a few vignettes and interesting prepositions about a day in the life of life as i know it. first up? gettin’ up.
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oh audrey i look like hell! i got bags under my eyes…. what’s that? well, if you were a man, i’d punch you. punch you right in the mouth. that’s bush!! bush league.!!! YOU HEAR ME? AUDREY! LOOK AT ME! …i’m sorry. i’m sorry. alright? — ron burgundy, anchorman
sleep doesn’t come easy out here.
first it was hyenas and church services on the loudspeaker.
then it was toucan saul, bad mattresses, and obnoxious kids.
then it was corn fed rats, holiday sheep, and the milk cow’s calf blues.
nowadays it’s my cat noci, and the accumulation of six months of malaria meds.
it seems like every morning i have to declare my surrender to some entity that can’t hear me, or simply can’t understand me…
alright! i’m up!
one bag dave has acquired a couple new bags under his eyes.
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a lesser cat, indeed.
if it’ll make you feel any better, i’ve learned that life is one crushing defeat after another until you just wish flanders was dead—homer simpson, the simpsons (homer and apu)
based on my own feelings for birke’s family, and stories of past attempts by masha PCVs to keep a mouser around, i won’t let the girls on my compound anywhere near noci until he is old enough to scratch out some eyes, or at least latch his little teeth onto a jugular.
but as spoiled little brats will do, they saw that i had something they wanted, and they cried to mommy until she gave in a bought them one.
and a sorrier excuse for a flea infested lesson to the kids about how everything dies i have never encountered in all my days.
they feed this guy injera with burberry (fermented wheat cakes with cayenne) then blame alex, who feeds him plain scrambled eggs, when he throws up in the middle of the night.
you can look at him from across the compound and see the fleas crawling all over him (no joke there, folks).
he is covered with poop and various other brownish crusty caked-on stains, and he makes the most blood curdling whine on repeat, all damn day.
he reminds me of the episode of the simpsons in which flanders gets a big new RV, and homer gets jealous, so he goes out and buys a rusty beat up piece of crap used RV and flaunts it all over the neighborhood until eventually it falls off a cliff.
and just what did they name this little runt?
it seems to be different everyday as the family tries to shed the ethiopian culture of not naming animals and embrace the american style, but at one point it got real sad as they named their generic dollar store cat koci, which only enforced the ethiopian culture of simply changing one letter of the american original. he’s the abibas of cats.
i have already taken the liberty of naming him myself.
when alex gave the poor little guy a bath and pulled him soggy and emaciated out of the bowl he looked and sounded like gollum crawling from the underground lake.
our precious! don’t takes us from our precious!
i’ve dubbed the little fleabag smigel.
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the zenith of tachawat.
i never joined the army because at ease was never that easy to me. seemed rather uptight still. i don’t relax by parting my legs slightly and putting my hands behind my back. that does not equal ease—mitch hedberg
with two cats, two baby cows, and five annoying little girls running around i’ve got to get out of the house if i want anything resembling peace and quiet around here.
luckily there is nothing if not a surplus of time in this country to do absolutely nothing. even when you are attempting to do something, everyone around you will attempt to drag you into their vacuum of nothingness. yet, while it seems to be of paramount importance in this culture to never get anything done, they are loathe to allow anyone to ever do nothing, even if what you are doing is nothing at all.
say you’re working at the office.
did you say it?
you didn’t actually say it, did you?
ok, seriously though.
you’re working at the office, and every thirty seconds your colleagues are interrupting you to say, tachawat!
you’re hanging out with friends and you haven’t contributed to the conversation in almost thirty seconds, the conversation is halted to demand that you… tachawat!
you’re at the bus station reading a book and waiting for the gore van to load up, and you haven’t looked up from your book for nearly thirty seconds. complete strangers will tap you on the shoulder and request that you… tachawat!
what does tachawat mean?
in english is doesn’t mean anything.
actually, directly translated, it means both “chat” and “play”.
but in proper context it means stop whatever you’re doing and focus all your energy on my needy social ineptitude.
we ferenji f—ing hate tachawat.
every time we hear the word tachawat, the next thing we’re bound to hear is “what is the word for tachawat in english?”
there isn’t a word for tachawat, in english.
oh, but they really would like to know.
so we fudge a little…
i don’t know, maybe relax, enjoy yourself, make yourself at home. it’s really just an awkward thing to say in engl—
they’ve already stopped listening… because now they know how to say tachawat in english!
from here on out this person won’t say tachawat, they will use some bastardized version of whatever they think they just heard you say.
all this explains why, when i was sitting on the bus to gore last week, some dill-hole habesha handed me a note, like this was junior high school, and it said “hello, dawitt. relax!”
i was half expecting to flip it over and read, “do you like like me? circle yes/no”.
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there has got to be a better way to say that.
i’m afraid that i just blue myself — tobias fünke, arrested development (the one where michael leaves)
my neighbor tiwolde pops his head into my window on his lunch break and with one hand thrusting his hips forward and the other flailing limply in the air, gesturing toward everything at once but nothing in particular, he lisps out “hey guys!”
i look around to make sure that he was the one in error when he pluralized “guy”.
yep, just me.
more vague gesturing, “are you ready to enjoy? come on, let us just enjoy each other.”
i don’t know what that means.
well, i do… it doesn’t mean anything.
i don’t know which ferenji told tiwolde that tachawat translated to “enjoy”, but that’s where he decided to stop listening.
it’s not helping his cause that he seems to be a real life tobias fünke joke (if you don’t get that reference, do yourself a favor and youTube tobias funke, please).
i’m squinting confusedly at tiwolde across from me at the restaurant, not just because the power is out, but because he’s so deep in the closet that i can barely see him.
he’s taking a picture of me with his cel phone’s love scanner app. the verdict is “emotional match, but just friends”. he scrolls through the other boy…friends he has “scanned” and takes particular joy in one that was assessed as “hit the bedroom, hot stuff. this tiger is ready to pounce!”
my meds are screwing with my stomach, so i’m sticking to dabo for lunch.
[note to the reader: dabo means bread, but is also used as slang for vagina. read on…]
tiwolde looks at me and asks if i like dabo.
what a pointless question, and yes i do.
are you sure?
i’m twenty-nine years old, tiwolde. if i didn’t like dabo, i think i’d know by now, and we’re still talking about bread right?
then he shows me his guess the flag app.
wait, you did say guess the flag, right, tiwolde?
the next day, i come home to find tiwolde sitting on the porch reading.
hey man, whatcha reading’?
it’s about bee keeping.
he turns the cover so i can read the title…
oh, come on, tiwolde!
this is too easy.
all the way out.
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i don’t want to say that’s gay, but only because that would be illegal.
bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date saturday night—woody allen
tiwolde is the embodiment of ethiopia’s sexual confusion.
of course, officially speaking there is no confusion.
if it was possible for a person to be gay, it would be illegal. Fortunately for ethiopia’s fast and fabulous, it’s not possible for a person to be gay in ethiopia, because gay doesn’t exist in ethiopia.
…ok, so there’s a little confusion.
let’s start the confusion with the fact that it’s common behavior between men (even between two men who have just met each other) to publicly engage in first, second, or even third base.
shall we up the confusion with the fact that it’s perfectly acceptable for frustrated men to “help each other out” (if you know what i mean) so long as it’s done to avoid that sexual frustration leading the individual to participate in any “gay stuff”.
here’s a curve ball for ya: officially speaking, two women can’t rent a double room at a hotel because they might dyke up the bed linens. two men can rent a single, however. no worries there.
let’s go one further and throw back to the incident in desi that sent jill and andy home. it’s totally acceptable for five dudes to attempt to gang rape someone, so long as they think it’s a woman, but if it happens to be a man wearing a woman’s shawl, then it’s the victim’s fault entirely.
two men kissing on the mouth and groping each other’s asses in public: totally platonic.
two men giving each other handies in the busstation bathroom to help each other avoid the temptations of homosexual behavior: totally logical.
two women sleeping in separate beds: affront to god!
two dudes spooning in a twinsize: it’s casual, baby.
five guys forcing themselves upon one woman: no big deal.
one married, heterosexual guy dressed in drag for halloween: deport the heathen bastard and everyone he’s associated with!
am i confused?
no. I get it. but ethiopia is all ass backwards on the subject.
am i frustrated?
morally, ethically yes. but ethiopia’s sexual frustration is the real issue here, and that’s something that can’t be cranked out in a busstation bathroom.
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nobody puts baby in the… horn of africa?
good looking people turn me off. myself included–patrick swayze
while the secret confusion in ethiopia may be it’s sexual identity, the blatant confusion is it’s ethnic identity.
as a white american, nearly every conversation will eventually turn to how people want to be more like me.
even with my new grunge flannel alt-rock hair cut i have people telling me they want to have hair like mine.
an ethiopian would look just as ridiculous with my ryu from street fighter coiffure, as i would look with a high-top fade, dreads, or corn rows.
i can prove it, too, because yesterday i attended the sheka cultural exhibition and got to finally see what a traditional southern ethiopian tribal hat looked like…
it looks like a patrick swayze wig.
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can’t we just say, “hey, the door’s open. we’ll take whoever you got.” do we have to specify “the wretched refuse?” why not just say, “give us the unhappy, the sad, the slow, the ugly, the people that can’t drive, people that have trouble merging, if they can’t stay in their lane, if they don’t signal, they can’t parallel park, if they’re sneezing, if they’re stuffed up, if they have bad penmanship, if they don’t return calls, if they have dandruff, food between their teeth, if they have bad credit, if they have no credit, missed a spot shaving… in other words, any dysfunctional, defective slob that you can somehow cattle prod onto a wagon, send them over. we want them—jerry seinfeld
once we extinguish the “i want to be white” conversation, the topic will soon move on to “i want to move to america”.
i always try to parry with, do you travel much in ethiopia?
no. i hate ethiopia, it is corrupt, and poor, and life is very difficult, i wish to go to america.
well, you’re in for a big surprise, kiddo.
i try to express my eagerness to travel around ethiopia, and my disappointment with the many intruiging areas of the country that are off limits to PCVs. the famous walled city of harar, the boiling salt flats of the danakil depression, the wild jungles of gambela, the rasta mecca of shashamene, the tribal villages at the kenyan border, the entire countries of eritrea, somalia, and djibouti (though we can still go to the awesomely named funyan bira. i love funyans and bira), and most recently the lake side oasis of arba minch (the US military is now using arba minch as a base of operations to launch drone missile strikes on the al shabaab occupied somali capital. betcha didn’t know we were at war with somalia :) ), but to no avail.
ethiopians are so proud of their heritage and culture that they hate it here, and they want tickets on the first lil’ wayne nike just do it american airlines hamburger hotdog superbowl party plane to anytown, USA (or do they?).
i parry again with, do you ever think about traveling to other african countries?
in the words of tiwolde fünke, no, they are too black. they are godless. anyway their god is not a good god. they would not think twice about killing me.
while i reel from this counterblow, they wrest the conversation back to their own ends.
how is it possible for me to go to america?
save some money, and buy a plane ticket.
no. what else ya got?
well, i’ve only got the one bag, so i don’t think you’ll fit in my luggage.
on again, off again.
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the lost art of palm greasing.
free cable is the ultimate aphrodisiac—chip douglas, the cable guy
i get home hoping to relax and get a little writing done, only to find out that the power is still out.
it’s been over 48 hours.
when i found out why it’s out, i gave in to the idea that it could well be out forever.
the owner of the restaurant where tiwolde and i had lunch tried to bootleg cable by hooking an exposed wire from the RCA jacks on his TV to the power lines.
he blew out the transformer, and with it the whole grid.
the power will return when the city convinces this idiot that he should pay for the repairs.
what ever happened to slipping the comcast guy a fifty?
under the radar.
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maybe they’re vampires!
i have never met a vampire personally, but i don’t know what might happen tomorrow—bela lugosi
alex and i stepped out for a walk to kill the blackout boredom.
as we walked past the bank i spotted something very white…
it was another ferenji.
now, people don’t just hang out at the masha branch of commercial bank for fun. this guy must have had business here… and that meant…
the romanian missionaries we ordered had finally arrived!
or, more accurately, had finally arrived three months ago…
they have been hiding out in the church at the top of the hill this whole time, and no one had seen pale hide, nor platinum hair of them.
this changes the face of masha, completely!
as excited as we were to finally meet petru (the patron of the family), he seemed equally relieved to discover that there were other ferenji in masha.
yes, petru, at long last you know why everyone is calling you mickey, alex, and dawitt!
we parted ways in awe that this family could have eluded us for so long.
in the dark of night their fair to invisible complexion probably glows from the top of the hill like some heavenly aura.
in light of this long day of convincing people that being white isn’t anything special, and then feeling like meeting another white person was the best thing to happen to masha since sliced dabo (actually they don’t have that out here, yet, but you understand), i did what any self-respecting caucasian would do…
i ordered some shorts from the town tailor so i can get a little color on my pasty gams.
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stay tuned for our next episode:
now take off your big boy pants and run!
watch it, buster: arrested development : any episode, any season.
this is the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. this is arrested development.