Friday, 19 January, 1968. We woke this morning to discover that our ram had been stolen by a thief in the night. We had forgotten to drag it into the kitchen house the night before. I was really angry and aggravated; and especially because Tesfye took no responsibility for it; he should’ve done something because of past experience with keeping our sheep away from dogs and hyenas in the night. So, I told him that from hereafter he must take responsibility for the animals. Later he made noises about animals being too much trouble and we should buy them only when we’ll eat them the same day. Another avoidance of tasks because he knows Saturday is the only day to get meat. Later in the day the neighbor’s child told us that while he was peeing in the town he happened to see a man from another village selling our sheep (ram) to someone driving a flock of sheep to Debra Birhan, chains and all (our sheep had a chain). He said he was scared to tell us sooner, but when the man comes back to Molale, possibly next Saturday, because he has business with the child’s father, he will tell us immediately so we can nab him. Yiramadu cautioned that he tells stories, but the kid was adamant. Now we must wait for the thief’s return. Tesfay saw the police and they advised a thorough search and then we can make an application for a police “investigation”. The governor was also told since I thought he should know. We advised the boy to say nothing lest someone alert the thief. Then some kids and Yiramadu ran and grabbed a sheep in someone’s yard; it wasn’t ours and a woman came running out excitedly to reclaim it. It was the Governor’s sheep!
Nearby Qulubi, in Diridawa, we went to see the hyena man, who appeared to be drunk. He sat in the darkness on the ground and the hyenas approached to take meat from his hand, off his head, from between his teeth! He talked to them and teased them. Lisa gave him some change afterwards. Some weeks later, this man was bitten on the lip and died of rabies.
Qulubi. Thursday afternoon after 4 p.m, [Ron continues] Tesfye and I caught a bus leaving for Qulubi. Room was made for us where women were sitting with their children and we held one each on our laps. The two hours trip was fairly uneventful, except that the kid on my lap, about 3 years old, suddenly looked terribly funny and in an instant I knew the problem, grabbed his head and aimed it at the floor. Some puke caught me on my leg (I had a premonition this would happen because my pants were clean!), but most of it cascaded onto his very pretty mother’s bundle of clothing on the floor. I then comforted the boy while the mother cleaned us up. He fell asleep in my lap for the rest of the trip. I guess the bus, the heat, and the closeness of people mingled with the smell of rancid butter hairdressing was too much for the kid. When we arrived the mother was effusive with thanks and I said in Amharic “Never mind, it was nothing.”
We gathered our things and walked further up the road. It was just getting dark and hundreds of fires began appearing on the hillsides surrounding the church of St. Gabriel, itself situated on a prominent hill. I estimated between 40,000 and 50,000 souls made the scene from all corners of the country. We passed dozens and dozens of tents and temporary stick & leaf shelters serving all kinds of ethnic food and drink. Including a ferenji American yelling at the mob “Who do ya want!” from a tent selling hamburgers.
At first Tesfye wanted to find a tent or stall to stow our things (they were quite heavy) but I objected. We then found the sector for boy scout troops and Testfye talked our way into one of these tents, those of the Harrar troop. They took care of our things and allowed us to camp there overnight. We then began exploring.
Since we were getting very hungry we made our way to a shelter and had injera and qay wat and beer. Then we got a hamburger and Fanta. We walked around taking in the joviality and festivities, encouraged by ch’at, the mild alkaloid native stimulant. We drank qatiqale, a clear and powerful booze, not too unlike Raki, a beverage native to Albania and thereabouts. We visited the church, a large beige brick outside and blue and white tile interior, plain almost to the point of being austere for its size. We bowed at the entrance and Tesfye kissed the wall and we stepped inside, Tesfay reiterating how I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable or try to look solemn. The inside was crowded and sporadically we heard women ululating in praise of St. Gabriel, God, and The Emperor. A quarter of the church floor was occupied by seated women, some preparing to sleep there that night, some already sleeping and being awaken by a misplaced foot of a passerby.
A very old and regal High Priest was seated in the center of the front wall decorated with tile mosaics. Another priest held the cross while people went up to kiss both ends of it. Another, at the left, accepted gifts of money, candles, and gaily decorated umbrellas. And toward the center of the large room, on a platform raised some 5 feet, a lower order priest preached the story of St. Gabriel into a mike whose loudspeakers bounced the noise into an unintelligible blare. I asked Tesfye about the meaning of St. Gabriel’s day and he told me how we would find an expert in Addis to tell the story; he obviously not knowing! After sitting awhile, seeing much bowing and kissing of the floor and offering of gifts, we left and walked in all directions seeing what various groups of people were doing.
Many parents had come with their children and were getting them to bed for the very cool night, wrapped in blankets until they looked like their clothes bundles. Others were chewing away on ch’at and readying themselves for a night of dancing, singing, and sometimes seduction. In several tents, two of which we spent sometime in, there was an accordion player and girl singer. He would play various Ethiopian tunes and then hear refrains given by the patrons which he repeated in good song after which he would accept a dollar which he licked and slapped on his forehead while he sang another’s song. Sometimes he’d be given the dollar first, stuck it on his head and would sing the man’s song with that man’s dollar on his head, showing his appreciation of receiving that man’s dollar. The one who gave the most dollars away and had the most of his songs sung was a very large policeman in an Army greatcoat with a large caliber revolver strapped to his side. Much booze had made him very generous. The songs were usually in praise of the Emperor, of the country, and lauding particular friends who meant something to the person. Often they sang of masculinity and being wand-nat, warrior-like.
At one point we made the scene of a fight that was eventually broken up. A man accused another of peeing on his bed. At another time we saw a very inebriated man tumble down a hill. This wouldn’t have been anything to speak of had it not been the hill all of Qulubi used as a toilet and there was a thousand piles of shit scattered in no particular pattern up and down the slope, generously dowsed in urine. Tesfay and I made our contribution, carefully watching our step. At the bottom of the slope in a steep gully was an overturned and smashed taxi which swerved to miss a bus on the road high above. No one was hurt! Later I learned, though did not see, that many people were hurt being side-swiped by the traffic.
We saw many kinds of ethnic dances, some extremely fascinating, by Galla (now known as Oromo), Gurage, Amhara, and unknown groups. The Boy Scout troops put on various kinds of
skits well into the evening. They portrayed domestic scenes largely: the farmer being made a fool by his workers; the wife making out with the servant while the husband is in the fields; the banter of insult and defense: the bravery being displayed behind the opponent’s back and anxiety and avoidance when face-to-face while still being obligated to put up a show in defense of one’s honor. Very interesting!
Unexpectedly, I met Bob Dills, Sharon, and Jack Curaco there. Toward 1:30 a.m. we sacked out between two boy scout (US Army) pup tents. Somewhere between then and dawn I was nearly trampled when two scouts fought about something. It was very cold but I was warm in my sleeping bag.
In the morning we searched for a place to eat and ended up eating eggs (Surreptitiously, because it was Friday, a fast day) and bread with peanut butter & jelly, and water that Pat had prepared for us. We visited the church again, with ever-growing mobs of people milling and crowding around the entrances. Several women I saw scraping dirt out from under the stone walk around the church, carrying it away in little bundles made from their clothing. Tesfye made a successful attempt to wrest holy ashes from the priest. This is to apply to the body or to be taken internally for “what ails you.” Evidently, Tesfye isn’t so modernized as one would expect on casual acquaintance.
Tesfye wanted to stay on but I persuaded him to leave early, about 9:00 a.m. As we walked down the road to the buses and taxis we found we were following a police van announcing by loudspeaker that no vehicles would be allowed exit until after the emperor arrived! That aggravated me to no end. We found a taxi but were stranded. So we visited the agricultural exhibits and there we saw the Emperor Haile Sellassi I strolling about, surrounded by bodyguards heavily armed with automatic rifles, burp guns, carbines, and side arms.
We bought oranges and grapefruits and caught our taxi as it was about to leave. We made it home in half the time the bus took for a dollar more a piece.
The Knife Purchase at Diredawa. [Ron continues] Diredawa is a town at the fringes of the eastern desert where the railroad passes on its way to Djibouti. At the Diredawa market I met an Afar man selling a variety of crafts. One particular item was a large curved double-edged knife about 18 inches in length in a goat skin sheath decorated with brass wire with a rifle cartridge on the end of the sheath. I asked the price and he gave me an outrageous price, most likely because he saw I was a ferenji (a foreigner). We haggled for a time, he acting insulted that I offered a low price. Then I saw four “things” hanging from his belt and I exclaimed (in Amharic), “Oh, I see you have four married daughters! Congratulations!” What was hanging from his belt were four penises of victims men killed in order to become “a man” and to be able to marry. He asked, very exasperatedly, “How do you know this?” and I pointed to my head and said, “Oh, I know, I know!” and then, with some joking jocularity, I got a good price for the knife.
Almaz Playfully Sucks Penis of Her Infant. Which reminds me of another rather culture-shocking episode, when Almaz was playing with her infant son and teasingly put his tiny penis in her mouth. I immediately thought of the nature of the relationship a man has to his mother and wondered if this custom created a powerful sensuous emotional tie.
Wednesday, 10 January, 1968. (Pat continues) Gatacho went to his village. Isbetu came home. But they all went to the school. Some kids came to play with Lisa and Mike. Then another bunch of rotten little boys kept coming into the compound. Saying hiddu (“go away!”) didn’t help. They were sarcastic and sneering and defiant. I ended up losing my temper and throwing rocks at them. Of course I can’t hit the side of a barn. It was very frustrating. Ron was doing an I.Q. test and couldn’t stop for half and hour. I brought in an artillery of rocks for him. On the stroke of 1:30 he got up, picked up a rock, and real fast went out on the porch without warning and threw it. He caught one of the brats on the ankle. They all ran away but the boy who was hit was full of righteous indignation and he said to Ron–“You hit me in the leg with a rock”! “Why did you do that?” “Because you didn’t go,” said Ron. “Why should I go?” said the kid. Apparently they feel justified in baiting and heckling foreigners. It is something to fill their boring days and you’re just supposed to let it go on.
Ron pulled a heavy steel door in front of the Land Rover so that if the little stinkers decided to throw a rock through the windshield they’d be foiled.
We had a visit from our neighbor next door. Her name is Almaz, which means “Diamond.” She is very attractive. She brought us a liter of milk from her cow. Later we arranged to get a liter of milk each day. The milk is so rich we can add ½ liter of water to it! We pay Eth$8.00/month (US$3.20 1968 value) for thirty liters.
Another neighbor, Kebebush, brought some candy for Lisa and Michael.
Lisa promptly lost a filling in her tooth. I took her to the H.C. to see if they had temporary filling material. They didn’t. We decided to send Tesfye for the material with other jobs and we’ll take her to a dentist in Addis when we go in the next two or three weeks.
This afternoon our neighbor, Almaz (which means “diamond” in Amharic), visited us at our house with one breast hanging out of her dress dripping milk. She came to borrow sugar. This was an instance of culture shock for me, not only from seeing her one naked dripping breast, but also because she was so nonchalant about it. A woman’s breast has a very different meaning from our Western sexualized attitude and meaning!
Tesfay, I, and Getacho, the student underneath, took the large galvanized drum to the spring for water in the Land Rover. Later we decided it was much simpler, if not less expensive to have a woman bring it for 5 centime for each insera (large round clay water container that can weigh up to 40 kilos full). We will need 5 inseras /day. On average, she walked more than a kilometer to the spring five times. That figures to ten kilometers for five round trips. For this she gets Eth25 centime, or one simuney (an Ethiopian quarter), which is one American cent! in 1968 value.
Army Ants in the House. Friday, 5 January. [Pat continues] I was awakened by kids and when I went out to the kitchen and turned on the light I saw ants swarming out of cracks! Everyone got bitten but me. They were army ants! Getacho brought in eucalyptus leaves which drove them down their holes. DDT didn’t work on them. I drove back to Addis with Terry, Norm, and Dave.
Army Ants in the Sugar Crisp. Thursday, 18 January, 1968. In the morning we arose, washed, peed in the chamber pot and prepared for breakfast. The children wanted their Sugar Crisp that we bought in Addis Ababa. Who knows how old it was because it felt like a brick inside. As I approached the box I noticed a nickel-sized hole on the lower end of the box; a perfect circle with raggedy edges. I picked it up. It was empty! On the other end near the bottom was another nickel-size raggedy edge perfect circle hole. It was easy to deduce that, during the night, army ants had marched through the kitchen and found an unexpected treat which they devoured to the last crumb!