Here are some of the quirky, concise but bizarre moments I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in.
I was teaching – a normal lesson. The solid, iron door keeps swinging open and shut with the breeze. It’s very distracting to have a metal door clanging against the concrete foundation. There isn’t a latch. I try in vain to shut it and point with tenacity. Unfortunately my powers of controlling nature aren’t honed yet. Luckily one of my students brought his machete to class. He gets up and wedges it between the floor and door. Thanks Mosisa. What if every person has a machete? Think of all the doors we could keep closed and lives we could save. Shit, everyone does have a machete.
I got cornered by Tesama today. He asked me if an increase of eating peppers causes constipation. I said I don’t know, probably. He asked me what the scientific research says. I said I have no idea Tesama. He asked me why I didn’t know. I responded by telling him I’m not a scientist (This isn’t a sarcastic response, I have had to develop keeping English basic and short for people with limited English skills. A nuanced but correct response would not be understood). He again asked me why.
Sometimes I wake up dazed and confused. I have a weird, vivid dream then wake up in complete darkness. Then I remember I’m in rural Africa. Whoa.
I haven’t shaved in awhile and sometimes wear a turban because I live in a Muslim town. They think it’s hilarious. But, I’ve been asked recently by a few people if I’m now a Muslim. Their tone is the most striking. Just a typical question with a bit of curiosity. I chuckle to myself knowing such a question in America would be met with, at best, stunning disbelief, at worst, open disdain. Americans look down on Ethiopia for numerous social issues. Yet, on the principle our nation was originally founded on, freedom of religion, our country can learn something. I have explained to a few Ethiopians about why Americans harbor a mistrust for Muslims. They have asked me why Trump doesn’t like Muslims. I break it down to 9/11, they all know of it. Everyone I have explained it to has given me the same response: but, that’s not us. Yes, Bedule, Mustafa and two other people I don’t know the names of, I wish I could convey that to every American.
Teaching English as a foreign language has made me realize how confusing English is. A teacher, Teshoma, asked me why the “ci” sound makes an “s” sound (circus, circuit) I said I don’t know, it is the way it is. He responded with that’s the way most of English is. I completely agree Teshoma.
I ate raw meat. Here in Oromia a popular dish is raw chunks of meat called dimaan foon (red meat). I went to the meat house for my cooked tibs last Sunday. A couple of other teachers, Diribia and Yalla, were eating literal hunks of meat. They invite me to eat some. They assure me the spicy sauce they dip it in kills any bacteria. I know that’s wrong. Peace Corps Dr.Wahhib’s speech on the dangers of eating raw meat is swirling through my head. Ah, f— it. To be honest it didn’t taste like much. Just chewy and spicy. The sauce the dimaan foon is dipped in must be with peppers grown from the depths of hell. It may not have killed the bacteria but my taste buds have seen better days.
Laloians are befuddled by the water bottle I carry around.
My school has a quiz bowl. I prance into school at 4 o’clock last Thursday chowing down on a piece of fried bread ready to play volleyball. Unbeknownst to me the school quiz bowl was going on. Apparently, it was on the announcements board, but my inability to read Afan Oromo hurt my chances of every finding out besides stumbling into the middle of the quiz bowl hoping to play volleyball. I get there and the entire school is sitting criss cross apple sauce around 5 desks positioned in a semi circle facing a row of desks with teachers. The entire school stares and laughs at me as I meander, bewildered into the competition. [Every prepubescent teens’ nightmare before showing off their lackluster talent of blowing large balloons of bubblegum at the talent show. At the time I thought it was because I was wearing a backwards hat, tank top and shorts. Later I find out it was because I had the audacity or ignorance to eat in public.] The quiz bowl was an experience. Bereft with dancing, crying and lots of clapping. I found it interesting one of my students participating in the contest had no problem answering what the powerhouse of the cell is or the principles of democracy but the next day when I asked students to select words they don’t know from a text he chose “explain.”
My mom sent me pictures from home. Ethiopians love to look at them. They find it hilarious I have a dog as a pet (Damn-it Hammling, I miss you). Dogs here at best are guard dogs and get scraps, at worst they are treated as pests and scour for trash. It is incomprehensible to Ethiopians a dog would sleep in the same bed as people.
I’m walking down the main road of my town. It’s ten feet across, dirt, and littered with rocks. I see a hawk prowling overhead. A common sight. The hawks swoops down into a nose dive, eyes locked on prey. My heart starts to thump. I look down, on the edge of the road is a mother chicken waddling about with her chicks. Oh gosh. In a majestic elliptical the hawk snatches a chick the size of a tennis ball. The mother looks back, the hawk is already 30 feet in the air.
I was sitting in my compound reading. It’s Sunday, my neighbors are washing their clothes, and coming to and from church. I see my landlady Zatoon. I smile and wave. She is swinging a dead rat by the tail. My face turns pale, fright overwhelms me. She smiles and waves back and says look while holding up the rat. My neighbors get a kick out of my reaction. They ask me if we have rats in America. Not that devil beast. It must have been 8 inches from head to tail. Well, I hear some snarly stories about the New York City rats. I haven’t heard the daily scratching of rats at the clothes I have stuffed in holes, maybe, just maybe.