The Wedding, The Sheep, The Language
As we walked back to our flat from the car park in the dark up the hill past the speed bump I always trip over, I asked Chris if she had a key. "Stop here" she said under a lamp post, and opening her small back pack added: "I'll get it out now where I can see because I don't want to put my hand into all these bits of sheep". I bet I've got your attention now!
Dead sheep have figured highly in our first week. Last Saturday we met up with an old friend from college, Dave Harris, who was an usher at our wedding some time last century. Dave is running a project here for a few years around the mapping of small holdings. He rents a lovely new house and as it was his birthday he invited us to an evening that was typically Ethiopian involving tibs, injera, and a sheep - the animal arrived alive and a few hours later was grilling on the barbeque. Dave very kindly collected us from Bingham, but in a city with no meaningful signposts, road names or addresses I had to navigate him here by phone, describing local landmarks. It's different from using a map but it works. We had a lovely evening on his patio, but despite the sunshine and the blue sky you need to take a jumper as the temperature drops quickly in the evenings after the sun goes down around 6:30 pm.
As a result of cold nights I am learning how to light log fires to heat the flat. We have a supply of eucalyptus logs provided by the school but they are a bit hard to get going. Once they do though we are cosy warm. Except the bedroom. So we've bought a small oil-filled electric radiator for the bedroom. The shop we went to had several. Two didn't work, one the salesman broke while demonstrating it (which made him laugh), one had no wheels in the box at all. The one we bought was slightly bent but it had wheels, wasn't broken and it worked. There is of course no guarantee it will still be working in a week or so.
Being invited to an Ethiopian wedding and being treated like special guests is an experience in cultural immersion like no other. This happened last Sunday. Lema, the chief guard at Bingham, has set up and runs a small school of his own in the north west suburbs of Addis Ababa. We gave the school some materials when we were here six years ago and Lema has never forgotten. His daughter, Hana, was married last Sunday and we were invited, having only been here for three days. Two teachers from Bingham were invited as well - Clare (of oil filter fame) and Rob from Australia. The only four white faces in a throng of severeal hundred. It is impossible to adequately describe the rejoicing that took place to celebrate the happy event, and it is lovely to be in a community that holds marriage in such high regard. We were seated at the side of the front of the tent, with the bride's family. We were first guests to be invited to go get some food - injera and a collection of toppings including finely ground raw beef and sheep's intestines. After speeches, eating, drinking (but no alcohol) and much preaching, Lema decided to take the wedding party right into the centre of Addis Ababa to a smart hotel with lovely grounds to take photos. This took 2-3 hours in total, and involved a convoy of cars all with hazard flashers on carving through the already crazy traffic with bridesmaids in brilliant magenta dresses sitting up dangerously out of the windows of a couple of cars whilst uulating and waving equally bright magenta flowers. Horns blared, people shouted, we followed. Once back in Lema's suburb we were invited to the church service. The church was packed with several hundred people and we werre ushered up the front amidst all the singing and rejoicing. The people laughed and clapped so much at the chap doing the address I was unsure if he was a minister of religion or a stand-up Ethiopian comic. Not a word did we understand but we clapped appropriately and stood when necessary and left with the bride's family feeling relieved (me especially) that no enforced dancing had occurred. There were then antics out in the grounds of the church (in the dark) involving fireworks, cakes and drinks. As we were about to take our leave (eight hours after arriving) Lema asked if we would return for further celebrations on Tuesday evening . We couldn't say no of course - this was a great honour.
Talking of Tuesday I started language school that morning and I now know Amharic words for "butterfly", "hammer", and "eyelash". All useful stuff. Its an odd teaching method but many have said its effective so let's see if my already over-full brain can cope. Essentially I spend the first two weeks listening and looking at pictures.
I'll upload some media shortly so you can see a bit of the wedding. As this post is getting too long, the fire has gone out and I want an early night (because going to get a driver's licence tomorrow will involve a run in with the Ethiopian Department of Unnecessary Bureaucracy and will be exhausting) I'm going to stop now. I'll be back in a few days and I'll tell you about the next dead sheep, and why some of it was in Chris's back pack.