Why, it’s another blog post, silly!
Due to a somewhat interesting week time-wise, it’s Double Upload Sunday. Samrat internet is freaking out due to too much WordPress 😛
This post is going to cover a lot (i.e. probably too much), but c’est la vie.
First: things that have got me thinking this week.
– I put on my Comic Relief t-shirt that I use as a pyjama top, and finally made a connection. The organisation that I’ve been placed with, JeCCDO, receives a lot of funding from Comic Relief (it’s one of the major donors). I wonder if any of my money has come to Dire Dawa in the past…
– I met my host mum’s uncle last week, who has been working in development for his entire career. We had a really interesting (and long…I was there for 2.5 hours) conversation about development and dependency in Ethiopia and in the UK, and I learned a lot from him. One thing he said in particular has been turning over in my head: ‘We do not come out of the womb grasping money. We come into the world alone. We move through it alone. And we leave it alone. Any money we carry along that journey we must find by ourselves. It is not a right. The best thing that we can do with the time that we have is find ways to help the people around us who are truly and completely alone. Because we are none of us entitled to anything, and we should be mindful of that.’ Ethiopian eloquence at its best.
– My host dad and I were talking about Ethiopian history (as you do), and he asked if I knew what the old name for Ethiopia was. I replied ‘Abyssinia’ (gobbez Laura!). He then pointed out that the Bible makes many references to Abyssinia, but none to the UK, and none to the USA. What we consider the centre of the world now (Europe and America) has not always been the centre of the world. And maybe in another 2000 years, Asia will be the focus. The world has not always been as it is, nor will it remain so.
Another point that my host dad made was that in Ethiopia, there is time for religion, and time for family. Even though the work opportunities may be (perceived as) better in the West, we’ve had to squeeze out spirituality and family in order to make money, and that’s the main reason why he’s not tempted to emigrate from Ethiopia to (for example) Australia. This brings me nicely onto topic number 2: Ethiopia Time.
Time in Ethiopia has become a subject of fascination for me. It’s a very fluid concept that sometimes applies and sometimes doesn’t. Here’s the rundown.
– Ethiopians love to tell you that they have 13 months of sunshine (a different calendar with 12 months of equal days, and one extra month with all the extra days), and it’s also 2005 here, not 2013. Makes filing somewhat interesting, when some people use the Ethiopian calendar and others use Gregorian.
– We’re also working in multiple times. There’s western time – how we tell the time in the UK – and Ethiopian time. The sun rises at 6am western time. That’s 12 Ethiopian time. 7am is one hour after sunrise, so that’s 1 o’clock Ethiopian time. 8am is 2 hours after sunrise, so that’s 2 o’clock. Etc etc. The easy way to work it out is to simply look at the opposite side of an analogue clock face to work out what the time is in Ethiopia. So if your western clock says ‘9’, look at the number opposite (3) and you know what an Ethiopian would call the time. You get used to it. But you always have to check which time you are agreeing on.
– A good demonstration of the different emphasis that the two cultures (UK and Ethiopia) place on time is who wears watches. The majority of the UK volunteers wear a watch; the majority of the Ethiopian volunteers do not. I didn’t realise how much my life was ruled by the tiny clock strapped to my wrist, or how obsessed with being on time I am.
– Incidentally, Ethiopians are not obsessed with being on time. Punctuality is something that people seem to find amazing, rather than necessary. If we are late to work in the UK, the you-know-what hits the fan, and we could lose our job. Here, if you get to work within an hour of your start time, you’re doing well. I intend to continue arriving at the office before the boss.
– The government here has set a legal minimum for working hours in Ethiopia – 8. How different employers interpret this is up to them. I’m still trying to estimate how many people actually work 8 hours a day, and how many are simply contracted for 8 hours.
– This is all tied up in the working attitude. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been told ‘Why are you worried?’ ‘Relax!’ ‘You don’t need to feel anything’ ‘Be free!’ I can’t function in the hyper-relaxed atmosphere. There’s no pressure, and there seem to be few consequences.
– And this, I am coming to believe, is all going to feed into how Ethiopia is going to do development. We’re at the tipping point just now, and everyone can feel it. Ultimately, I think there are two possible outcomes.
- The first is that the Ethiopian people do development. They iron out the time issue, pull themselves together into an organised and strong force that is supported legislatively, and they tackle their own problems through their own work. This is what I’d like to see, particularly given their colonialism-free past.
- The second is that development is handed over to foreigners, and the current trickle of investment from America, the UK and China (Chinese investment is EVERYWHERE) becomes a flood. After that, there’s no way back, and I think attitudes to foreigners would change too. The friendly cries of ‘ferenjii!’ would turn into something more sinister, and the issue of dependency and tied aid, or whatever you want to call it, would start to rear its ugly head.
But now it’s time for something nice, ishee?
Let’s play the Ethiopian food identification game: WHAT WAT IS WHAT?: Your wat-spotting guide.
The traditional diet in Ethiopia is mainly comprised of wat; food of a sort of soupy texture that you eat with injera. There are spicy wats, plain wats, vegetarian wats, and meaty wats. You can eat them hot and cold, and most of them blow my head off.
- Doro wat: This is the most famous of all the wats, and the national dish of Ethiopia. It’s made up of three parts: the sauce, which is spicy and full of onions, roasted and marinated chicken (doro), and hard boiled eggs.
- Shuro wat: Something of a staple in our house (but not for me), shuro wat is made with beans, and is orange. That’s basically all I can say about it.
- Sugo wat: made with meat and vegetables, similar to stew, in a very spicy sauce.
- Messer wat: finely ground ox in a tomato and onion sauce, which has a gentle (by Ethiopian standards) heat, rather than being crammed full of berbere.
- Kuk wat: this is my favourite. It tastes like mushy peas. It’s made with yellow split peas that are cooked until they get to the consistency of baby food, with just a touch of seasoning. Nice and comforting. And did I mention it tastes like mushy peas?
A somewhat disorganised post, but a good overview of the mundane and the interesting. The next time I speak to you, I’ll be over half way through, and beginning the countdown to home. I’m planning a ‘friends, I missed you all’ get together when I come home – stay posted for details J