Written October 6, 2007Josh has decided to forego the team’s blog rotation since he keeps a pretty extensive blog of his own—I don’t want you to miss out on hearing about the experience from his perspective, plus he’s quite the writer and is able to post more frequent, more detailed entries (including a pretty detailed list of the names and descriptions of most of our new friends). Please check out his blog at http://www.joshuatuggle.wordpress.com. To entice you there and to tell you about last weekend’s events, I’m copying part of his latest blog entry describing the Meskel celebration and our fun-filled day at the National Museum and the Lion Zoo. If you’re interested in the alleged finding of Jesus’s cross or if you wonder what it’s like to be peed on by the king of the jungle, read on: (If you’ve already read Josh’s entry, mine starts down by the asterisk.)
“Thursday was a national Christian holiday called Meskel. The Ethiopians celebrate this holiday in memory of the finding of the True Cross. They believe that some number of years ago, an empress conducted a search, based on a vision she had while burning bundles of sticks called cheubu, to find the cross on which Jesus himself was crucified. The search was fruitful apparently and they believe they have it in a church in the north. Whether they do or not, the holiday is nationally celebrated and a huge gathering of upwards of 75,000 people congregate in what is called Meskel Square where there is a huge parade, speeches by both the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and the Pope of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. We stood amongst the crowd as almost the only white people and held candles to symbolize the millions of lights of the people of the country. The parading and the poor speaker system screaming scattered bits of Amharic speech and song lasted for about three hours until the culmination of the celebration took place. The pope came down from where he was speaking and lit a thirty-foot tall pyramid of cheubu sticks. The crowd roared and broke into songs in unison. It was an incredible experience and it brought together the city and the country in loving celebration. As the singing continued the crowds started to move down the terraces we were standing on. This decision to leave soon became involuntary as the crowd pulsed together and at times lifted me off my feet. Keeping my footing and holding tightly to Bethany’s hand so as not to lose her in the sea of people, we made our way down to flat ground where we reconvened as a group and headed to the car. As we marched through the crowds, Befekadu turned to us and said, “Watch your pockets.” I reached to mine to make sure I heeded his advice only to find out that I had already been robbed. For the first time in my life I had been robbed. Someone had pick pocketed over 120Birr from a zippered pocket which also happened to contain my new Swiss Army knife (thanks Katie!), my house key, the gate key, and the key to my room (locked). Thankfully these were still there and 120 Birr is only about $13 in the US. I did learn my lesson though and Worku made fun of me when we got home. This wasn’t until we went to Bole Road (the cool part of town) to have Italian for dinner. Italian is huge in Ethiopia since it was occupied by the Communist Italian regime for a number of years. The influence has remained in certain ways, food being one of them. After dinner we came home and stood in the driveway with the whole family as we stoked a fire of cheubu as a part of a rich tradition. Friday would be our day of rest and relaxation until today, which was full of surprises…
“…We were going to the museum, the National Museum to be exact. We had arranged for Befekadu to drive us to the museum at 11:30 this morning, so we hopped in the car and putted our way to the north side of Addis called Piazza. This area of town is heavily influenced by the former Italian occupation and boasts a great number of Italian restaurants and small cafés. …we began with a tour of the archeological history of Ethiopia—fossils, bones, paintings of what prehistoric and more recent animals looked like, and best of all, a room completely devoted to Lucy. At 3’5”, she is miniscule in stature, but represents the oldest finding of a creature close to our body shape and appearance. It was quite intriguing to see the vast amount of archeological history and evidence held within the borders of Ethiopia. I had no idea. [On the main level] there was an array of recovered clothing, armor, thrones, crowns, and weaponry of Ethiopia’s past emperors. The most eye catching, in my opinion, was a sixteen-foot tall throne belonging to emperor Haile Selassie. It was about six feet wide and seemed like it would have been quite difficult to get into the seat. I sort of wanted to hop the rope and take a seat. I don’t know that I would make a great emperor, but it would have at least been fun to pretend. The next level contained artwork, both sculptures and paintings, from many Ethiopian artists depicting the lifestyle, history, and religion of their homeland. From Orthodox impressions of the Trinity to reenactments of wars long ago, we got a taste of the creativity, passion, and focus of the Ethiopian people. The top floor was a ring of display cases that held artifacts from different tribes and peoples. There were cases on jewelry, religious pieces, clothes, and cookware. My four favorite ones though, were the farming equipment, the hunting implements, the armor and weaponry, and the musical instruments…
“…After a late afternoon lunch, we headed to what Befekadu called the ‘Lion Zoo’. We had no idea what to expect so when we got there and were standing just inches away from these incredible beasts, the kings of the jungle and their mates, we were blown away. With only a thin fence between us and them, we were about as close as one could get without being dinner. One was being riled up by a zookeeper (if you could call him that) and was roaring and jumping on the fence. Then it turned to walk away. Or so we thought. What takes place next is mildly disturbing. It lifted its tail and sprayed through the fence and onto Bethany and I a shower of urine! Now some of you may know Bethany’s history with birds and poop, but I had no idea that her bad fortune extended to lion pee! I got it on my waterproof jacket and Bethany got it in the face, so I guess I made out a little better than she did, but it was pee nonetheless.” (-Joshua Tuggle)
*I write today with my mind and heart back in Washington where two of my wonderful friends are marrying each other. This is the second of 2 much-anticipated weddings during my year in Ethiopia, and while I know the ceremony is only a single day in the life of their marriages, it is difficult not to be sharing in the days of these momentous occasions. So to those in attendance at Brian and Liz’s wedding, take a lot of pictures and give them plenty of hugs from me!
After the eventful Meskel (even Josh’s lengthy description can’t fully capture the experience so we’ll look forward to sharing pictures and video with you when we return!), National Museum, and Lion Zoo adventures, we went back to IEC last Sunday for church. After church, we stopped by the guesthouse we stayed in during our first 2 weeks here in Addis to say hello to Hannah and Tigest. We hadn’t seen them for 3 weeks so it was wonderful to visit and it was fun to reminisce about our first experiences in Ethiopia. As time passes and we realize we have friends worth visiting, we have come to feel more at home…Our time with Befekadu this weekend is another testimony to our growing relationships—The love I feel for and from these new and dear friends is truly remarkable and I am so grateful for their sweet presence in our lives. We look forward to Bef’s frequent visits (usually announced by the sputtering of his car’s engine) and cherish our new family here.
The short school week leading up to Meskel allowed us some opportunity to observe the English teachers and get a better idea of the teaching style and classroom dynamic. Still, this past school week we were supposed to continue observing, talking with the teachers, and coordinating/collaborating lesson plans with them. Woubeshet, one of the English teachers, however, was out all week due to bronchitis, so he asked us to fill in for him. Despite the last-minute’s notice and the lack of proper preparation, we began teaching grades 5, 6, and 7! Thanks to God the experience was not only enjoyable but also fruitful as the students seemed to respond and to engage in the classroom (and we seemed to hold our own as teachers of English). You will hear more about each of our personal teaching experiences in the months to come, but I have had such fun spending time with the 7th-graders in and out of the classroom. They have taken it upon themselves to teach me Amharic and I treasure all that I have to learn from them. We laugh together at my mistakes and mispronunciation—but hopefully my attempts to speak Amharic and risking mistakes will encourage them to continue to speak and to practice English, because many of them are afraid of speaking the language for fear of being laughed at.
So school has been a wonderful adventure this week, with a bit of team-teaching, some nerve-wracking first-time-teaching jitters, meaningful connections with the students, and the beautiful sense of accomplishment with making it through our first week. We also had the pleasure of 2 dinner engagements—1 with our family, where we enjoyed traditional Ethiopian fare (I’ve had to take it easy with the Ethiopian food since it made me so sick) and 1 with our friend, the branch manager at school, Gineti. We invited Gineti to our house for “American” food—fried rice and fruit salad. It’s funny how much pleasure we get from making and enjoying familiar foods with each other.
Earlier this week we happened to find tortilla chips! For those who know me and Bethany, you know that tortilla chips are one of our favorite snacks (and/or meal options). Josh and Sarah were excited about the find as well, so we whipped up some guacamole and savored the bag this week. What a treat! Other than a bag of tortilla chips, we also acquired some much-needed furniture. As some of you know, Josh has been building shelves for our rooms, and after much anticipation, the shelves came home on Thursday. No more living out of suitcases!! We are quite proud of his work (as is he) and are thrilled at how much more our house is becoming to feel like a home now that we can fully unpack. Strange how small things make such a big difference and bring us such pleasure!
Tonight Befekadu is coming over for dinner and then he is taking us to a concert of traditional Ethiopian music and dance—I can’t wait!! Most who know me know I love dancing—whether watching dance or dancing myself (not that I’m any good). So I have been looking forward to this. Some of the students have shown me Ethiopian dancing then have asked me to demonstrate “American” dancing. Oh goodness, I wouldn’t even know where to start…Ha! You can look forward to stories about tonight!
For the rest of today’s entry, I thought it would be fun to include a list of interesting facts about life here in Addis Ababa. The following may or may not surprise you, may or may not be interesting, but I hope it helps paint a better picture of what this place is like! In no particular order:
1. Foosball Tables: In the US we usually find these in homes or at arcades, but here in Addis, foosball tables often line the streets, where you can find anywhere from 5-35 men playing or watching an intense game.
2. Avocadoes: In the US, these rare treats are usually purchased for special occasions due to their price. Here in Addis, Avocadoes are 3 birr/kilo (roughly 35 cents/kilo), so we eat them like it’s our job. I’m hoping we get sick of them by the time we return; otherwise it will be a sad day when we have to pay $1 US for a single avocado…
3. Plastic/Foam Shoes: I’m pretty sure Crocs (the US shoe co.) got its idea from the ever-popular plastic shoes everyone wears here in Addis. We have yet to find out if the style changes during the dry season, but right now you can purchase assorted plastic sandals, clogs, shoes, short boots, tall boots…We have yet to see plastic pumps but I really wouldn’t be surprised.
4. US Musicians: If you ever want to remember what Britney was like pre-shaved head, come here to Addis. Posters of pre-teen Britney, 50-cent, and Eminem are plastered and sold everywhere.
5. Milk: Cow milk does not exist here in liquid form, so we have resorted to the popular-among-foreigners powdered milk, Nido. Made by Nestle, Bethany and I have gotten used to eating it with our bran flakes (easing up from a few tablespoons at a time to ¼ cup in our bowls) but haven’t ventured to drinking it by itself.
6. Animals: We’ve mentioned this, but the animals here are crazy! Herds (and the feces) of goats, sheep, oxen, and donkeys take over the streets and sidewalk. Just last week Bethany and Josh had to hop up on a railing to avoid being trampled by a bull and Sarah and I had to jump over a ditch to avoid 5 charging donkeys (which were delivering sand to a local construction site). Also, it is not uncommon to come across a tarp of sheep, goat, or chicken parts. A few days ago Alem came home with a sheep’s head in a plastic bag—for the dogs, she said. I told her she should slip it onto Befekadu’s plate.
7. Children: The children follow us wherever we go. They greet us in traditional Ethiopian fashion, shaking and kissing our hands and kissing our cheeks multiple times. And the kisses from the children are not your typical kisses—they press their often snotty faces quite hard into your cheek so that you feel the imprint for minutes afterwards. Then they often continue walking with us, hand-in-hand, before sending us off with many more hand-shakes and kisses. They are quite precious but can be overwhelming when you have 15 of them trying to kiss and touch you all at once!
8. Hand-Holding: Another Ethiopian custom is to be very affectionate with your close friends (male/male, female/female). You will often see women with their arms around each other or holding hands—or men with their arms around each other or holding hands. Josh has made a few friends whose relationship has escalated to hand-holding—even interlocking fingers. A new experience for him (and for Bethany to see!) this custom is tribute to the love the Ethiopian people have for each other and their desire to show it.
9. Hand-Shaking: Everyone here shakes everyone’s hand in greeting or in departing. If your hand is dirty or if you are sick, however, you should offer your wrist to be shaken. Ingenious!
10. Chat: While it’s not quite at the same level, the only thing I can compare “chat” to is marijuana. It’s a trance-inducing stimulant sold in many of the street shops. The other day a man asked me and Sarah if we’d like to enjoy some chat with him and we graciously declined. Popular among the Muslim population, most of the Christians here frown upon the use of chat.
11. Starbucks and 711?: We had to look twice when we first passed Kaldi’s Coffee. With a green circular design much like Starbucks’, similar menus, colors/atmosphere/uniforms, Kaldi’s has had pressure from Starbucks who has tried to press suit on the knockoff. We have yet to try the coffee (I’m hoping they have chai latte but am not counting on it…!) but we’ll let you know how it compares. In the meantime, Ethiopian coffee has been more than sufficient for the other 3 coffee drinkers. Also, the grocery store we frequent is named 711 with the same logo of the popular US convenience store/gas station. While the Ethiopian version offers a wide selection of products, it does not have slurpies.
12. Umbrellas: Umbrellas are used for protection against the heavy rain—and the sun! We’ve also noticed umbrella repair services…
13. Plastic Bags: If people don’t own umbrellas, to protect themselves from rain, they will use plastic bags to put on their heads. This is an extremely common practice, especially among women.
14. Shoe Shiners: Many boys and young men provide shoe-shining services which seem to take in a lot of business. Josh has taken advantage of this service (especially during the muddy rainy season) and was thrilled to find that they use the same kind of polish he uses in the States.
15. Favorite Food: In the US, pizza, pasta, ice cream are all common favorite foods. Here in Ethiopia, Doro Wat is the popular favorite—Chicken Wat (sauce). Chicken is more expensive than beef here so the people don’t get to eat chicken as often.
16. Toothbrushes: Many Ethiopians have bad teeth. We’ve seen toothbrushes sold, but many people cannot afford them. As a substitute, people often take a small stick, pick apart one end, and use it to “brush” their teeth and gums. Our beloved Mattewos chews on his stick every morning on his way to school.
17. Street Cleaners: Ethiopian style street cleaning consists of groups of 4-5 women wearing orange jumpsuits and broad-brimmed hats, armed with brooms/rakes and a wheelbarrow.
18. Hauling: Since most Ethiopians don’t own vehicles and can’t afford to rent a U-Haul (or the Ethiopian equivalent), we often see people carrying insane loads on their heads. A couple days ago we saw a man carrying two metal beds on his head—or another carrying about 5 mattresses. Josh saw a man carrying a box about 4 feet by 3 feet by 2 ft full of tomatoes. The man crossed the Ring Road (the busiest road) and climbed over the 3-ft tall median while balancing this thing on his head…Truck beds will be loaded 20-30 feet high with mattresses and/or boxes!
19. Police: The police dress in blue army fatigues and carry AK-47s at all times. Enough said.
20. Foreigners: Known as “firenjes,” we are called this countless times a day. “You! You! Firenje!” Some add, “How are you?” or “How do you find Ethiopia?” We have been told that most people don’t mean this as derogatory name-calling, but that they usually just want to talk with us.
21. Bathrooms: There is a sort of “natural toilet” here. Meaning, we rarely go a day without witnessing some unashamed man/men using this said natural toilet, which is conveniently located anywhere.
22. The Dump: Thank the Lord for the waste services in the US. The city dump is in the middle of Addis—the stench is horrid (especially on sunny days) and the scene kind of reminds me of the “elephant grave yard” on the Lion King, except with MOUNTAINS of bones. In place of hyenas, vultures. Hundreds and hundreds of vultures.
23. Scaffolding: There is a lot of construction going on in Addis; however, many are trying to pass a law against the form of scaffolding used. Currently, workers use sticks (perhaps not sticks, but definitely not logs or boards) bound together by rope to build elaborate scaffolding that miraculously holds up many people—most of the time. The city has had quite a number of accidents…Hopefully, the law will pass without cutting too many jobs (a large number of people are employed to make, distribute, and assemble these sticks).
There you have it. 23 interesting facts for you. I’m sure we’ll have more to come, but those are some of the most obvious and most common. I’ll sign off since this is a small-ish novel…So much to tell you all! We miss you and think of you often—and look forward to any and every update from home so keep them coming!
M (in association with J, S & B)
Pray for us: Health!! We continue to keep passing around sickness/cold (but at least it’s not the stomach thing…), energy, communication/collaboration with the teachers/administration, creativity, vision for our time here, for developing sustainable, purposeful programs.
Praise the Lord: We look forward to connecting with our friends from the States, Sinaid (serving in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps), and Lauren (also teaching English here in Addis)! For our new Ethiopian friends, a wonderful first week of teaching, our shelves, and simple pleasures.