An Early Morning Jog
The sun is shining and there’s not a cloud in the sky. I’m on a jog around the school cross country track. Small brightly coloured birds similar to finches wait until the last moment to fly from the path. There is an evocative smell of pine as a gardener trims the fir hedge by the car park. I wave to the noisy children in the open stairwell of the school next door and admire the orange tropical flowers that seem to have been blooming constantly in the garden I’m passing through. The jacaranda tree is now covered in purple flowers and a stunning sight as it sways gently in the breeze.
My thoughts turn to Meseret. Her Mum is dying of AIDS and deteriorated to such a degree that she couldn’t support her own head to breathe. However the drugs she received in hospital had a remarkable temporary effect and she has returned to her one-roomed mud dwelling able to stand and even walk with support. So Meseret is back home and a full-time carer whilst still in her early teens.
A less pleasant smell pervades the air. The school wall separates me from the polluted stream that flows beside it carrying discarded plastic bags and tissue. I notice a little waterfall for the first time. It could be very pretty. Today layers of foam float along and descend the rocks. No doubt someone has just finished their washing upstream.
I start to think about the smiley, heavily pregnant young woman I met when we went to Meseret’s home on the first occasion. Sadly she had a Caesarean delivery and died in the course of the operation. Would it have happened in the UK? Who knows? The baby, born four weeks early, was passed to its grandma for care. My friend visits regularly to take formula and nappies. Apparently they live in a windowless dwelling where a single candle burns. The baby is putting on weight nicely but whether for cultural or other reasons has only seen daylight twice in its eight weeks of life.
I continue along the track over the blood stained soil where three bulls were slaughtered last week in preparation for the worker’s Christmas dinners (Gena). Birds that resemble very large magpies are circling overhead and a couple are half-heartedly digging with their beaks in the loose earth on the bank beside me.
I remember how Seble told us that her husband had lost his job as a driver last August. They have been living on her part-time pay as a house worker for us and a few other Bingham residents. Finance must have been difficult. I had wondered why they didn’t celebrate Ethiopian New Year last September. He now has a new job as a driver for a supermarket on the other side of the city. He leaves at five o’clock each morning to begin the two hour journey by taxi. I am humbled by the kindness that he showed when he used his first pay packet to buy meat to share with us - two foreign strangers.
I pass a neighbour and fellow jogger on the track. We exchange a few words about the extraordinary noise coming from the plumbing in our apartment building recently, similar to a ship’s siren.There is a rope hanging from a tree that I am approaching. I glance into the branches above and notice a chair and the carcass of a sit and ride car wedged securely. No doubt a child’s secret den.
This will be my final circuit for today so I pause briefly to gather fallen sticks along the path. They will form good kindling for our fire tonight - a real treat.