Glenn and I were a bit beaten down by the time we arrived in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. We were badly in need of privacy among other things; the constant harassment of the people over the past 6 weeks and the poltergeist that took up residence in my guts were taking their toll. We limped into Addis road weary, tired and wounded.
Ironically, amidst the bustle of the city we found privacy and anonymity. We only heard farangi a dozen or so times a day, the beggers were of the usual urban variety and we could eat in privacy with only an occasional glance from nearby diners. You’re probably reading this thinking, ya, so what. In Ethiopia normalcy is a big deal because it pretty much doesn’t exist.
I don’t know how to describe the Ethiopians without inserting my negative bias. They are lovely people, truly lovely but my personality runs counter to their culture. They love white people (farangis) and for some reason find us the most interesting thing in the world. We are constantly mobbed, watched, petted and followed. We can’t brush our teeth without a crowd, lunches are village affairs and any sort of outing is accompanied by numerous ‘guides’ pointing out the obvious the entire way, “that is a cow,” “that is a church.” Yes, thanks for your services now get lost.
We've both reached a tipping point. Glenn engaged in a rock fight with 30 or so children one day. I know you’re recoiling in horror, but rocks and sticks are Ethiopians most successful means of discipline in rural areas, so we gave it a go. Not successful for the farangi, the kids thought it was fun as hell and my poor husband nearly had a heart attack running up and down the hills chucking rocks like a madman after 30+ kids who, by the way, have very good aim AND thought the crazy farangi was the funniest thing ever. It was pretty funny.
Mine came during a violent bout of diarrhea, roadside, with a mob of children running at me full speed yelling, “YOU, YOU, YOU.” I now know that I can poop, throw rocks and shout obscenities at the same time. I freaked out. I love this country but am OVER the people. That was until we reached Addis and rolled into The Lion’s Den Hotel owned by the sweetest couple in all of Ethiopia, Addis and Bubi.
Two days later we found ourselves weaving through the back roads of Addis in Addis' Mercedes SUV heading to dinner for one of the yummiest Indian meals we’ve had in a long, long time. Our new friends were a much needed breath of fresh air. Addis’ and his wife Bubi are 'new' to Ethiopia; having lived in the US for 30 years, they have just returned to their native country. A couple years ago they returned to capitalize on the vast opportunities available to them in a country that has been in some ways frozen in time.
Addis, recently retired as Ziggy Marley’s band manager of 30 years, was a natural story teller. He and Bubi are living proof that the American dream is alive and well. As we ate we learned of Bubi’s career opening NYC’s first Ethiopian restaurant which she successfully ran for 20 years. They talked of their kids, who Addis described lovingly (and with a twinkle of pride in his eye) as, “spoiled American brats.” Life back in Ethiopia hasn’t been an easy transition for these two. After more or less growing up in the states they’ve become more American than Ethiopian. Bubi described what it was like being an outsider in her own country. She even gets charged the Farangi prices, despite her flawless command of Amharic. “They can tell from my accent that I am not from here; I go to the markets with my girlfriends and have to stand behind them while they negotiate for me. I just pull out my money and pay, otherwise I get charged the Farangi prices.”
I can’t even begin to tell you how nice it was meeting these two. Through their stories they eloquently described the clash of culture we’ve been experiencing for the past 6 week. They got it. We loved them and hope, hope, hope to see them again.
Addis and Bubi thank you for everything. And Addis, yes, our wrong turn down a side street in Addis Ababa was meant to be; we needed you.
Sending my love from Ethiopia with Tomorrow People stuck in my head for a week straight.
CP (and GP too)