Part One: A friend in the highlands of Lalibela, Ethiopia – the opening of Fikir and Ray Lodge

Ethiopia - Lalibela is located in the north of the country

Some 24 years ago, when we still lived in Vancouver, our neighbour was Raymond Doucette.  Natasha and I soon became friends with Raymond once we learned he’d been in ‘only’ 135 countries.  A true wanderer and explorer.

We ourselves have also led a nomadic life, including three voyages around the world by ship, where I was guest artist and lecturer.

After one of his adventurous journeys in the 1990’s, Raymond found himself in Ethiopia.  He ended up making a close friendship with one family in particular, in Lalibela, in the north of the country.

Lalibela is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, renowned for its rock-cut monolithic churches. It is a pilgrimage site for many Ethiopans and people around the world.
Giorgis (St. George) Church, Lalibela - constructed late 12th or early 13th C.

Although the idea of building a Lodge never entered his mind at first, it became a gradual process.   Due to setbacks and a personal tragedy with the Ethiopia family he’d become close to, the Lodge took ten years to complete.
Reception area, Fikir and Ray Lodge

Built with financial support from Raymond and the local bank, Fikir and Ray Lodge officially opened in October.  He stipulated that the young people working at the Lodge would also be able to continue their schooling.

In addition to this, Raymond has - over the years - sponsored many other young people in Lalibela, and also sometimes provided shoes, food, and money, to neighbouring village children.
Two of the friendly, welcoming staff at the Lodge

Through this enterprise, Raymond is creating employment and income for local people, and at the same time opening a door for the world to visit and see first-hand how the Amhara people (the ethnic group of Lalibela) live at present, Anno 2018.

 Sunset view near Fikir and Ray Lodge, Lalibela, Ethiopia  (Elevation 8,500 ft/2,600m)

Too bad I am no longer agile enough, at 89, to visit the Lodge, Lalibela and Raymond. So instead we have a regular correspondence, a dialogue. Here are some additional photographs from Raymond.  More to come. . . .

'Ancient Earth, Ancient Wanderer'

Carrying cooking fuel

Lalibela, Saturday market

Raymond, with some neighbouring families, at a recent birthday party, hosted by Fikir and Ray Lodge.

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