Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I’ve been in Adwa for six months and I walk through the town almost every day. Yet it’s still a rare event to not have children, or even teenagers and adults, yell “Money”, “Ferenji” or “China” (a lot of Chinese road builders means that any non-Ethiopian is Chinese), or just to give a really long stare. It still really drives me crazy, even when it’s done in a friendly or innocent way. I think mostly it reminds me that no matter how long I stay here I will always be an outsider.

Often adults I don’t know will greet me, in English or Tigrigna. This drives me crazy too, although it really shouldn’t. I complain about how unfriendly Toronto and western society are, but I’m a product of that society (rather an exemplary one, at that). I rather like walking down the street in anonymity, without people noticing my every move. Of course, I also like the warm greetings of the people I do know. I have one shop that I often go to, and the owner is always friendly and welcoming. Last time she invited me to have coffee in the back. It actually wasn't the best coffee, and it was a tight squeeze for three people in the tiny space behind the counter, and our conversation was limited to what we could say in my broken Tigrigna and their broken English, but still, it was nice. And now, we greet each other by name and more warmly than before.

My landlady’s servant is divorced. This is not as rare as you might think. Divorced men can remarry, but women are on their own. She has one son already, and her husband has remarried. However, he led her to believe there was a potential reconciliation... She is still alone, but now she is pregnant. When the baby comes in July, she will have to stop working and go back to the village where she will live with her mother and son.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Today was Adwa Victory Day, a holiday to celebrate the Ethiopian defeat over the Italians in 1896, which made Ethiopia the “only” African country not to be colonized by Europe. It’s a relatively small holiday in most parts of the country, not having any direct religious connection, but if one happens to be in Adwa, of course it’s quite a big deal. Yesterday afternoon, there was a public celebration at the town stadium, with children from all the schools and all workers from the various local institutions (the college, the hospital, the textile factory). It was quite a big crowd. I brought Mickey with me and we joined the college contingent. It was very hot so we were lucky to be able to go in the college car. Unfortunately Mickey, being a ferenji-influenced child, is not very well behaved compared to many Ethiopian children, and drove my colleagues crazy with putting his head out the window and what not.

Today, the actual day, started with Adwa’s Great Run for Victory and Development. As this is the millennium year in the Ethiopian calendar, and the 111th anniversary of Adwa Victory it was rather a big deal (any excuse for a celebration). This is the first time Adwa has had a run, and it got off to a rather bumpy start. I woke up at 5:15 to be on time for a 6:00 start at the stadium, and found instead a 7:30 start downtown, in part because many people had been told to go to the stadium and needed to be herded to the right place, and in part, I don’t really know why. The run was public, for anyone who had 7 birr to spare, and well turned out with the fast and the slow, like me. After the run I went home and showered and ate, and made it to the 8:00 ceremony by 10:00ish when it was just getting started. It was by invitation only, and most of the college staff had received invitations. I ended up getting a good seat, thanks to the UNMEE people, close to the official guests, Regional leaders and the Orthodox Christian priests from Addis.