i’m sitting in sishu with chelsea on a beautiful, sunny saint patrick’s day.
i have to imagine that it’s due to chelsea’s eager, friendly demeanor, and her gorgeous girl next door looks that we’ve spent the afternoon collecting random ethiopian escorts as we walked the streets of addis taking care of some errands.
through travels and troublemaking i’ve perfected that look that elizabeth gilbert wanted so badly to affect while she was eating, praying, and loving, that look that says “what’s the big deal? i’m supposed to be here”. consequently, when i walk the streets of addis, i don’t get bothered all that much.
that’s alright. it’s good to mingle with the locals once in a while.
but it’s hot today, we’ve been walking all over the city, we’ve had a number of locals decide that we ought to be best friends (including one that we finally shook to the departing words of “by some chance maybe we will meet again”, and by some chance, that fucker met us again like a half hour later), and for some reason, this morning we totally overplayed how much we had to get done, and thus did everything as though we were in the middle of some high concept kiefer sutherland cop show.
by lunch time, both of us were ready to take down a tall sparkling lemonade, a tofu burger with guacamole and fries, and maybe a nutella and strawberry filled crepe.
did i tell you sishu was awesome?
after a long morning of collecting (often annoying) habesha, and now sitting in a back room at sishu surrounded by the standard cast of assimilated locals and foreigners, chelsea and i couldn’t help but notice how adorable some of these families were. how much this was the kind of grown up life we could convince ourselves to partake in, if we were so inclined to participate in any kind of grown up life.
it’s no secret that some members of peace corps ethiopia seem to think that if jenny and i don’t have kids, we’re doing the world some kind of grave disservice. partly that’s because i don’t get all itchy when fleas or mosquitoes bite me (or when i crawl around in poison oak, but that’s another story), and fleas and mosquitoes are kind of a big deal out here. i have desirable genes. partly, though, i think it’s because the people that would love to see us have kids see families like the ones at sishu.
brilliant, charismatic kids who speak two, sometimes three languages fluently by the time they finish kindergarten. kids who have that all too rare beauty of cultural mutts that makes chelsea say things like “oh my god dave, look how pretty she is! is that what little chelsea and jabars will look like?!” kids who will get kafka (no, that’s not some phlemy disease that afflicts third world babies). kids who will never be disturbed by how many dead bodies BBC world news is reporting, never be fazed by the sight of squat toilets, pickpockets, impossibly disfigured beggars, or eating with their hands. kids who walk through life as though they’ve seen all the terrible the world has to offer, but keep on walking because they know there’s so much more amazing to see. kids who are more sophisticated than most adults, but still carefree enough to say shockingly adorable things like, “ok, well, when you guys are done with lunch, i’ll just be down at the castle playing princesses!”
sweet HMS Beagle, it was so adorable!
people who would love to see jenny and i have kids assume that we would have sishu kids. you know, kids like any one of us PCVs might have if and when we had kids.
you know why i still don’t think i could have kids?
because it’s still st patrick’s day, and chels and i have a date with some green beers…
between sishu and the beer garden chelsea and i picked up a bottle of supermint and yet another local escort.
this time it’s a kid, about the same age as the adorable princess from sishu, maybe six years old.
this kid is wearing clothes made more of dirt, grease, and disease than cloth and stitches. he followed us all the way to the beer garden begging for money, food, anything we wanted to give him. when an older beggar approached us, he snapped at him, defending his territory like a hungry dog, or some dickensian street urchin because, sadly and honestly, that’s what he was (a dickensian street urchin, not a dog).
you know what kids do when they see other kids? they want to go down to the castle and play princesses and stuff.
how could i raise a child that, in all likelihood, would grow up in a nice neighborhood in some international city like addis, go to the best school in the country, have saturday lunches at sishu, play princesses with the other lucky kids, then walk her home and force her to face a world where kids her age are wandering the streets begging for food, suffering all manner of festering illnesses and injuries, not going to school because the one or two birr a day they can panhandle is a big part of the family’s income, passing the dull moments yelling at ferenji because they can’t spare the socks to make a ragball to kick around?
i can’t imagine bringing a child into the world of the latter, but i can’t imagine bringing a child into a world other than the former.
unfortunately, when you run with my crowd, those worlds coexist inseparably.
sometimes one is just outside the front door of the other.
sometimes we have to admit that they are the same world.
no, i don’t think i could bring kids into that.
plus, i’m still making bad decisions like drinking george’s and supermint until chelsea and i turn ourselves green.
happy st paddy’s, everyone!
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stay tuned for our next episode:
two midgets in a dashiki.
reading assignment: between a rock and a hard place : aron ralston
never has such an otherwise amazing story been so often interrupted by references to phish and the string cheese incident. jesus h! still, it is an amazing story. it inspired the movie 127 hours, and tells the tale of a hiker in the utah desert who was trapped in a crevasse by a falling rock, and had to amputate his own arm to escape (no spoilers, come on, he’s right there on the cover with his new bionic hand).