It’s 7am on Sunday 23rd November and I am about to embark on another unique Ethiopian experience. Quick pocket check for emergency supplies – door key, tissue, money, plasters (just in case). We travel in a minibus together - twelve of us about to take part in the Great Ethiopian Run. It will be 10km following a kind of circular route around the streets of Addis.
It was six fifteen and darkness was falling. Mulawork (who, along with her grandma had been forced to leave the housing they had shared with a relative), was now keen for us to visit her new home. Just before we finished the session, Tadalech and Meseret also spoke to us and made us understand that we should visit Meseret’s mum. Why, we had no idea but they were so insistent.
Things are getting so familiar here that it is difficult to know if what I write will be of any interest. Since we returned from Tanzania life has been busy but perhaps unremarkable - to us, anyway. However something I noticed today on our way to the SIM prayer afternoon was how people behave on pedestrian crossings. The crossings are everywhere and many have recently been repainted, but neither pedestrians nor motorists seem to take much notice. Why is it (I know I should never ask “why?”…) that when I stop at a pedestrian crossing the few people approaching it refuse to cross until I have gone past, when the rest of the time they wander around in the road as if no cars exist? If I stop at a crossing, smile and wave they just stand beside the road smiling and waving and not crossing. The few that do cross look rather worried. It’s a topsy turvy world!
Who rules Ethiopia? Bet you don’t know. Even I’m not sure and I live here, but it’s easy to think Meles Zenawi is still in power. His image appears in all sorts of places. There’s a huge one, faded and rather bluer than he should really look, a few minutes drive down the ring road. He appears near major road works, or close to the railway construction. Hand extended, appealing look, always engaging. However he’s dead.
If we didn’t believe that the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus were historical events that took place on a date in history and at a place on the map and that the world needs to know about this then we wouldn’t be here. However I have rarely thought much about what happened to the actual cross that the Romans used to execute Jesus. It was an old rough piece of wood – it was probably reused, or made into something else, or burned, or something. I don’t suppose anyone took any notice – after all, no-one seems to preserve other means of execution – axes, guillotines, ropes, gallows, syringes, needles – that sort of thing.
I suppose if they were honest every ex-pat living here in Ethiopia will have occasional moments when the only thing they want to do is go straight to the airport and fly home. Well I had my first experience of this two or three weeks ago, in the middle of the night. Insect bites are a fact of life in the tropics, and Chris and I have coped with them intermittently over the time we have been here. I can sometimes be seen sitting at home in the evening with my trousers tucked into my socks as I am convinced unseen bugs are attacking my lower legs from the floor.