just by looking at the images that they use to put on their stamps and how they reflect their changing values and priorities over time.   Here are some from Ethiopia!

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(oops a few non-stamps in there too!)

And, here is a link to the official website of the Ethiopian Postal Service…just out of curiousity!


And just for fun,  here is a  youtube video  of a news broadcast about more buses for improved postal service.

COULD STOP RIGHT HERE: BUT if you’re a bit of a history geek like me, here’s what Wikipedia had to say about the development of the Ethiopian Postal Service

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Ethiopia.

Long an independent state in Africa, messages were originally carried by couriers called méléktegnas, who held the letters attached to a stick.

As part of the 1867-8 invasion that culminated in the Battle of Magdala, the British established a field post office at Massawa (then a port of Ethiopia) in November 1867, using stamps of British India. The territory of Harar was taken by Egypt in 1875, and in the following year a post office was established; letters from there used Egyptian stamps canceled with a maltese cross.

Establishment of a postal system

Ethiopia’s own postal system owes its existence to Swiss engineer Alfred Ilg, an adviser to Menelik II of Ethiopia. Having convinced Menelik of the desirability of a post, in 1893 Ilg had Frenchman Leon Chefneux contract with engraver Louis-Eugène Mouchon to design a set of seven stamps, four depicting Menelik, and three with the heraldic lion. These were printed by the Atelier du Timbre in Paris, along with four values of postcards, and shipped to Ethiopia in December 1893.

Imperial edict established the Ethiopian postal system on 9 March 1894, and Ilg was put in charge of the details. Initially the tasks of cancelling and forwarding letters were entrusted to the Catholic mission at Harar. After a delay occasioned by the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, Ilg hired several Swiss postal officials and they began organizing a system of postal bags carried by the railway that was being constructed at the same time. The Harrar mission continued to process all mail until 1904, when a post office opened at the newly-established town of Dire Dawa.

Prior to the admission of Ethiopia to the UPU, in 1908, international mail had to be franked with stamps of UPU members. France operated post offices at Addis Ababa, Harar, and Dire Dawa, using stamps of Obock or the French Somali Coast, and mail is known with a triple franking of Ethiopia, British Somaliland (via the town of Zeila), and Aden.

In the meantime, it was discovered that Ethiopian stamps sold by an agent in France at a discount, for publicity purposes, were being shipped to Ethiopia and used on mail. As a prevention, beginning in 1901, stamps were locally overprinted in different ways each year, and were only valid for postage with the overprint.

UPU member

A new issue of seven stamps in 1909 marked UPU admission, and in addition to Amharic, included Latin inscriptions “POSTES ETHIOPIENNES” and the value in guerches.

The coronation of Zewditu I of Ethiopia and regency of Prince Tafari was marked in 1917 by overprints on the 1909 stamps. In 1919, a new definitive series of 15 stamps included portraits of Zewditu and Tafari, along with various native animals, and inscribed “ETHIOPIE”.

In 1928, a set of 10 stamps depicting Tafari and Zewditu was issued and soon after overprinted, first to mark the opening of the General Post Office in Addis Ababa, and a month later for the coronation of Tafari, the latter overprint including the phrase “NEGOUS TEFERI” in Latin letters. Overprints in 1930 commemorated first the proclamation and then coronation of Tafari as “Haile Selassie”, followed by a series of 7 stamps depicting the coronation monument and various symbols of empire.

Italian occupation

In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia, annexing it the following year. Italy issued seven colonial stamps inscribed “ETIOPIA” starting in May 1936, then put the postal system under Italian East Africa until the territory was liberated in 1941.


The first stamps after liberation were a series of three depicting Haile Selassie, with the denomination printed in lower case, and reissued as a set of 8 three months later, with the denomination in all capitals. Subsequent issues typically, though not always, included a portrait oval of Haile Selassie in the design.

AND THAT’S WHERE IT STOPS…nothing about the development of the modern Ethiopian Postal Service…I think somebody better get on wikipedia and update that info!  🙂

Oh well, as long as the mail gets through!  AT LEAST MY CHEQUE IS ONLY GOING AS FAR AS DENVER…EXPRESS POST!


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I was rather shocked when the evening news came on yesterday and I learned of some of the cuts proposed for the city of Toronto. The list is rather long and includes among other things: selling off the Toronto Zoo and the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, implementing single police officer patrols, canceling  public health funding for AIDS prevention and student nutrition…and closing libraries.


Believe me…the irony is not lost on me!  Here I am raising money to build a library in Ethiopia!! and libraries right here at home in Canada may be closed

Anyway, it prompted me to think about what public and school libraries have meant to me and their value in society. Libraries have often had a bad rep…the whole musty dusty,”no talking” stereotype.  But for many of us, it has been a library that has opened up our minds to the world.I love libraries and I LOVE to read.  My idea of a perfect holiday is finding a place in a garden or by the water to read! It has been this way for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was encouraged to read and spent many summer days walking to the Kenilworth Library in Hamilton. Libraries are a sanctuary to me and I feel quite at home in them. I love books and having them around me. It was primarily through library books that I discovered the world and developed a thirst for learning and the desire to travel.  As a student and teacher, I have worked and wiled away many an hour among the stacks. A library is also a place that brings people together and builds community. On so many levels, a library plays a very positive role in our societies.  Even with changing technology, we still really need them! But, don’t take my word for it, have a look at what some others have to say about libraries.

A good library is a place, a palace where the lofty spirits of all nations and generations meet.” – Samuel Niger

“A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up children without surrounding them with books…. Children learn to read being in the presence of books.”  – Horace Mann

“A library is a delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life.” – Norman Cousins

“I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.” – Isaac Asimov

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” – Cicero

  “My lifelong love affair with books and reading continues unaffected by automation, computers, and all other forms of the twentieth-century gadgetry.” – Robert Downs

“A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.” -Henry Ward Beecher

“A little library growing each year is an honorable part of a man’s history.” -Henry Ward Beecher

“Libraries are not made, they grow.” -Augustine Birrell

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” -Jorge Luis Borges

“You must live feverishly in a library.  Colleges are not going to do any good unless you are raised and live in a library everyday of your life.” —Ray Douglas Bradbury

“When I got [my] library card, that was when my life began.” -Rita Mae Brown

“When I discovered libraries, it was like having Christmas every day.” -Jean Fritz

“The library, I believe, is the last of our public institutions to which you can go without credentials. You don’t even need the sticker on your windshield that you need to get into the public beach.  All you need is the willingness to read.” -Harry Golden

“What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it thinks about education.” -Harold Howe, former U.S. Commissioner of Education

“Libraries are magical places. There’s nothing quite like strolling the hushed aisles, letting your eye rove along dimly lit shelves. Each spine, each title, seems to beckon with a promise of incredible wonders, surprises, and adventures.” -John Jakes

“Everything you need for better future and success has already been written. And guess what?  All you have to do is go to the library.” -Jim Rohn

“A library should be like a pair of open arms.” -Roger Rosenblatt

“Since my family did not own many books or have the money for a child to buy them, it was good to know that solely by virtue of my municipal citizenship I had access to any book I wanted from the branch library I could walk to in my neighborhood.” -Philip Roth

“The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries.” -Carl Sagan

“If it is noticed that much of my outside work concerns itself with libraries, there is an extremely good reason for this.  I think that the better part of my education, almost as important as that secured in the schools and the universities, came from libraries.” -Irving Stone

“I’ve traveled the world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners,
Poets and artists, kings and queens,
Old stars and hopeful beginners,
I’ve been where no-one’s been before,
Learned secrets from writers and cooks
All with one library ticket
To the wonderful world of books.”

So, need to beat the heat this week??? 

Don’t stay at home and watch mindless reality TV!  Don’t make yet another unnecessary trip to the mall!

Head over to your local library…you won’t regret it!  I’ll see you there!!!

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After two weeks on Marthas Vineyard, I’m feeling a little relaxed/lazy, soI thought it might just be fun to check out the links and information that the Canadian government has about Ethiopia:

1. DFAIT  ( Canadian Dept. of Foreign Affairs and International Trade)…provides basic travel advisory information and more.



2. CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) … describes some of the development project they have in Ethiopia



3. CIL (Centre for Interculture Learning)… examines many aspects of culture giving the local and the outsider perspective.




There are some really interesting facts!

I‘ll be back on Sunday!  Have a great weekend,


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I’m on a little holiday, so for Fun Fact Friday here is just a little information from ethiopianhistory.com about LUCY!


The history of Ethiopia begins with Lucy. Lucy was a female hominoid that lived in what is now called the Awash Valley in Hadar some 3.2 million years ago. When her skeletons were discovered in 1974, Ethiopia then claimed that it was the first dwelling of mankind. But recent finds in Kenya, such as the discovery of Kenyanthropus platyops in 1998, have come to challenge Lucy as to who really is the direct ancestor of humankind. But what this discovery does more than anything is add to the confusion about the human evolutionary tree. This recent discovery in Kenya is among a series of fossil finds over the past two decades that have doubled the number of recognized human-like species.


Lucy’s scientific name is Australopithecus afarensis. The first word means “Southern Ape” and the second word signifies she was discovered in the Afar region. Ethiopians refer to her as “Dinqnesh.” She is also classified in Hadar as AL 288-1. When she was discovered, only a little over half of her skeletons were found. She probably did not live more than 20 years and weighed around 60 pounds and stood three and a half feet. Lucy is kept fully preserved at the national Museum in Addis Abeba; an exact plaster replica is also displayed next to her. (Pankhurst 1-2)


But why was she called Lucy? Donald Johanson, the anthropologist from Chicago University who discovered her, tells us why: “Surely such a noble little fossil lady deserved a name. As we [his expedition crew] sat around one evening listening to Beatles’ songs, someone said, ‘Why don’t we call her Lucy? You know, after “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. “’ So she became Lucy.”



If you’re an archaeology buff, here’s a short video introducing Lucy’s “Grandfather”


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The Queen of Sheba

I recall that during my childhood, upon occasion, my grandfather would say to me:  “Who do you think you are…the Queen of Sheba?”  I never really understood what he was talking about. So, knowing that the Queen of Sheba, also called Makeda. Candace or Belkis,  does have a connection to Ethiopia, I thought I’d find out a little more about this mysterious, exotic, wise and powerful woman. As it turns out “Girl Power” is really nothing new… thanks to the Queen of Sheba, there was plenty of girl power even 3,000 years ago.

The Queen of Sheba appears in Christian, Jewish and Muslim writings and many works of art throughout the ages. Although not completely clear, her story has been told across Africa, the Middle East and even Hollywood for the last 3,000 years. It is thought that Sheba ruled the great kingdom of Saba, which is in modern day Yemen, but probably expanded out to the horn of Africa (Ethiopia and Eritrea) following the spice trade routes around the |Red Sea region. The Old Testament describes a visit by the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon. When the Queen of Sheba heard of the wisdom and fame of Solomon, she travelled to Jerusalem to meet him and test his wisdom with a series of questions. It is said that she arrived with a very great train of camels, gold, gems and spices. Apparently, Solomon was very taken with her and gave her whatever she desired.

Ethiopian Tradition

The tales of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba are a fundamental part of the history and founding of Ethiopia

Although there is no concrete primary evidence for the Queen of Sheba in Ethiopia, the story of the Queen of Sheba and Solomon is enshrined and truly believed by the Ethiopian people.   The stories of the Queen of Sheba (her visit to Solomon, her seduction and even one strange tale about her “hairy hoof” – she seems to have been demonized in some of the Islamic stories ) are immortalised in the Ethiopian holy book – the Kebra Nagast – The Book of Kings, written in the ancient Ethiopian language of Ge’z.  It also goes on to describe the queen’s return to her capital, Aksum, in northern Ethiopia and the birth of her son Menelik (by Solomon). The story goes that  years later Menelik (Son of the Wise) also travelled to Jerusalem to see his father, who greeted him with joy and invited him to remain there to rule after his death. But Menelik refused and decided to return home. Under cover of darkness he left the city, taking with him its most precious relic, the Ark of the Covenant. He took it back to Aksum, where many believe that it still resides today, in a specially built treasury in the courtyard of St Mary’s Church. The importance of the queen, the Ark of the Covenant and the Kebra Nagast in Ethiopian history is extremely significant.

Through their reading of the Kebra Nagast, Ethiopians see their country as God’s chosen land, the final resting place that he chose for the Ark, and Sheba and her son were the means by which it came there. Thus, Sheba is the mother of their nation, and the kings of the land have a divine right to rule because they are directly descended from her and Solomon. Emperor Haile Selassie even had that fact enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution of 1955.

Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, was known for her beauty, intelligence, resourcefulness and understanding. She sought after truth and wisdom. Here is a translated passage from the Kebra Negast about this:

“I desire wisdom and my heart seeketh to find understanding. I am smitten with the love of wisdom…. for wisdom is far better than treasure of gold and silver… It is sweeter than honey, and it maketh one to rejoice more than wine, and it illumineth more than the sun…. It is a source of joy for the heart, and a bright and shining light for the eyes, and a giver of speed to the feet, and a shield for the breast, and a helmet for the head… It makes the ears to hear and hearts to understand.”

“…And as for a kingdom, it cannot stand without wisdom, and riches cannot be preserved without wisdom…. He who heapeth up gold and silver doeth so to no profit without wisdom, but he who heapeth up wisdom – no man can filch it from his heart… I will follow the footprints of wisdom and she shall protect me forever. I will seek asylum with her, and she shall be unto me power and strength.”

“Let us seek her, and we shall find her; let us love her, and she will not withdraw herself from us, let us pursue her, and we shall overtake her; let us ask, and we shall receive; and let us turn our hearts to her so that we may never forget her.”

(Budge, Sir Ernest A. Wallis, translator, THE QUEEN OF SHEBA AND HER ONLY SUN MENYELEK, (THE KEBRA NEGAST), Oxford University Press, London, 1932, chapter 24.)

Here’s the shorter more modern version:

Wisdom is
sweeter than honey,
brings more joy
than wine,
more than the sun,
is more precious
than jewels.
She causes
the ears to hear
and the heart to comprehend.
I love her
like a mother,
and she embraces me
as her own child.
I will follow
her footprints
and she will not cast me away.

Makeda, Queen of Sheba ca. 1000 B.C.

Sheba has been portrayed in many different ways.  Here are some of them:

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If you have a some time, here is a REALLY good BBC episode “In Search of Myths and Heroes: The Candace Queen of Sheba”

Now, if my grandfather were to ask me today if I thought I were the Queen of Sheba…I would have to say YES and I think I would really like that!

What a very cool woman of the ancient world!

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I’ve been thinking about food lately…or lack of it!


Today, my Unitarian friends sent out an email looking for donations and volunteers for a local program called Women4Women.  It is a simple program that provides groceries at reduced prices for local families. Once in a while, we also help with the Out of the Cold dinner program. Niagara College also regularly collects food products for students in need.  It seems that we here in Canada, a land of agricultural plenty, have issues of hunger for some people in our population!  Why? With so much food everywhere, it is terrible that people are still hungry. It is sad that children go to school without having eaten a nutritious breakfast.  Food is available…but just not to them! Why????


Now take our food issues here in Canada and multiple by… hmmm….A LOT and you have Ethiopia.



A woman I know recently adopted two children from Ethiopia.  The five year old is so small that he is not even on the percentile charts that we use to track physical development.  He is about the size of a 3 year old because of malnutrition.  I’ve also been preparing for some of the issues that an adopted child might have around food.  I was telling my Dad that some kids don’t have an “off” switch when it comes to eating…subconsciously feeling that that have to eat as much as possible when they can get it.  They will eat until they make themselves sick.  Other children hoard food in their bedroom, worried about not being fed again.


When I was traveling in Ethiopia in 2007, I had no idea that food security was still a big issue there…my knowledge on that topic only stretching as far as the “Band Aid” concerts of the early 80’s.  But, as I was making plans to travel to the south of the country, a new friend that I had made (a logistics officer for the UN World Food Program) commented that he had never been down there himself, but recognized the names of the towns as places where they made food drops and had feeding programs.  I was shocked. There are still regions of Ethiopia today where food security is tenuous.  Add to that inflation, the price of oil, the effects of climate change and political instabilities and conflict in the region and you have the makings of famine. There are people living on the edge of it! Why doesn’t this problem go away?




This got me thinking about global food security and the makings of a famine.

In a world of plenty, it defies our sense of logic as to why people are starving. Where does a famine come from? How can it be prevented? How can we help? Why do we continue to have them? Can world governments really not get together to create a humane world food policy?  What is the United Nations stance on this?  Why does Ethiopia suffer from famines so regularly?


As you can see, this post is more questions than answers.   It is such a complex situation involving the environment, economy, politics and so much more, but I need to start to approach some of these big questions, so I can improve my understanding of the region. So, this video and a little wiki reading and this article from Time are my first steps toward  a better understanding… I’m sure it will be a long and painful learning curve!








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I just bought a new kid’s CD and thought I’d share a little bit of it with you.



And, here’s a little bit of  musical inspiration from Bob Marley for you too!



But what does Bob Marley have to do with Ethiopia??

In a nutshell, the Rastas consider Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia to be God incarnate, the second coming  or reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Gee, I wonder what Haile thought when they told him? Well, if you’re interested in a little bit of the history of Bob Marley, Haile Selassie and the Ras Tafari  Movement,  here is the wikipedia link and  a short documentary video series. It’s pretty interesting and informative…even if you can’t figure out what Bob Marley is saying.







“Me only have one ambition, y’know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together – black, white, Chinese, everyone – that’s all.”   Bob Marley

Me too Bob, me too!  Have a great weekend everyone!


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