Tuesday, June 12, 2012


The first thing we noticed getting off of the bus was the amount of stares we got. In the whole five minutes we waited for the local PCV to come collect us, the 11 of us has a crowd of maybe 30 Ethiopians staring at us. Mostly children, but a few adults too. They didn't do much but stare at us, blatantly so, until the PCV arrived and shooed them away.

It was something that happened a lot in Kimese. As a small town, they aren't use to firengi, or foreigners, (culutre note: the locals call themselves habasha, which translates to burnt face) and are prone to staring like moths attracted to a flame. They're just drawn to people who are different, and I don't know if they're actively aware of it because if you stare back they usually look abashed and turn away.

It's common for the kids to call out "You, you" or "China, China".  China has a huge influence over the area, and for some Ethiopian's they don't know there is a difference between Asians and Whites.  If one person who looks different is called on thing, others who are different will be called the same thing because they don't know any better. Similarly, calls of "money, money" were directed out way. It was hard to tell if they wanted some, or if that was the one English word that popped into their heads and they wanted our attention.

The second thing we noticed was if you pay attention to the kids, they're really sweet. They'll fist pump you, the girls will hold your hand as you walk. They love getting their picture taken! They also seem to be every where. Unlike my 'stay on the block' boundaries, these kids are allowed to wander the village and do as they please as long as their work gets done. You can't go anywhere without running into small packs of them.

You also can't avoid the animals. They, like the children, were set loose in the town to do as they please.  However, they have an immunity to cars. Sort of.  There's a rule here that if you hit and kill a useful animal - cow, goat, sheep, horse - you have to pay the owner to replace it.  If you hit anything else, including a person, the driver isn't held responsible. Cows will stand in the middle of street, not moving even as a car coming up honks it horn and has to swerve at the last minute. And goat could very well be sitting beside your gate as you leave the compound in the morning.

The best part of Kemise though was that we got to see a Muslim wedding.  They're usually private affairs, not many PCVs get to see one, but the PCV we visited lived with a landlord and it was his sister-in-law getting married so he extended her invitation to all of us.  I had expected one full day of partying, but it was broken down into three (all of which we participated).

Day one was the prep, though we missed the killing of the goat. Not that I'm too upset at missing it, but it seems like a cultural thing I'll have to witness sooner or later. Day two was a celebration by the bride's family only. We were feed and got involved in the dancing a little. It's really awkward dancing, involving only the shoulders. I kept wanting to used my hips or pop my chest at the same time, but that's not how it's done.  At least in this region, others have their own version of traditional dances.  The highlight of day two was when the groom and his friends show up, eat, and then take the bride off to the grooms home. (The word to marry in Amharic is apparently the same as to take). Come the third day, or rather third night, the bride and groom return and it's the bride's family's job to show the family of the groom a good time to symbolize that the marriage is to a good family.  This was the party I had been expecting! Dancing, food, it was all there.

Like the kids, adults seem obsessed with images. They had hired a camera man to film the entire weekend. We also seemed to be a popular form of entertainment, as we got filmed a lot.

I had a great weekend. It was nice to get out of the capital a bit and see what life will be like where we will be stationed (showers maybe twice a week, bathrooms a step below a latrine, and if you're lucky water access every day). An eye opener, and one I'm glad I had before I arrive on site.


Liwi said...

That sounds amazing, you've already experienced so much!!!! Can't wait to hear more!

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