Homicide Over Land Tenure Dispute. Much progress is now being made on our shintbet (latrine) and the kuli building it talked with us in the afternoon about the man he murdered; how relatives are their worst enemies because of land tenure, competing for scarce parcels of land to cultivate. If one can trace his lineage to a particular family, he may lay a legitimate claim to the land. Hence, there is much homicide in the attempt to neutralize land claims by alleged relatives. The kuli told us he had a right to land here but if he pressed for a piece of it he knows he is sure to be killed by poison. There is a custom of poisoning the areqe, that’s why the host always samples this distilled beverage first and then the guests wait a little while to see if it is good. Then the host says, “Yes! It is good!” and the guests then drink.
Blunder About the Evil Eye. An older woman came to the house with a baby on her back. The baby had big beautiful eyes. I commented, “Oh what beautiful eyes your baby has!” The woman looked terrified and ran from the house. I had made a blunder by not invoking the blessing of God to protect the baby from the Evil Eye. Because of this the woman believed I was cursing the child out of envy. I never encountered the woman again, even though one of my staff explained to her that I didn’t know the culture well enough to have made the blessing.
Meeting Curious and Suspicious People. Diversion was afforded by a strange character with huge, staring eyes who decided to question us. He took down all the answers in a notebook. He showed us a picture of himself in the Imperial Body guard–the same huge eyes under
a hat with lion mane fur. He asked where Ron was born, when he left there, where he lived before he came here, how old he was, how long in Ethiopia, what kind of car, license #, why in Molale, and did he have a wife. This last caused merriment among all, since I was sitting right next to him and I was white. Who did he think I was? Another man told him to stop being rude, but we think he had been drinking and wanted to feel important. We left and came home for soup and I told Bilet’u she was a good maid. She really works hard.
Wednesday, 28 February. Suspicious Peasantry. [Ron continues] I began English language lessons with Beydamariam. He caught on fast, partly because he had previous experience with a Peace Corp Area Rep.
He took a walk to town and was questioned by a peasant about why I came here. B. said, to study Manz history, and he shouldn’t worry. The question still persists and we get the feeling that many feel threatened and worried. Their major concerns are that we have come to create some kind of change; that we wish to impress upon them alien religious ideas; that we may pollute them in some ritualistic and ideological way; that we are spies for the U.S.; that we will display our superiority and belittle them. We have experienced a weakly hidden hostility and paranoia with two educated
persons, the headmaster, whom I feel really hates me, and Tadalla, the H.C. Officer. But I cannot figure as yet the reasons why. It isn’t anything personal I feel but rather a cued off hostility, quite deep, from preconceived ideas about ferenjis. From Tadalla I’ve gotten signs that he felt his status threatened by my presence. Both are here for not a very long time.
A very wealthy farmer who confronted us in the tour and who showed Pat the correct way to wear her berneuse and me how to wear my gabi underneath, said if we come as friends we will be accepted as friends; if we come with enmity, they shall fight us to the end.
When we do wear their national dress in public the peasants appear to derive great pleasure, if not
relief, from us. They are partly, temporarily, reassured that we are not expressing superiority but show a commonality with them. With berneuses, we elicit broad grins from many; and when we are approached by someone, a large crowd gathers around.
Thursday, 29 February. It is St. Mary’s day; a day of remembrance. Three other St. Mary’s days celebrate her birth, death, and resurrection. We asked the insera lady, when she brought our water, to come back and speak with us, but she was afraid of coming in contact with something unclean since it was the period of fasting for two months before Fasika, Easter. Also, this day is when the poor can go around and get bread or injera from the village inhabitants.
Baby’s Smallpox Death and Funeral. Tuesday, 27 February, 1968. [Pat continues] I made a Challah and chocolate chip cookies. I also wrote in the reading text. Bilet’u made a good lunch of spaghetti with meat sauce and hamburgers and french fries. Then she went to wash clothes at the spring even though it was cold. We felt we couldn’t let some of the things go any longer. The boys lost our ball in the shintbet (latrine), and without a ten foot spoon! it can’t be retrieved. Ron and Beydamariam and I left the children with the maid and went to the house of a policeman whose nine month old child had died today of smallpox and had already been buried. We wore berneuses and bought coffee beans to take as a gift. On our way an older man addressed us (we later learned he was a rich farmer) and he said…[rest of text is blank]
We went to the house of the policeman. Three men were outside. We shook hands and went in and sat on a box. There were people on boxes and folding chairs and a ledge around the wall. Women were in one corner on the floor. We could hear someone coughing behind a bamboo and curtain partition but could not see who it was. On the floor was grass and eucalyptus branches and a rug. On little tables were roasted broad beans. Each newcomer was given a huge glass of t’alla which had been poured from a teakettle and thus had only flecks of straw on top.
The father was sitting in the corner, his eyes glazed with grief and shock. When I learned the age of his son and the cause of death (nine months–smallpox) I started to cry, even though I felt I might be making a social faux pas inadvertently, and as I had no hanky I was in trouble for real anyway but I could not help it. Smallpox!
It’s 1968, and eradicated in the States! It could be here too if the educated people with Haile Selassie heading them, made a concerted effort to educate the people about the causes and prevention of disease and if they made vaccination compulsory. I was angry and helpless and I was sorry for him and felt lucky that my children were protected and, all in all, if I hadn’t thought of something else I would have really broken down and sobbed. But everyone was very quiet. I wiped my eyes and blew my nose on a corner of Lisa’s shama which I was wearing.
Extended Biographical Sketch
Ronald A. Reminick, Ph.D.
Conceived: 7 June, 1937 at 3J Eastway Ln., Greenbelt, MD.
Born: 10 March 1938, Cesarean Section, George Washington Hospital, Washington, D.C.
Cleveland Public Schools. Would be held back from first grade if he couldn’t skip. His mother taught him so he could advance.
His mother always wanted him to be a doctor; bought him a doctor kit and let him perform a “cesarean” on her on the spot where he first emerged into the world.
Joined Cub Scouts. Lost interest after he lost the Den Doodle contest because everybody else’s fathers made theirs and he had no father to make his, which was sawed out of an orange crate.
Licensed Taxidermist 1952.
Northeast Ohio Science Fair First Place Winner: ecology diorama with mounted animals. 1953. Television appearance.
Public school’s 6th grade PLR exam gets him into “retarded” section of Alexander Hamilton Jr. High School.
Jr. High School fights. Practiced judo to teach the kids, inflicting black eyes and bruises, not to attack him anymore.
Music: Clarinet, 4th through 11th grade. High School wrestling. Diploma: 1956. Graduated with the GPA of 1.8. Would not have graduated if he didn’t buy his friend’s gear shift knob and turn it in for shop credit.
Driver’s License, 1954 with 1941 Chevy. Presiding State Highway Patrol Officer says, “If you touch that suicide knob I’ll flunk ya!”
Ohio State University, 1956. Major: physical education.
Olympic-style weightlifting. “Mr. Cleveland” City Record in Military Press, 215 pounds, 1958.
Kent State University, 1958. Majors: psychology, then philosophy, then sociology, then anthropology. B.A. 1961.
Married wife #1, 1961.
First child, Lisa Susan, born 1962; died 1980.
Psychiatric Social Worker, Hawthornden State Hospital, 1961-1964.
Second child, Michael Scott, born, 1965. A Federal Express agent.
University of Chicago Doctoral Program in Anthropology, 1964-1973.
Practice in classical guitar during graduate study years.
His mother attended the doctoral graduation in Chicago, and when he exclaimed to his mother, “Look mom, I’m a doctor now!” his mother said, “Your not a real doctor.” When he told this story to his colleague and friend in Trieste, Italy, Antonio nearly fell off the chair laughing because his mother said the same thing. Is there some kind of psychic universal operating here?
National Institute of Mental Health Fellowship to Ethiopia. 1967 – 1969.
Joined faculty at Cleveland State University, 1970.
Divorce first wife, 1971.
Workshop on child abuse, Cleveland State University, 12 years, 1980-’92. Radio and television appearances.
Second “wife” (common law) and third child, Dorian, a son, born, 1977; died 2009.
Group therapy with grown-up abused children, 2.5 years, late 1980’s.
Wife #3, 1981. Fourth child, a son, Dahvid, born, 1985; died 2014.
Fifth child born, a son, Jonathan Lauren Sebastian, 1987. Aeronautical engineer.
Fulbright Scholar, Ethiopia 1993 -1995.
Divorced third wife 1996.
Married wife #4, 2002. Beautiful ceremony at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur over-looking the Pacific Ocean.
Fulbright Scholar, 2005 Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.
Retired from Cleveland State University, 2015, as Professor Emeritus.
For Book Jacket: Dr. Ron Reminick, psychological anthropologist, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1973. In the late 1960’s he conducted research on gender identity and ritual symbolism in the remote highlands of Ethiopia. Two consecutive Fulbright grants in the mid-1990’s facilitated his contribution to the development of the Master’s Programme in Social Anthropology at Addis Ababa University while conducting six major research projects: The evolution of Addis Ababa, the experience of aging in the city, prostitution, Rastafarianism in the Promised Land, hermit caves, and pilgrimage sites. In 2005 he worked in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia on a Fulbright Senior Specialist’s Grant developing a social science research program for Bahir Dar University. More recently he has conducted field research on indigenous cosmology and healing in South India, Belize, Appalachia, and Hawai’i. He is the author of six books and twenty-one single and co-authored articles. He is co-director of C.S.U’s. Center for Healing Across Cultures and is trained in shamanic practice. Dr. Reminick is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Cleveland State University.
On-going research continues on Hawaiian Kahuna cosmology and spiritual healing.
Future research is planned on the Rastafarian community in Shashemene, Ethiopia, initiated by my student’s 1995 Master’s Thesis, “Rastaman in the Promised Land.”
A Memoir on almost 50 years of fieldwork experience in Ethiopia is proposed for 2018. A compilation of over 600 pages of journal entries is the raw data to process.
On-going community education and adjunct anthropology teaching.
On-going study of healing modalities and meditation practice.
He continues to illuminate the path of his wife’s happiness.
His “ashes” can be spread at the center of Lake Erie in 2048!
Excursion to Gambela (1968–exact dates unknown) I planned to travel into the forests of the southwest with a Peace Corps Volunteer friend, Leon Perlman. I left Pat and the kids in Addis Ababa with Peace Corps friends. We figured we’d be gone a week or so. Leon and I took a taxi to Bole Airport where we boarded an old twin engine DC3 that was a paratrooper plane during WWII. It had no seats, just a canvas bench mounted along the sides of the plane. We borrowed pup tents and camping supplies from the Peace Corps Office since we did not know for sure if we’d have a hotel living space. In flying into the lowlands we encountered quite a bit of turbulence. The plane fell and rose in abrupt drops and climbs with wings waggling. The passengers became upset and many vomited on the floor. It was all I could do to keep from vomiting.
We landed on a grass field strip and were happy to be on firm ground. We were in a different world of sub-Saharan climate and peoples looking very different from our highland neighbors. These people were of the Anuak and Nuer tribes, sometimes peaceful, sometimes hostile with each other. At that time, in 1968, the Nuer people, both men and women, wore no clothes, except for a string of beads around the pelvis. We walked twenty minutes into the village and found a little hotel we could spend the night. The hotel was a wattle-and-daub, stick and mud, house with a thatch roof with several rooms for travelers.
A Night With An Amhara Bar Girl. Nearby was another little house that was a bar, tended by a beautiful Amhara bar maid. She evidently was looking for some extra cash and when Leon went into the bar to look around she “invited” him. He declined. When he returned a short while later and told me, I said I would take her up on the offer. He then offered me a condom which I refused. I made an arrangement with her and in the evening she escorted me to her house.
It was a mud-thatch house like the others, except inside it had beautiful fragrances of incense, spices, and flowers. The room was draped in painted and embroidered cloths and netting to protect against mosquitoes—it was a malaria area. She gave me an orange and told me to wait while she finished up the bar. It was a good hour and a half before she returned. I wondered if she just left me and wouldn’t come back, or what was going on. But I waited, looking at everything in her house, until she returned. It was getting late and I was tired from our travel. We sort of gazed at each other, and in Amharic we had a friendly conversation, how long she had been here; how did she find herself here in the first place; what I was doing in Ethiopia; how long I would stay—things like that. Then after long looks at each other I reached out and began unclothing her. She let me without restraint. She was beautiful; not very dark, small, sleek, soft clear skin, perfect breasts, quizzical smile, scented with fragrant oils. Her fee was Eth$5 (US$2). I wanted to go again another time, being driven crazy with my first exotic African woman on the other side of the planet. She hesitated with a mild complaint until I promised her another Eth$5. She complained again when I took her the third time, promising her another Eth$5 that I’d give her when I retrieved the money from the hotel. I was in an elevated elation and barely felt the ground under my feet in the morning when I met up with Leon.
Capsizing in Our Dugout Canoe. We were planning a boat trip down the Baro River, the homeland of the largest crocodile on the planet—the Nile crocodile. It turned out that it was the dry season and the river was too low to carry this ferry boat. In the wet season the river overflows its banks creating a great expanse of wetland and lakes that drive the inhabitants to higher ground. This ecological condition is the stimulus for the transhumant way of life of these horticulturalists. Leon and I wanted very much to travel downriver and our guide, A young Nuer man who was educated in a mission school and knew English, suggested a “canoe.” The Nuer people hollow out a tree and use it for navigating in the river to catch fish or travel to a nearby market. We got excited about the idea and procured a “canoe” from a village man. We got in and drifted to the middle of the river. Problem was we had a lot of equipment and were top-heavy. It wasn’t too long before we realized we were in trouble as our little boat tilted to one side and then into the water we went! Not too far away we heard “splish, splish, splash,” as crocodiles, hearing/feeling the disturbance in the water decided to investigate. (I have a b/w photo of the exhumation out of the belly of a huge crocodile, the remains of Phillip Olson, a Peace Corps Volunteer from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, who was snatched in waist-deep water not 200 meters from where we had just dumped. Without conscious intention my legs moved faster through that waist-deep water than I could have done myself! The Nuer people on the riverbank laughed and pointed at us and had a hilarious time watching our fumblings.
We decided to trek on foot along the river in the direction of the Sudan border. On this track we came across a group of Anuaks also going in our direction. We went along with them and came to a missionary camp, based not far from the river. It was the mission of Dan Reynolds and his family and associates, residents of Cleveland Heights. They invited us to camp the night. We were terribly grateful for that invitation. Dan and his wife, Jane, had a four year old daughter who I played with in the afternoon. Fifteen years later, in an anthropology class I was teaching at Cleveland State University, a woman came up after class and said that she had spent several years in the southwestern forests of Ethiopia. Low and behold, it was Nancy Reynolds taking my class! I told her the story of Leon and me camping at the mission camp and how delightful I found her that memorable afternoon and evening.
Invasion of the Army Ants in My Tent. Further on, about four hours trek along the Baro River, we came upon an Anuak village. We decided to camp there for the night after receiving permission from the headman, wearing a string of black and red beads around his neck. Leon and I pitched our tents where the headman said we could spend the night. We were both quite exhausted from the walk in the hot African sun. We retired into our pup tents about 9:30 p.m., liberally sprayed with Cutter’s Mosquito Repellant and repellant sprayed on our tents, especially by the screened windows and doorway. About 3:30 in the morning I awoke with numerous little tinglings on my chest and abdomen. I shined a light on myself to discover large ants, Army Ants, maybe a dozen of them taking little morsels of flesh from my body. Obviously, there was some kind of anesthetic in their pincers that dulled the pain of the bites. I freaked! ran out of the tent yelling, “Has anyone a comb! a comb! and a woman came out of her hut with a wooden African comb. I screamed, “That won’t help!” and with that I started picking them off my body, often leaving the heads still stuck in my skin. My tent was directly in the path of a river of a “trillion” Army ants who were devouring everything and anything in their path. And I was supposed to be in a “bug-proof” tent! Leon did not get any ants into his tent. He was not in their path.
The next day we trekked further on down river. We came to a Nuer village. These are the tallest, darkest people on earth, and they wore no clothes. Their walk reminded me of graceful long-legged water birds that glide in the shallows of the river looking for fish. We asked permission to camp in their village for the night and the headman advised we can go a little way beyond the village to make our camp.
A Nuer Woman Sings To Her Unborn Child. While in the Nuer village I observed a woman rocking and singing on a log chair, easily in her late eighth or in her ninth month of pregnancy. I asked my guide/interpreter what she was singing about. He said she was teaching her unborn child about the Nuer way of life; how a girl will grow up; how a boy will grow up; if it’s a son, she will look forward to his becoming a man and receive gar (six deep ear-to-ear cuts on forehead) which is the badge of honor of a responsible husband/father/warrior, eager to protect their lineage. She sings her child’s praises and prays that her lineage spirits will take care of the newborn and keep it healthy into adulthood; sings the poetry of Nuer cosmology and morality. It made sense to me because we know that unborn children can experience a great deal in the mother’s womb, especially in the second and third trimester.
Unearthing A Nuer Skull Under My Tent. Taking the advice of the headman to camp just outside the village, we found a clearing in the late afternoon and set up our pup tents. In the evening, in my sleeping bag I felt a lump, like a rock under my feet, which was distracting. I began disinterring the “rock” and suddenly discovered in was a skull. It was a Nuer skull. I knew it was Nuer because of the six incised lines, called gar, made in the skull from ear to ear performed during a boy’s initiation into manhood. The six cuts the boy endures is done with a (hopefully) sharp knife and marks the transition and transformation of a Nuer boy into adult status that now allows him to marry. We had settled our tents in a burial ground. After this discovery we found a different place to spend the night.
The next day we reached a garrison town called Itang not far from the Sudan border. Here we found the military people friendly, curious about our travel, who found us food and water that we treated with iodine pills. They showed around their camp. Itang had a mix of Amhara and Oromo military and Nuer men and women who serviced the town with labor, milk, and fish. That evening a Nuer man cooked us a fish stew from the fish he had speared earlier in the day. Some of these fish are Nile perch which can weigh nearly forty pounds–they’re huge. I photographed him mixing our stew in a large clay pot. There was a hole in the crotch of his shorts (he wore clothes, maybe because he was in the town with nonNuer people) and his testicles hung through, giving him something of a comical look.
The long trek back was exhausting in the African heat but enchanting as well, what with the multitude of birds, tiny ones and large ones, in the trees and long-legged ones wading in the shallows of the river. A crocodile floated lazily just beneath the water level with his nose just breaking the surface. These crocodiles can reach six meters in length. The one shot with half the Peace Corps volunteer inside was easily six or seven meters in length—huge! (The upper half of the victim was never found, because crocodiles often bury some of their prey in the river bottom for another feast later on.) We stopped at the mission camp for an overnight on the way back. Little did we know then that several kilometers distant was Robert Gardner from Harvard University making a film on the Nuer that is now a classic in the ethnographic record. While filming, the film crew witnessed a smallpox epidemic in their village of Ching Gotch. These Nuer had not had the protection of the vaccine that would have prevented such a tragedy and terrible grief of the parents of their stricken children.
That DC 3 that took us back stopped once along the way, where I lost my egg sandwich, fortunately after I got off the plane; but I felt better getting back to Addis Ababa, although quite tired from our journey. I loved the clay pipe I traded from an ancient Nuer pipe-smoking woman and took care not to break it or the bamboo stem attached to it. She smoked tobacco when it was in season and a mixture of cow dung and grass when it wasn’t.
Must Leave for Addis for Letters Amidst Threats. Before dinner, Pat suggested we take a walk to the bunna bet for bread. We put on our berneuses and got twelve rolls. On the way back we were stopped by the secretary to the Awraja Governor who told us if we wanted to stay here we must first get our letters of permission from the Ministry of Interior and Shoa Governor; otherwise, if something happened to us or our property (!) he could not say or do anything. Therefore, we had two days to get the letters. I explained that Tesfay was in Addis now getting them but would be back in six days. He was adamant. We leave tomorrow for Addis in the Land Rover. It was obvious that he was exploiting an opportunity to wield his power–even if it was more or less a parasitical power derived from his superior, the Governor of the Awraja of Manz. He made an attempt at being friendly, wearing a somewhat fiendish grin, and saying “…it eez not that we don’t like you…” and went on about how if we want to stay we must produce the letters, in his most authoritarian manner. He continued: “You know what I told you the other day [a month before]. I told you you have to have letter in order to stay here. If you don’t have letter in two days you go out from this place. Without letter, who knows, some bad man rob you, kill you, and what can we say? We say you don’t have letter, we don’t know you! ha ha ha.” He concluded by complimenting us on our berneuses and advising what to wear with them. I was both powerless to argue or do anything else since I not yet had those authoritative documents that give me the power to force him and his cronies to cooperate. I was, therefore, vulnerable to his demands which made me both very angry and depressed; not only angry at this clown in a tattered and dirty white shirt and tie, but also at Ato Wubeshet for doing his best to screw things up. We told Kasai and the boys living underneath our house and the next door neighbors that we had to cancel our milk until we returned. The neighbor woman, Almaz, appeared very concerned and upset that we had to leave.
T’imqat (the “k” sound is exploded). Saturday, 20 January,1968. There wwre to be several Timqat celebrations, depending upon what part of Molale country one lived in. There are many priests in this area. Getacho took us to one north of the town. We went with the kids. It was a long walk, with Michael (now 3 years old) refusing to go at unpredictable intervals. We got to the T’imqat camp where the priests spent the night with the altar saying mass until about 11:00 a.m. We sat with the priests within a ring of stones facing the white tent that housed the tablets that are replicas of the Ark of the Covenant; the tent set into the side of a hill. We drank t’alla (local beer). It wasn’t bad for t’alla. Mike pleaded for “a sip” and I let him. He held it in his mouth deciding how it was, overcoming his expectancy that it was like pop; then, opened his mouth, stuck out his tongue and let the t’alla fall to the ground. It was a funny scene and the priests and a shimagele (old man) got a kick out of it. There were very few people there, we evidently were early, and the procession back to the original place of the alter, the church, wouldn’t begin until enough people were present. We were waiting around for an hour and a half while Michael fussed and Lisa complained and children beat a large church drum and half-interestedly danced around. Then we sat in a Eucalyptus grove and ate gubs (roasted barley) and played with Getacho’s old Hungarian rifle. More people gathered and the priests began singing and chanting in Geez (the ancient ritual language) and Getacho got their permission for me to take pictures. When sixty or seventy people gathered, the priests put on robes of many colors, some with flowers, and took up the altar and began the procession. We followed it a short way and then went back home about 4:00 p.m.; carrying Michael all the way and Lisa tired and complaining but refusing to let Tesfye carry her.
Our neighbors paid us a visit after we got home and had a late lunch and we invited one woman in for tea. She hesitatingly accepted and we made very small talk, communicating successfully very little of the time. Then she left. She couldn’t understand our Amharic and she spoke too fast for us, partly because she was nervous and anxious in this situation.
T’imqat Feast. Sunday, 21 January, 1968. St. Michael’s Day. Tesfye found Solomon and the driver for the H.C. in the hotel this morning. They told him of a St. Michael’s Day celebration (celebrating the end of T’imqat) being held not far from Molale by Land Rover. This time Pat and the kids stayed home and I took the Land Rover full of people with me. It was about three km’s. from town and we turned off and parked at a homestead whose land was owned by the Molale governor. An old man in a berneuse and some tenants greeted us and we observed at a distance the priests and worshippers on a hill overlooking a plain and the white tent with the altar inside.
Then we were invited inside the tukle (the round native house). This was my first time in one. It appeared much larger on the inside. It had a double wall and the animals were kept between them at night. Many goat, sheep, and cow skins hung from the walls and were stretched over ch’iqa and eucalyptus poles. Mats served as beds. An interesting oxen yoke about 6 ½ ft. high stood near the door. To the right side of the entrance a semi-circular hearth was built out of mud and ch’iqa with pottery cups standing upside down in the center to hold the bowls that contained the wat, or injera. Along the sides were benches and low stools with wicker tables in front. We sat down and immediately t’alla was served, with the beer straw floating on the top of the cow horn cup. I quickly learned how to strain out the straw and spit quietly out what came through. It was much better than what I had in Addis at Singer’s house. I said “It is very good” (qonjo naw) in Amharic and they all laughed in appreciation; they had been waiting for me to say something. Then, qay wat (actually consists of 14 different spices with cayenne pepper the main ingredient) was served with gubs injera (bread made from barley, not te’ff). We ate with our hands and I liked it much better than the t’eff injera. I ate along with the rest, with some unneeded coaching of manners from Tesfye. It’s considered uncouth to lick your fingers. This they appreciated also; that a ferenj should take such powerful stuff that makes your eyes tear and nose run. Cries of “btam gwoboz” (“very strong, tough!” acclaiming my hardiness) came from my hosts. I felt it was as good as any injera and wat I’d had; especially with the gubs injera. No sooner than we’d take a sip of t’alla from our glass than it would be refilled to brimming. This happened repeatedly, so I left my glass full at the end. At the end of our feast, after imploring the woman–a close relative of the family we were at–to stop refilling our wat bowl and stacking injera in front of us, a man, a tenant, poured water for us to wash our hands of the wat. We thanked the hosts with bows of appreciation and moved on to a gathering of priests and socializers and children with drums nestled in a hollow in the side of a nearby hill. There we met and shook hands with priests, debteras, (deacons) and others, and I took a slide picture of a boy with a large drum. The priest said had I been there last night he would have baptized me. Tesfye said I already was (!). Another invitation was extended to us, this time by the judge and prosecutor of Molale; a rather fat (for Ethiopians) roundish man of 35 with a full mouth and an air of being used to the “good life.” We trailed down to his house and were seated: Tesfye, Solomon (the dresser), me, the driver, judge, and a few others around the hearth; the rest (about 15 others) in the remaining space to my back. Those in the “elect circle” were seated in almost a circle somewhat off to the side of the hearth with tables in front of us. More t’alla, wat and gubs injera were served. This t’alla tasted sour compared to the first. I was given areqe (the distilled beverage) to sample and Solomon whispered “It is better to leave this; just taste it”. It is a clear booze made from different local grains. I was also served coffee. Again the glasses of t’alla were kept brimming and the food was piled on; until at some cue given that I did not catch a shimagele was called in, an entertainer, who imitated each priest in a mocking way; all laughing heartily as they recognized exactly which priest he imitated. We prepared to leave. A towel was passed around, we thanked the hosts and went off to the singing and dancing by large groups of young people, scattered across an open field. As we approached we progressively drew the attention away from the dancing and chanting, until we came on the scene and the festivities changed into stares at me and my cameras. Tesfye urged first the boy groups, then the girl groups, to keep dancing, but in vein. So we moved off to a distance and sat on the side of a small hill to watch the continuing celebration. I took color slides and telephoto b&w pictures. At one point I let a boy peer through the viewer of the Zeiss and his eyes widened as he told the rest what he saw. I then had to let a dozen crowding others peer thru the viewer until I said (in Amharic) “Enough!” and broke out of the throng.
The tent on the hill was taken down and the Ark, priests, and rest of the procession moved slowly down to the open field where they sang and chanted among a rapidly gathering crowd. I noticed that the drums sound very much like a heart beat and began speculating about it, e.g., some kind of need for closeness to other bodies, maybe for the mother’s breast and the sound of her heartbeat. A wild and bald psychoanalytic assumption that I’d never put in print unless an Ethiopian gave me strong clues of affirmation. Along with the drums, rattles, and singing and the women’s ululation were one-noted trumpets, that at first glance reminded me of a New Year’s tin horn, but were better made and not much more elaborate. The procession then moved on to the other side of the Molale road where they settled in a wide flat area. Six horsemen, with not very impressive trappings, two horses with none at all, raced each other, two and three horses at a time, for short distances, up to about 50 meters.
After a half hour of this, the Ark and the procession moved on to the church. At this point, Ato Haile Selassie Tefere, the church leader–Molale advocate and Balabat of Molale–extended an invitation for us to continue on with them. So, we followed across the rocky fields in the Land Rover–I let the H.C. driver take over. I took a couple more photos.of two girls on a precipice overlooking a deep cone-shaped gorge with a mountain on the far side; then followed down a very steep hill, (it really was a cliff), to a small plateau where the church and the balabat’s house was located. Here, some got the
balabat’s enthusiastic permission for me to photograph him, the priests and dancing. I took slide and telephoto’s of him and action shots of dancing and drumming with the judge participating. When the balabat thought I was taking his photo, he’d stiffen up and look very serious and important, which he was! I took shots of people lined up on the precipice far above us looking on. Then we suddenly all kneeled, someone tugging down on the back of my coat, while the priests chanted in geez and prayed.
Afterward’s, the Balabat extended an invitation to us to join him in his festivities inside his tukle (his homestead included a number of tukles). Inside, we drank brimming glasses of t’alla, ate qay wat, alich’a wat (without pepper), raw meat slightly braized, chopped eggs, hunks of mutton on bone, and injera. Ato Haile Selassie kept walking by helping to serve the courses and urging us to eat (balu!, ballu! = eat! eat!) The women were taciturn and just worked preparing the feast while the man publicly fed us. At one point a young boy about age nine yelled out in a loud whisper, something, possibly to another sibling warning him of his behavior (Tesfay’s assumption) and everybody laughed as the boy cowed. At some cue, we got up, after a towel was presented to each of us–one wet end and one dry end–and we bowed and thanked our host, climbed the cliff and pushed through the crowd that was milling around our Land Rover, like it was some strange animal, and drove back to Molale. Pat greeted us with cinnamon cookies, rolls and bread, but I was too gorged from my three feasts to snack at the time. I did try a cookie though.
Molale Market and Spitting Incident. Saturday, Market Day 13 January, 1968. [Pat continues] I went to Market with Yiramadu. She was wearing her pink babushka, which she really likes, and her shocking green dress with the red roses over another rag dress. Ron and the kids came too. We were quickly surrounded by a mob all gawking. Ron was carrying Michael and an old woman came up to them and began a staccato spitting in Michael’s face, as to create a spray. Ron asked what is going on! and the woman exclaimed that he shouldn’t be taking this beautiful boy into the market where an envious evil eye person might curse him with sickness. She was spraying him with “protection.” The people were so close that I felt uncomfortable. And I was too hot. Ron took Mike home. After I bought a heavy load of onions, I took Lisa and the onions home and came back minus my tights. It is very time consuming shopping this way. I successfully bought sugar by myself but bought eggs with Yiramadu, and since we had to buy for 2 weeks it took a long time to amass as many as we wanted. Sometimes we would need 200 eggs / week to feed us and the servants. These eggs are quite small. Lots of people come with only nine eggs so you have to go to a lot of different people, and haggling for a half dozen eggs can take 20 minutes. After awhile I didn’t feel too good. The heat, the smell, the crowd, the frustration of not being able to communicate well all contributed to my discomfort. The day was wearing on, I’d had no lunch, I still didn’t have a lamb or enough chicken. I bought some cotton to make a pillow. But it was the butter transaction that did me in finally. We had to buy rancid butter (smells like cheese rind) from Yiramadu’s mother and she ran out to buy some from someone else to sell to us and we squatted in the sun forever. After I got up, I knew I’d better go home right away but Yiramadu needed to buy green leaves with twigs in them. Who knows what for–and then I went home and had to make lunch. I had such a sore throat and was exhausted and impatient with the children.
While at the market, a man on the ground reached up and grasped my ankle and laughed and laughed with his buddy. I gave him a dirty look but wished I could say something withering–the equivalent of “Jack off” in Amharic.
Kids Rough-Playing With Lisa. In the afternoon Pat asked Lisa to take Michael for a walk. They walked all the way across the market area to the hotel-bunna bet (hotel coffee house). There were smaller kids with them, and they met bigger kids (“as tall as the doorway”, said Lisa) who joined them. They asked Lisa to have tea and she said no because she didn’t have money. Then “the big kids came running to us with sticks hitting us (not hard) on our backs.” The little kids tried to protect us and the big kid hit him with a stick and the little kid went away.” The big kid hit Lisa on the back. The little kid whispered something in the big kid’s ear and the big kid kicked her in the rear end. Then the mother called the big kids away and the little kids followed Lisa and Michael back home. According to the little kids, questioned later by me, this was fun and fooling around with no harm intended. The kids mentioned something about clapping hands but Lisa denied it.