Sunday, May 21, 2006

question for the diaspora and updates

Obviously you all have your different stories for being elsewhere besides here. And I can\'t really blame you. It\'s not \'easy living\' here and there are more comforts and opportunities outside of Ethiopia. But I want to know, why? Why, when you are educated and needed here, are you elsewhere?


Blogger has seemingly been blocked - whether it\'s permanent or temporary, who knows?

The boyfriend and I are currently making plans for a vacation from life here. He got his visa, despite being a wanted man.

There have been no more bombings since last Friday. If bombs had gone off in Canada, you could bet all remnants would be immediately cleaned up and flowers left in its place. Here, people continue to walk passed the sprayed glass and broken concrete. I have to wonder if there\'s some blood still in places that never got washed away.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

a day in the life, 12 months on (a la Things We Should Have…)

I woke up at the usual 7 am but felt unusually awake. I had a quick bit of toast and tea, banged open the big gate and we were off to work. The boyfriend dropped me off and as I walked down the hill to the school, I was greeted with a “ferenj!” from a little girl in passing.

My kids were surprisingly alert when I said “good morning” and all responded with a robotic “Goooood mooooorrrrning Miiiiiiss Saaaaaara”. The next 45 minutes were divided between getting the morning lesson ready, resolving minor scuffles, and marking homework.

The very redundant revision of all of our vocabulary words was interrupted by the not-so-triumphant return of the crazy appendix-less assistant. She dawdled around the class taking time to kiss each child, each of whom looked like they could care less but didn’t want to make any sudden movements less they set her off. [She informed me she’ll be coming in half days to help out although she didn’t so much as pick up a crayon today.]

Usually during snack time I like to eat too but today I was doing last minute preparations for the kids so they could make Mother’s Day cards. I decided to sit outside to fold and cut paper which drew a small crowd of kids asking “Miss! What eez dees?” I don’t really understand why the kindergarten coordinator insists on celebrating these Hallmark created “days”. We never sent out a Happy Adwa Day card.

I called the boyfriend to check what had happened with his visitor visa application to Canada. As it turns out, we’re celebrating my one year here by making plans to leave. It’s only for the summer though. My cousin is getting married and it’s a good time for the boyfriend to meet the clan all in one go.

I had ferfer for lunch. The waitresses have stopped being surprised.

I did some marking quickly and gathered my mental strength to teach grade one. This week I’ve managed to get a small hold over them: they now sit quietly for 30 second intervals. It doesn’t sound like a major victory but it is. Class went reasonably well and no chaos erupted. I left not hating all small children (this time).

I had to make a couple of photocopies but ended up so frustrated with the inept photocopy lady who is incapable of multi tasking that when she turned her back to shuffle some paper, I pushed the big green button myself. A few times.

I went back to my class to get my stuff to leave but the boyfriend called, “a bomb went off so stay at the school.” It was a bit nerve wracking especially because it was at Gotera (I learned later that about 8 other bombs went off around different parts of the city. If they were actual terrorists, they would have planted them at the Hilton, not in a café or a local bus.)

So I did some cutting and gluing, and I waited. Kids grabbed at the paper, at the scissors, at the glue. “Don’t touch!” I figured the boyfriend would come and get me soon so I sat outside. I began to feel like one of the neglected kids whose parents temporarily forgot about them. I called him but he had gotten busy but supposedly all the soldiers had cleared out. I decided to walk in his direction. A handful of not-from-my-school kids caught up to me. One said hello and shook my hand, giggled and ran back to her friends. Others strung together all the English words they knew. They didn’t ask me for money which was a pleasant surprise.

The ugly white car appeared and it was him. I got in and we went for coffee on Bole where plenty of blue camouflaged soldiers were on the streets or in the backs of trucks. It wasn’t a surprise and I felt less disturbed by them than the time before.

We forgot to return a video but did visit with his dad and little sister. A friend left for Canada today so we briefly saw him while we ate some chicken masala and saag paneer. I want to sleep now but I’m dreading going to bed because of the mosquitoes. My legs are covered in bites as it is and it’ll be weeks before I can wear a skirt again. (It's not that I love wearing skirts. It's that I only have one pair of jeans.) It’s definitely a coordinated attack when they manage to leave bites on both knee caps.

Deuna deuru.

Things We Should Have Written Down

Sunday, May 07, 2006

rundown of Fassika (late but oh well)

Friday – spent it with friends including a Fassika (seen here driving) and a brief trip to the Concord Hotel. Veeeeery interesting.

Saturday – woke up to the sound of a goat (seen here patiently awaiting imminent death). Went to a meeting at the school, came back home to find the boyfriend wishing for imminent death: “I wish the lord would take me.”

Sunday – More animals heading to my neighbourhood/death. I wore my habesha libs for the first time ever to father in law’s house where we ate breakfast, went for a short drive to have a break from the fam, came back and also ate lunch. Changed out of skirt into jeans. Went to mother in law’s for dinner where my small stomach was a further disappointment to her.

Monday – attempted to use my day off productively and went to the embassy where the boyfriend left my passport. The important passport holder lady was not in so I was advised to come another day. Hard to do when you work all week and the embassy closes at noon. Spent some time at Kaldi’s reading and drinking coffee and feeling like I was almost in Canada.

In summation – ate too much. I ate part of that goat later in the week and it was rather tasty if I didn’t let myself make any connections.

Friday, May 05, 2006

a ferenjwa on ferenji (or ferenjoch, however you want to put it)

Information is coveted. It feels the most acute when you see something out of place, something that doesn’t belong. There was once a segment on Sesame Street where they grouped objects and asked with a catchy tune, “which one of these things doesn’t belong?” I can say without hesitation that it’s ferenji in Ethiopia.

I am out of place here and I don’t belong. So the question becomes, why? Why is she here? I wonder the same about other ferenji I see.

One the things that’s most difficult about being here is being obvious and having attention called to it. I’m a nonchalant kind of girl and I use nonchalance regularly to try and avoid detection. It doesn’t work (I still get comments and I still get stared at) but I’m still trying. I attempt to look like a normal person walking down the street. I attempt to look super casual crossing Gotera on foot, but at the same time I wonder, do any other ferenj cross here regularly like me? I saw a girl “of my kind” (as my Ethiopian friends like to joke) yesterday near Gotera. I wondered where she was coming from. Did she just cross Gotera? What is she doing in Ethiopia anyways? Despite wanting to know all these things, despite having “not belonging” in common, we never made eye contact and ignored each other completely. It’s a funny fact that ferenji seem to ignore each other in a mutual attempt at nonchalance.

Ferenji don’t want to cause a scene. We get stared at. Two ferenji crossing paths feels more like a social experiment in a closed room with people standing around ready to take notes. People are watching to see what will happen. And so we ignore each other. Observations are made but at least we can be sure the conclusion is not “all ferenji know each other.” The other part of it is the message that ferenji in Ethiopia are no big deal. “We don’t make a big deal about each other so please don’t make a big deal about us.”

I like to think it’s humility that motivates us in this respect but in all actuality, it’s ignorance. We’re all asking a lot of questions, but there are no answers. We’re not even trying to find the answers. Being here has been very isolating for me. I need to share experiences with people who understand, who may have better ways of coping and ideas to share. It can’t happen when we can’t even make eye contact. What kind of a message is that to send anyways?

Monday, May 01, 2006

things i never thought i’d do but have done since being here

  1. drink tap water
  2. eat sheep/goat semi regularly
  3. be purposefully rude to people (I’m Canadian so that’s a big deal)
  4. have weekly shitting issues (my system used to run like clockwork)
  5. think I was going crazy (those were a tough first three months)
  6. worry about no water coming out when you turn on the tap
  7. miss my personal space (and realizing personal space is a product of the developed-world)
  8. see the inside of a third world prison
  9. eat organ meat (I had no idea dulett was what it was)
  10. have a job I enjoy