Shifting the Burden of Shame: Justice for Survivors of Sexual Violence in the DRC (via ICMHD)

Shifting the Burden of Shame: Justice for Survivors of Sexual Violence in the DRC "If they hadn't arrested me I wouldn't have known it was a crime” ~Chance, a soldier in the DRC currently serving a 25 year sentence for rape “I was hospitalized at the health centre. I was receiving an IV infusion one night when the soldiers came to pillage. They pulled out the IV catheters and then they started to rape the patients, including myself. By July, I had not had my period for seven months. I gave birth to twins. As a result of this i … Read More



I’ve moved

Link to my other, far more active, blog….

I now live in a place that looks mostly like the photos shown below. It’s slightly different than Ethiopia. Slightly.

Back in the States, but I have photos!

Okay, so I don’t know if anyone is still reading this. I have about 2 weeks worth of posts that still need to be looked over, and that may or may not ever get posted…. To make up for this, I plan to finally put up some of the photos I couldn’t upload via Ethiopia’s internet. Hopefully someone looks at them and finds them interesting. This first set is from my trip to Arba Minch. I have like 1000 more where these came from…

Day 54

23 August/Day 54

Today isn’t really worth mentioning. I spent the day bored out of my mind. All prior plans with Habtamu were off (despite the fact that I woke up early so that I could do them), because he wasn’t able to meet up. I mostly think he was hung over. He sounded terrible on the phone when I finally talked to him, and his text messages didn’t make any sense.

So mostly, I just spent most of my day relaxing, and craving trash food. It’s like a disease and I just can’t stop. For instance, I currently would really love some Doritos. I also want pizza, chocolate covered gummy bears, a veggie burrito, sushi, x-chic’s…. Sigh. I think that knowing I’m going home soon is causing me to crave all this stuff. I didn’t really miss food before the last few days, besides the rare twinge now and then. I think I may spend my first couple of days in New Orleans in a state of acclimation, whereby I will be eating everything in sight. I hope that this is okay with everyone.

So, while I spent all day bored, and not really doing anything, once I woke up, I was awake. This means that I really didn’t get enough sleep. Or maybe not good enough sleep. I’ve really wanted to write all sorts of stories and random things all day, but my eyes hurt for some reason and I can’t get them to stop. It makes writing a horrible thing. Blah. This is all you’re going to get.


What I learned today:

  1. TV shows repeat themselves far too often here
  2. Gay is apparently a profane word in the Muslim world (not really that surprisingly), as it is bleeped out (mildly more surprising) on all the Arabic broadcast, English language stations that we get here.
  3. No matter how hard the staff here tries to make the BBC work in my room, it never will. Sigh.

Day 53

22 August/Day 53

            Why do the maids insist on knocking on my door even earlier on the weekends? Is it not normal for people to sleep in later when they don’t have to go to work (its not like I wake up that late, even on the weekends. Especially this weekend. I am supposed to be meeting Habtamu at 9…)? And furthermore, why do they knock again when they know that I’ve not left the room yet? Grrr. I’m glad they want to clean so badly, but it’s not as though I make a mess of things anyway. Sigh… Annoying morning thus far.

I met up with Habtamu around 9 though, and we went to an amazing café around the corner from my hotel. They have delicious delicious juices there, and I got a fresh squeezed layered mixture of mango, strawberry, and pear. Who knew they grew pears in Ethiopia? Habtamu had spoken with Mengistab (a co-worker, who’s very nice) the day before about going to Harar. He said that he and one of his friends we’re planning on going to Haremaya University anyway for lunch. Haremaya University is only about 20 km from Harar. So we made plans to go with them, and then afterwards we’d go into Harar, because they were taking Yared (the driver) to get to the university.

It took longer than originally thought to get the day started, because Yared was busy with Lusaget in the morning later than he’d planned to be. Me and Habtamu met up with the others who were already indulging in their first beers of the day. I stuck to water myself. While waiting though, I did get to look around at a few shops that sold traditional crafts.

Finally Yared came, and we were off. We took the long, winding road up into the hills, and I enjoyed the lively conversation and spectacular view. I was given the history along the way of many different lakes which have since dried up. Basically these lakes are/were the only real water source for Harar, but because of increased agriculture, and population of the area, they were over-used. Only 1 or 2 still have any water in them. The rest are just these green depressed spots in the land. I asked lots of questions about where people were getting their water from now. Apparently, this was quite a crisis for awhile, but now water is piped in from Dire Dawa.

When we got to the university, I was super impressed. I was told (whether it is actually true or not, I have no idea) that Americans built the university, and modelled it after a university in the US. I’m not sure which university that may have been, but the whole compound that it sat on was beautiful nonetheless. Also, it was constructed during Haile Sallasi’s rule. He apparently built quite a few different universities. Up in the mountains, as we were, the air was crisp, cool, and smelled deliciously clean. I loved it.

Today was the official day for the breaking of the fast for those of orthodox Christian persuasion, and so everybody was all about consuming meat, and there was celebrating everywhere. I was told it was a mini holiday, as Ethiopians do love their meat. Even as we walked down the steps to the restaurant, we were stopped by traditional Tigray dancers, dressed and singing for the occasion.

I knew before I even got to the restaurant that today I would have no choice about eating meat. I’d been enjoying the fasting period, because even those who don’t keep the fast (i.e. my friends), meat is scarce, because most people do. I’d been enjoying a wide variety of veggie foods that I didn’t want to end. Oh well, when in Rome… Acutally, that’s not true. I did not consume the same foods as everyone else. Apparently it is quite normal to eat raw meat here. I mean, I already knew that kitfo (a raw, seasoned, mince-meat) is a common dish, and I even tried the raw version once, while in Arba Minch, but I guess I didn’t fully realise the extent of the raw-ness.

Having been forewarned about the foods that would be ordered for lunch, I declared that I would not be eating it myself, but would photograph the occasion. So they also ordered some Tibbs for me. This is, as I’ve probably already explained at some point, fried goats meat (probably the most eaten meat here). I acquiesced to the carnivores, and ate it. I actually do like tibbs, and this particular restaurant prepared it well, although there was a difference in the manner it was served that I hadn’t seen before. They served it with fried fat pieces. I declared I would only eat what was termed ‘the red meat.’ I can only be so Ethiopian with my eating habits. I really couldn’t manage the pure fat. The raw dish arrived soon after we had dug into the tibbs. And when I say ‘raw dish,’ I mean exactly that. They were given a plate full of huge slabs of completely uncooked and unseasoned beef, as well as slabs of raw fat. I was told that the fat was from the hump that the cows here have distal from the neck. Yum. They ate their meal by cutting off slices and dipping it into the bowls of pepper sauce that were provided. Sometimes they also ate it with bread or injera. Yeah, I was definitely not going to try it. I was impressed with the amount that they consumed though, and took both before and after photos. They were amazed to learn that other cultures also ate raw meat (I referenced both the Japanese and French as examples), and seemed unsurprised that I also made it a rule to consume these dishes. We also talked about typical types of meat in different areas, and they seemed flabbergasted that it is uncommon to eat goat, for example, in the U.S. They also didn’t understand why anyone would want to eat tofu. It was an amusing conversation, especially as I was mostly trying to distract myself as they consumed the raw fat. I might admit that it freaked me out slightly.

After lunch we had planned to see the leopards that were apparently there, but as it was already 1 pm and people (notably my good friend Habtamu) were starting to get the chat shakes, I was forced to forgo this experience in order to take care of their addiction. I should mention, that while it appears to me that the day for chat is actually every single day in this part of Ethiopia, I have been assured many times that the day for chat is actually on Saturday. It is customary to have lunch and then indulge in chewing chat with friends for the rest of the day, and then go out at night. Why this is different from every other day of the week, I am unsure, but people get more than a little upset if they miss out on their fix.

Anyway, we all piled back into the truck and headed out towards Harar. I may have mentioned before that the town for buying the best chat (in all of Ethiopia, and therefore the world), is on the way to Harar. The town is called Aweday, and they apparently make millions of birr each day there, and therefore the taxes from this town alone end up making a huge contribution to the federal governement’s expenses. So we stopped there, and I was amused by the nogotiations that began to take place. Basically all we had to do was stop the car on the side of the main road that ran through the town, and roll down the windows. Women selling chat started running up to us from every side and shoving their wares through the windows. It was mostly hilarious. Negotiations then ensued, and finally they bought a bundle. It appeared like a mass amount to me, and apparently, not only was it the top quality, but it was sold to them for half the price it would be in Dire. I took photos as best I could during the madness, in hopes of documenting the process.

As we started off again, Habtamu started nibbling at the leaves, as we were clearly taking far too long to get to a chat house, for proper chewing sessions. I immediately started making fun of him. We reached the outskirts of Harar, and stopped at a hotel. In this country many hotels, as well as other establishments, tend to have rooms reserved solely for the consumption of chat. You basically rent them for the afternoon (or night, if that is your persuasion) in order to have the chat there. You usually get drinks (coca-cola or water) with the room, so that you can drink while chewing and not get dry mouth. In many places, you can also pay for a hookah, and smoke shisha while there. The rent of the space is also different depending on how you want to rent it. You can either pay per head, or per room. If you pay per head, it is cheaper, but it means that others (strangers, generally) can come in and share the room with you. If you pay per room it is expensive, but the space will be private. In the case of this particular hotel, the space ended up being deemed too expensive, so we ended up going to the house of one of Mengistab’s friends after about 5 minutes in the place. It was a complicated process, all of which I found amazingly amusing.

When we got to the friend’s house, at the back of a hotel, there were many people there other than just the family. I sat with all the men in the main room. The women all sat together in an adjoining room. The first thing that happened there was that I was proudly shown some English pence that they had been given. Why this was shown to me, I am unclear, especially as they all tried to tell Habtamu that I was clearly Italian (they apparently have some Italian relatives from when Italians occupied the country, and I looked like them). It was funny, but since I had some Euro cents in my bag, I gave them some to add to their collection. I also made good friends with one of the children there. She was probably about 5 or 6, and was apparently in awe of my presence. She had only met a few other farenge before, and she liked to stare at me whenever she thought I wasn’t looking. She was quite adorable and so I played random games with her, while she chatted non-stop at me in Amharic. I clearly had little to no idea what she was saying, but we talked a lot anyway. All the adults in the room thought this was hilarious. It was good for me though, because the conversation around me was mostly in Amharic, so it gave me something to do, and I had fun playing with her. Sometimes I’d be told something to say in response, and she was always delighted by this. The most memorable moments of this came when she kept insisting on telling me ‘secrets’ in my ear. I have no idea what she said but it was adorable. She was hoping I would have a slumber party at her house. I was sorry to let her down.

We left the house later than was planned, because of the chat session, and met back up with Yared. The plan from here was to see some of the city, including the 5 historical gates, and when the sun went down we would feed the hyenas. We had already had to rule out the market because of the hour. We went to pick up Mengistab’s friend, who had left a bit earlier to go to the Harari beer brewery because he works part time as a rep for them. Yared told us on the way that we had to leave the city before it got dark. This was news to us. Apparently he had some prior commitment that he had forgotten to tell us about and wouldn’t stay in the city much longer. We were all disappointed by this news. I did get to see a few of the gates, from the truck, before we left, but it wasn’t the tour I had been hoping for. I’m quite sad that I won’t get to really see the city before my departure, even if I did pass an enjoyable day in a new friend’s house.

The road back was long, and Yared’s careful driving meant that we took the sharp turns slow. I was alternately happy at his cautiousness, and ready to get out of the car. I started to feel a bit ill because I hadn’t eaten in awhile, and despite the probable cleanliness of my travelling companions, sharing a car with 4 good sized men after a hot day in the city, doesn’t make anyone smell their best. I think I was feeling a little claustrophobic towards the end of the drive back.

The drive was mostly in companionable silence, with quick bursts of conversation. It was mostly in Amharic, so I contented myself with daydreaming. I thought most about the things I would have to do in New Orleans before leaving for Switzerland, and what I’d do when I got there. The thoughts alone of the tasks I would soon face were enough to make me tired. I also spent some time reflecting on my experiences here. I realised that despite all the frustrations and difficulties, I was really liking the country. This was especially true after I gave up on my Bulletin project. I’m glad I’m finally truly just enjoying myself, but sad that it will be over so soon.

I was relieved when we finally arrived in Dire. I think Habtamu was too, as he said that he wasn’t feeling well for most of the journey back. Yared dropped us all off at a restaurant, not too far from my hotel, and left us for his other obligations. This restaurant, which I believe is also a hotel, served the food with their own little fire pits. Basically, after you order, the waiters bring around these cast iron things that have burning coals in the bottom with a sort of pot thing over it, which contains your food. They had ordered tibbs, which I wasn’t super excited about due to the fact that I felt as though I’d already consumed far too much meat for one day, but tonight was a celebration. Plus they ordered without my knowledge, so it’s not like I could argue, and it was better than raw meat.

When the food came, it smelled delicious, and tasted even better. Despite wishing for a veggie option, I was impressed by the taste. It was definitely the best tibbs I had had in Ethiopia, and I was hungry anyway. I ate a lot, and my stomach would probably exact its punishment on me later. Oh well.

After supper, I went back to mine for a bit of a rest, despite the fact that we already had plans to go out later. The food had restored me, but it was still too early to go out, and I welcomed a rest. Plus, I was carrying too many things with me, and it wouldn’t be fun to do that out. I had planned to do some writing at the hotel before Habtamu called me to head back out, but I was tired enough that I basically just laid on my bed and stared blankly at the television. I have no idea what I watched.

I was mostly hoping that Habtamu would call me and tell me that since he was tired and had not been feeling well, that he just wanted to stay in for the night. He called me, but it was just to meet him down the road at Bistro. He was already there. I almost thought about just telling him I was staying in, but I knew that it was likely my last weekend in the city, and as I had spent the weekend before laying in bed, and wishing my stomach would stop trying to turn itself out, I knew I’d kick myself later if I didn’t go.

I met Habtamu and one of his long time friends he’d grown up with in Jigjiga. His friend still lived there most of the week, as it was more profitable for him in his profession as a driver, but came back every weekend because his wife and son lived in Dire. He was a fun addition to our little group, and we went to a few different places with him. Eventually he said that his wife was calling him to go home, so he left. Me and Habtamu decided to head on to Mer Maid, because it was supposed to be a good night there.

Mer Maid was packed when we arrived. There were people spilling out the doors, but no one seemed bothered. Habtamu recognised a few of Musfen’s friends (who unfortunately couldn’t come out because of other obligations) outside the door. They were nice, but clearly extremely drunk. I didn’t know how I felt about them. We went in, and got a beer, and headed towards the dance floor. We ran into Musfen’s friends again, and we all hung out in a group there. The music was good, but I couldn’t get quite comfortable. I was the only farenge there in a dance floor mostly packed with unfamiliar men, who liked to stare at me. Habtamu and a few of the guys we were with (who’s names I never really caught, despite introductions) tried to sort of pen me in against the back wall so we could all dance without having problems, but that didn’t really help because Musfen’s friends stared at me in the way that I hated as well. I shot them a lot of glares and probably said a few things I shouldn’t have, but I can’t help it, it’s my nature. Eventually we left the place. Habtamu said we should go somewhere where it’d be more comfortable to dance.

We ended up at Desire, which was a little better. Habtamu was still drinking but I had stopped awhile before, contenting myself with water. The dance floor here was still packed, but it was a better mix of guys and girls, and there were also a number of farenge guys there. I still eventually had to be fenced in a corner in order to dance without incident, and was not happy that Musfen’s friends had ended up back next to us. I’m sure that they were nice guys, but once again, leering= super annoying. At least this time they seemed to at least get the hint a little bit, and were more friendly seeming. Well, it was either that, or they were just too drunk to leer. I’m not going to bet on which one I thought it was.

Eventually, Habtamu and me had to go outside for air if we ever wanted to breathe again. The walls had literally begun sweating inside, and I was pretty sure a long, long shower would be in order before I made it to my bed. Outside, there were some farenge guys who had been staring at me in the club. I was not really interested in meeting them, as it appeared that they were exactly the type of farenge guys I really hate. You know, the ones who use being in a foreign country to exploit all the young girls that were currently falling all over them. Gross. A couple of them eventually came over to us. It turns out that most of them were American (one was American/Costa Rican). The two that came over surprised me by ending up being cooler than I expected, so we had a quick chat, and talked about meeting up another time.

Soon after, it was time to go home. It was late and all the driving around had us both quite tired. We walked back towards our houses, commenting on the fact that it had been a good morning, a good afternoon, and a good night. It was a great way to spend what will probably be my last weekend in the city.


Things I learned today:

  1. I guess I just never really fully thought this through before- Here, hotels are some of the social hotspots of the city. You go to them for drinks, meals, to watch sport, and even sometimes for dancing.
  2. Maybe feeding the hyenas was just not meant to be. Doesn’t mean I won’t try again next time I’m here!
  3. On a Saturday night in Dire, Desire is the least leer-y of all the dance clubs.

Day 52

21 August/Day 52

Today was Friday. This means that people on work half a day. It also means I didn’t work at all. Well, not on purpose, and not really. Basically there just wasn’t much for me to do, so I got some emails out, and went through the info that Lusaget had given me for the classes on Monday. It was all in all an oh so exciting morning.

At lunch, I went to Habtamu’s with Musfen. We had a delicious lunch, and then headed quickly over to Musfen’s. It somehow sort of became  party situation over there. When we arrived, Raphael was already waiting for us, and soon after our arrival, Haptamu’s brother, Soloman, Yonas, and another friend of Musfen’s showed up. Me Habtamu and his brother had a Deposit tournament. It was an enjoyable afternoon, and as I walked back to the hotel after supper to drop off my bag, I watched the birds circle outside. I don’t know what kind of birds they are (they are black), but they circle the skies in seemingly growing numbers, every day at dusk. I think they’re originating out of this one adobe-like building that I can see situated in the hills above the city. I watch the birds often from my tiny little balcony outside my hotel room. I usually sit down so no one outside can see me. In this manner, I have my own little world, designed just for me and the birds. They remind me of the swallows that come out of some chimney in this school in Portland. People show up every evening to sit on this hill next to the school and watch during the time of the year that they do that. I like the birds here. It relaxes me to watch them, and reminds me of good memories of years passed.

I went back to Musfen’s after stopping at the hotel in order to meet up with everyone. He was eating leftovers from lunch, and insisted that I eat. The three guys I hang out with almost everyday: Musfen, Habtamu, and Suraphael, are sort of like surrogate parents in the way that they care for me. They are forever telling me to eat, and making sure that I am thoroughly fed, watered, and generally taken care of. I sort of love them for it. So Musfen made me eat, even though I was nowhere near hungry at that point. In fact, he did the traditional feeding me thing because he didn’t feel like I was eating enough.

Here, it is a sign of respect to feed people from your own hand. This means that you wrap up whatever wat or meat with the injera and actually stick the food into someone else’s mouth. It is traditional that you do this exactly 3 times. I’m not sure why. I sort of hate it when people do this. I always accept, of course, but I have a hard enough times eating with my hands (although to be fair, I’m actually quite used to it at this point), and it’s hard to think I should eat out of someone else’s. Musfen was so sincere and so motherly when he fed me though, that not only did I of course graciously accept, but it made me laugh at his concern. I’m going to miss my friends here, that’s for sure.

After eating, it was time to go out, even though it was relatively early for such things. Musfen was going to come, but then had to meet with someone. He said he’d try to catch up with us later. So, it ended up being just me and Habtamu out on the town. I like going out with him, because he’s generally a relaxing person to be around, and he always shows me somewhere new. Tonight we started at the Bridge bar. Bridge is part of a hotel that is on the way to the Sabian area. It is actually on a bridge. I hadn’t been there before, and it was a really nice place. We went from there onto a few other places. I’ve never really understood why we constantly have to move from bar to bar, even when we’re enjoying the one we’re at. I’m not super against it though. The movement allows me to see more of the city.

Surraphael met us at this really awesome rooftop place in another hotel. He doesn’t really drink, so he doesn’t like to stay out for too long. It was good to see him even for a short time though, especially since he’s been so busy lately with the political meetings he’s been in. We all sat around and chatted for awhile, until Raphael needed to go home, it became clear that Habtamu’s friends who were supposed to meet us weren’t coming, and we decided it was time to move on.

At this point, I really was ready to be done with the whole being out and drinking thing, but decided that I should enjoy my last weekend here and to stop being such a baby. Also, I was plied with whiskey. Habtamu knows me well. Evenutually we ended up at the Mer Maid nightclub. I had been wanting to go there forever because of the cool looking paintings on the outside of the walls there. It was a fun place, although because it was a Friday and still relatively early, there weren’t too many people there. There was this really comedy girl dancing there. She was wearing this lycra two piece body suit thing and dancing around, handing off various guys. She had this amazing floor move (which she probably learned watching American films that have stripper scenes), where she sort of spread her legs, and did some sort of weird dip onto the floor that was vaguely reminiscent of ‘the worm.’ All in all, she only managed it very awkwardly, and with jerky movements. I’m not sure if this was because she was drunk, or just not good at it, but me and Habtamu broke out in fits of giggles every time she did it. Hebtamu kept saying, ‘she’s not going home alone tonight.’ I thought this was hilarious, and told him that not only would she likely not being going home alone, but she might be going home with multiple guys. After awhile, I got annoyed with the attention that I was receiving there. Me and Habtamu had danced around a bit, but the way I get looked at makes me really uncomfortable, so I stopped. This was probably due to the fact that I was the only farenge there, and the club was not full, but still…

After the Mer Maid, I got dragged to one last place, but it was next to the hotel and we didn’t stay long. I didn’t want to drink anymore, and I was getting tired. Plus, we had decided that we would go to Harar tomorrow, so I wanted to be awake and alert for that. I should mention that we started drinking at like 7. I was back at like 11:30. What’s happened to me that I think 11:30 is late? I must really be getting old…

When I got back to my hotel, I was surprised to find people sleeping in cots in the corridors next to my room. I’d returned back later than this before, but had never seen people sleeping in the hallways, so I was a bit surprised by this. It was clearly the maids that were sleeping there. I wondered if they did this because a.) they have to start working so early in the morning, b.) they don’t have their own home and in fact live here, or c.) they are the night staff. I’m betting on a or b.

Today was a good day, I can’t wait for tomorrow. I feel like I really don’t have enough time left. I haven’t seen enough of this city, and I still haven’t really seen Harar. I also haven’t taken nearly enough photos here. I took some photos tonight, and I’m hoping to continue to remedy this situation starting tomorrow.


Things I learned today:

1. I don’t have enough time left to possibly see everything.

2. I’m really going to miss everyone here. I’ve realised that I finally feel quite comfortable in Dire (especially after letting go of my failing project), and it’ll be sad to leave.

3. This may be too much information, but I really avoid pooping in latrines at all costs. Even though I am quite comfortable with the use of latrines, going number 2 is just sort of awkward, and weird. Plus I always forget to bring toilet paper with me, and as it is quite the commodity here, I don’t’ like to ask for a lot of it. I often have to think up excuses to return to my hotel room, because it has the nicest toilets I’ve seen in this city.

4. People here are sort of obsessed with the idea of latino things. I’ve promised a samba lesson and a brazilian food night before I go. How am I going to pull that together?

5. I looked like an alien in the photos I took tonight.

6. I was told today that I looked much younger in my photos from my recent trip to Europe. That made me feel bad, although I think it’s likely due to the fact that I didn’t look like a concentration camp victim when I was in Europe. Sigh…

Day 51

20 August/Day 51

            Fifty one days in Ethiopia. That just sounds crazy to me. I feel alternatively like I’ve been here forever and forever, and like I just arrived. Although I guess when you look at it and say well, I’ve only been here for like 2 months, it doesn’t sound nearly as impressive. I guess it’s really the perspective that you look at it with.

So, in an attempt to resurrect my former blogging glory, I am once again sitting at my computer, getting ready to recount the amazingly fabulous exploits of my life in Ethiopia. For instance, today, in fact, has started reasonably well, if not at all productive in the work sense. It is like 10 am and I am sitting at some random person’s desk in the only office in the health bureau that appears to be open and unlocked. There is one other person in here with me. I’ve met him before, briefly (on one of my whirlwind introduction tours), but I’ve forgotten his name or what his job is. As far as I can tell, he spends his work days sitting at his laptop and singing along to Ethiopian music. I mean, if today is any indication of other work days. He doesn’t even have some sort of document open on his desktop in order to make it look as though he’s actually doing something work-related. I admire this rebellious, anti-establishment, not going against his principles, type of mentality that he’s portraying (although in reality, I doubt that this manner or thinking has ever crossed his mind). Then again, I’m spending my work time writing a blog entry, so it’s not like I’m actually judging.

The office is nice today. We have power, and the windows are open, letting a refreshing breeze flow through. I have also officially decided I’m giving up on working on this god forsaken bulletin, so a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It feels fabulous! Basically, yesterday evening I made run for the hotel from Habtamu’s during a break in what was a spectacular display of lighting, thunder, and monsoon-style rains, in order to talk to people in the office back in New Orleans via skype. I’ve been super stressed and worried that people were going to be upset at me when I returned to the U.S., not actually having completed anything in Ethiopia. I also had to talk to them about my return date. Basically, I was told that no one’s upset, that they will find something for me to complete for my practicum when I get back, that it sounds like the work set-up/situation was a nightmare and it was not my fault that everything just didn’t work out, and that I should just return as scheduled (I think that would mean leaving here on the 30th?). Imagine here, if you will, that my shoulders have heaved a huge sigh of relief, and that I can now sleep easier at night. So, after my extremely long, ranting, blog entry of yesterday, in which I blamed myself and all my myriad faults for failing in my internship, as well as whinging on and on about everything for what probably seemed like the length of a book (a big, fat, heavy one), but was really only like 5,000 words (yep, I checked, it’s true), I have decided it’s not my fault, and I’m not going to care about something if the people I’m supposed to be doing this for don’t care, and so  I’ve washed my hands of it. I now feel guilt free!!! Sound the trumpets and let the celebrations begin. It’s a miracle!

What makes last night even better, is that I hung out with some of the people who own the hotel (well the son of the owner and his wife, to be more precise). They are a really sweet couple. They’re both originally from India, but the son spent a good portion of his life in Ethiopia, even going to high school here. She moved here around 4 months ago. It was nice to hang out with some people close to my age, and who speak English fluently for a change (my Ethiopian friends here speak well, of course, but it’s somehow different when you speak to another foreigner. It’s like a special understanding).

Anyway, as I suddenly felt better about the world, I decided to take Habtamu up on his offer of going out for drinks. He was out with his brother and his brother’s friend when I rang him, but they were getting ready to go home anyway, so Habtamu said he could meet up with me. We then went to Efficient, which is a cute, quieter bar (with a amazingly ironic name for any commercial establishment in this country), not too far from my hotel, and which is one of the best bars here in my opinion.

The thunder and lightning were still playing tag across the sky, and while rain threatened, it was only a ruse to keep the less adventurous souls indoors, so we sat outside and enjoyed the rare, cool night breeze, even as I pulled on my hoodie for warmth. We had a couple of beers there, and philosophised about life, the universe, and everything, until the bar closed it’s doors.

Habtamu wanted to stay out, so I let myself be pulled along to the nightclub around the corner. I can’t remember what it was called, I’d not been there before, but I would definitely go back. It wasn’t large, and while there were people there, it wasn’t packed (I mean it was a Wednesday night, and all), but the music was a good mix of hip hop and standard Ethiopian club mix, and I loved watching the small group of dancers on the dance floor. I wanted to get up and dance myself, but decided to hold back and just take it all in. After our beer there, I thought we were going back to our respective homes for the night, but Habtamu wanted to try one last place, so I grudgingly agreed to go.

I’m sort of a 3 beer limit type of person. This is not particularly because I generally get drunk off three beers, but more because I rarely am in the mood for beer, and it’s just so filling that I can only handle so much. The guys here that I hang out with can drink though, and seem to be under the impression that ‘I’m just going to have one beer tonight,’ and ‘I don’t want to drink anything’ actually means ‘sure I’ll match you drink for drink, even though you probably weigh at least 100 pounds more than me.’ I’ve tried refusing, but it’s a losing battle.

So when we arrived at Desire, another nightclub and our final destination for the evening, I allowed another beer to be placed in front of me with only a small internal sigh. Once again, I enjoyed the music and the people on the dance floor, and thought about dancing, but didn’t act upon it. This time though, it was mostly because I thought it was more fun to point out the differences between the ways the sex workers and the female patrons danced with the guys they were with. There was one particular sex worker who was actually a super amazing dancer. There were even a couple (non-creepy/sexual) moves that she did, that I may want to try out next time I go dancing.

Anyway, we didn’t stay too long at the final place, but it was late enough, and Habtamu walked me back to the hotel before going home himself. This was the first time that I arrived at the hotel and the gates were locked (I’ve come home later, but maybe it was on weekend nights or something). The gate was quickly opened for me by the guards (who, by the way, search every Ethiopian that comes through their doors, and have never searched me), I retrieved my key from the front desk, and fell into bed.

It was apparent, upon waking this morning, that I may have drank a wee bit too much the night before. After years of hanging out with army guys, rockstars, and other such rabble, I’ve learned (Quick note: If you are reading this and happen to be paternally/maternally related to me, I apologise in advance if the following statement shatters any sadly misplaced illusions you may have of me) that I can hold my own in terms of alcohol. This is especially true, in fact, if the alcohol in question happens to be whiskey. What I didn’t figure into last night’s equation, however, was that I recently have been ill, have lost weight, haven’t been eating much/well, and I haven’t had anything alcoholic to drink in a while. While I wasn’t piss-drunk or anything, it’s possible that I may have woken up feeling like I had been hit over the head with a shovel. A really, really big shovel. If it weren’t for the fact that I knew that the maids would soon come to my door and demand to clean my room (never mind that they start knocking on my door by like 7 am everyday. Who does that? ), I might not have gotten out of bed at all. I also knew that food and coffee would make me feel like a person again, so I stumbled through my morning routine and went downstairs to order breakfast.

Happily, the food helped tremendously, and my new friends came and sat with me for breakfast. Yay to not eating alone! I ended up having a very enjoyable early morning, and as I didn’t care anymore about the bulletin, and because nobody I rang at the office was answering their phones, I made the executive decision not to show up here until I felt like it. Sigh, giving up all hope and just washing myself clean of things has really done wonders to my outlook on life! Furthermore, since I’ve been here, I’ve talked to Lusaget, and, starting tomorrow, I will just follow him around and help him out. He’s happy I gave up on the bulletin thing too. In fact, I’m going to help teach this ‘how to be productive’ course (or something like that, hilarious, I know) next week until I go back to Addis. I’m really excited to have something to do, and I like teaching, so best of both worlds I suppose.

All in all, this day appears to be an ‘up’ day for me, and I’m just going to do my best to enjoy the rest of my stay here, have a good time, do some writing (I have lots of story ideas), and hang out with friends. I do have a French exam tonight that I’m mostly terrified about, as it’s over everything we should have learned up until this point, never mind the fact that I’ve just started and I have no idea about most things they’ve already learned, but it’s not as though it counts for anything. I’m fully prepared to extend my new philosophy on life to this exam and just take it as it comes, and not stress about it. Sigh, I think today will be a good day, and I plan to do my best to beat Habtamu at our now daily game of Deposit. It’s a card game that he taught me. It’s really fun, but so far I’ve only won once (out of like a million rematches), and even I’ll admit that it was a really lucky win.


What I’ve learned today/recently:

  1. Deposit is like the most fun card game ever.
  2. People think it’s strange that when I use a fork, I use it in my left hand. I’ve explained that while I’m happy to respect the ‘when eating with one’s hands, one must use one’s right hand only’ rule, but I refuse to let this extend to my utilisation of cutlery. My dirty, disgusting, culturally incorrect left hand is not in any way touching my food or my mouth, and I don’t think its unworthiness could possibly transfer to the fork that my hand is holding, so I refuse to make awkward attempts at using the fork with my right hand. They think this is hi-larious.
  3. If you are a Christian, but don’t keep fasting law (as in all of my friends here), you still can’t buy your meat/animal products from a Muslim vendor, even though people only eat fresh food here (how are you going to rely on refrigeration to keep things fresh when there’s not a reliable power supply?), and the majority of Christian vendors don’t sell such things on fasting days.
  4. We are still (I think) in a fasting period here, which lasts for a 14 day (or so) stretch of time. Yay to more shiro wat being available!
  5. Habtamu’s course fees (i.e. this is a correction from a statement in my previous post) are not roughly 5,000 birr (i.e. the 500 USD that was mentioned), but actually 5,000 dollars. I think this is still a way doable goal if I can find donations, or ways to help him out with this.
  6. My Somali tattoos may have faded away, but my arm hair appears to be permanently painted black in the areas where the tattoos were. It is sort of funny looking, especially because it is in the shape of the tattoo that was once there. I’ve thought about shaving my arms to counteract this Dalmatian effect, but then I thought a bit more about it, and realised that I was actually thinking of shaving my arm hair, which is a completely ridiculous thing to do, in my book. So I will have spots for awhile it seems. I’m trying to make up a good story to go with it.
  7. Apparently people in this country are relatively hairless. I mean, I guess this should not be a revelation. I see most of my friends naked from the waist up on a daily basis, but I guess it just didn’t hit me until recently. This is because recently, my friend Raphael told me that I’m very hairy. Awesome, thanks. What a charmer he is sometimes. This statement of his was actually precipitated by statement number 6.
  8. I’m extremely happy with myself for picking up my writing again. Even if all I’m writing is self-indulgent trash that may or may not be interesting to anyone else, I feel much better about the world when I write. It’s sort of like a relief as well as my balance point.
  9. I really miss chocolate chip cookies