Sunday, February 26, 2006

the future of ethiopia

As Whitney once said, "children are our future / teach them well and let them lead the way". If the older kids at the private school where I teach are any indication of the future - be afraid, be very afraid. And when I say 'older kids' I mean those older than my kindergarten class. My interactions with other students includes a grade one class for 6 forty minute periods per week. These kids are frighteningly disrespectful and careless. They are absolutely clueless about what rules mean and are unafraid of any punishments that may come their way. (I gave out one hundred lines to a student that is consistently problematic and she hardly blinked an eye.)

There are most likely a lot of contributing factors here - a disorganized school which has several different teachers for one class meaning a lot of different rules and tolerance levels from teachers. Another factor could be inconsistency at home - these are spoiled kids, no doubt about it. (I overheard a conversation some teenage students had asking each other how many cars their family owned, what kind of cars, etc.) Rich kids often have parents who work long hours. For these parents, it's easier to buy their kids things rather than spend time with them. When they doll out punishments, they don't understand their children and/or the context so perhaps the punishment is overally harsh. (The director of the school mentioned to me that giving out lines can be viewed by the students as 'easy' compared to getting beaten at home.)

I'm generalizing of course. When I think about teenagers (shiver), I realize all those hormones create appalling behaviours that will disappear once the surge of hormones fades. So there's hope these kids will develop into relatively normal, productive, functioning people. But if they lack notions of consequence and respect at key stages of development like my grade one class, what will that create at age 13, 18, 25, etc.? These are privileged children who will go on to inherit this country but I'm afraid of what they will do with it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

the rain is here and the flies are still here

but I'm still smiling

Sunday, February 19, 2006

more reasons to love this country

16. combination butchery bars – while I myself have yet to try raw meat, I hear that going to a butchery bar is quite the experience with people fighting over which cut of meat they want, etc. I imagine it’s heightened by the fact you can drink there as well.

17. Bruno’s – the best ice cream anywhere

18. grocery stores – it’s always a surprise because what you found last week, might not be there again this week. Or they might have something newly imported you haven’t seen before.

19. a surprising range of different tasty restaurants – so far I’ve been out for Indian food several times, Korean, Lebanese, Chinese, Italian and, of course, Habesha. I have yet to try the Georgian restaurant, the French place or the Armenian one. When one Canadian dollar is worth about seven birr, it makes eating out semi-regularly affordable. Of course, I’m not making dollars here but somehow when calculated, it feels less guilt inducing to eat out here.

20. bootlegged movies – the great thing about being in a country where the government is too busy doing damage control is there are less regulations for other things…like movies. I’ve been able to see Brokeback Mountain, The 40 year old Virgin, Kinsey, Crash, etc. even though at the time they were barely out of theatres in other parts of the world. Granted sometimes it’s a crappy copy poorly shot in the cinema but still, a girl’s gotta be entertained.

21. compound livin’ – practically every house is part of a small compound which includes the surrounding yard, the main house and servant quarters. Our landlord and her sister live in the servant quarters area behind the house creating a horrible noise tunnel which filters all their yelling at the neighbour’s kids and their dirty talk straight through our windows. But the benefit of compound livin’ for a fereng is the privacy from staring eyes, which I relish (sometimes too much).

22. an interesting re-usage of materials – for instance, our compound walls have been imbedded with broken upside down glass pop bottles as a security measure. I hear there are neighbourhoods where a plastic bag doubles as a ready made toilet complete for throwing/disposing of elsewhere as far away as you can wing it.

other reasons found here

Saturday, February 18, 2006

flies season

My little brother once wrote me an email telling me “it has been hot as of late” and mentioning “the cherry season is upon us”.

So it’s been hot here as of late. But it’s not cherry season. No, no, it’s time for flies. Flies of different sizes. The big ones that fly around the house all day in the same path and make a rather loud noise when they bump into the windows but never seem to find the open window to escape. The small flies that hover in the centre of the room doing the same odd square-like path over and over and over. The flies that like to land near your ears, mouth, nose, on your legs and arms and proceed to walk across your skin even though they can fly. I hate them and it annoys me to no end. There seem to be a lot at the school which maybe makes sense because of all the kids. Or maybe there’s a farm nearby where they originate from heaps of manure, dead carcass, or dirty eyha skin. I feel like I’ll turn into some crazed woman, constantly swatting and putting my mouth at awkward angles to blow the flies away. This is one of the few times when I’ve thought having a tail might be advantageous, which may or may not look better than ‘crazy’. There is talk that another rainy season is coming so I’m hoping that will end my torture.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

a stressful pastry experience

famous pastry shop in Piassa - famous for baklava

with Kenny Rogers overseeing it, how could it be bad?

can you see the bee having a drink off the edge of the knife? i can't say that i enjoyed the baklava - there was so much honey it turned into a wet dessert. but evidently the place gets packed with people, despite the bees. for a girl with a serious bee sting allergy, it was enough to get my outta there.

if you haven't been listening, you've been missing

It's the Theory of Everything and if you haven't been listening, well then, you've been neglecting your synapses. Benjamen Walker has some mind bending radio essays and just recently he's posted one on the Ethiopiques music series. So for the love of everything, start listening.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I’ve always determined ‘home’ by the forever familiar route required to get there. Our little house in Kera is home in that sense as determined by the dusty, sketchy path leading here. Sometimes I travel by car (a la boyfriend) or sometimes I take a blue devil (aka minibus taxi). The (often stinky) taxi helper guy (i.e., not the driver, but the guy who takes the money) will yell out “Kera Kera, Mexico”. And I think “Kera, that’s me”. Kera has a bad reputation – mostly known for thieves (leba) and the smell of rot and burning that, if the wind blows in the wrong direction, we can detect on occasion from the local huge stock yard. I find it interesting that the big bone piles always remain the same size, no matter the amount of traffic entering or the size of the oxen, thanks to the ever swarming vultures. When we drive directly passed it, I always enter the dilemma of breathing through my nose (but then I smell it) or breathing through my mouth (no smell but then those stinky particles are in my mouth).

Once I’m home, as I turn the key, I wonder what awaits me – could be a flood of some sort (not unwarranted considering the plumbing problems we’ve had), all our things are just gone (not unwarranted – I mentioned the leba, yes?) or …nope, those are the big two. I’m always mildly surprised when everything is fine. First thing I want to do, depending on footwear, is wash my feet if I’ve been trudging around in flip flops. While not the most practical shoes, I lo-oove my flip flops considering they’ve lasted this long all the way over in Aaaaafrica. Then once the feet are washed, it’s all craziness. Or as crazy as you can get without a TV.

So, Addis and our little place are home. It’s not easy livin’ but I’m used to it. My brain is still somehow my brain no matter where I am although sometimes in alternating forms.