September 27th was the Ethiopian holiday Meskel, which commemorates the discovery of the True Cross by Queen Helena (Saint Helena) in the fourth century. It includes the burning of a large bonfire decorated with daisies, prior to the celebration. Afterwards, charcoal from the remains of the fire is collected and used by the faithful to mark their foreheads with the shape of a cross, as it is done on Ash Wednesday in the States. It is believed that a part of the true Cross has been brought to Ethiopia from Egypt.
When Terese arrived from the States a week ago, one of her bags did not make the trip with her, so the next day we headed out to the airport to retrieve it. Traffic on Eto-China was so bad, we decided to make a U-turn (across the center median) and head to the airport via the “Ring Road”. When we do something like that, I usually end up lost, and this was no different. While we sat at an intersection waiting for the police to direct traffic, (one of the few that actually directs traffic) there was a naked young man standing on the curbed median in the middle of the street, in the rain, with nothing but a red wrap around his head, and a stick in his hand. (they always carry a stick). Public nakedness is not so strange as you may think, because this is Africa; what was strange, was he had a pair of sun glasses on top of his head. He was standing in the light rain, crossing his arms to keep warm. It looked as if someone told him to stand there and do not move.
I love Africa.
The monkeys have not returned since I nailed one in the chest, but it’s just a matter of time before they do. After all, life here would not be the same if it was not for them.
The rains have slowed down and we will go several days without any. Usually in the morning it is clear and sunny, then about 11 AM it clouds up and sometimes rains.
When I drive, I turn my headlights on to make myself more visible. Occasionally, someone will flash their lights at me, to tell me I have them on. Many Africans have the idea that the battery in a car will only last so long, then has to be removed and another one installed, just like the batteries in a flashlight. They don’t understand that the vehicle charges up the battery constantly. Many of them will actually drive at night without their lights to conserve their battery. But during any medium to heavy rain, they will turn on their flashers.
There is an old coot, who appears to be homeless, that I sometimes see in the mornings. He will step out into the street when he sees me coming and gives me two thumbs up. I don’t know if he does this to all vehicles with diplomatic tags or just telling me my lights are on, but for whatever reason, he gives me two thumbs up. Afterwards, he has a satisfied look on his face, like he has completed his morning task. We call him, Thumbs Up.
The other day, I was driving through the streets with two of my Regional Security Techs, (local men who work with us), and I asked them when the city was going to fix all the broken traffic lights. They told me several years ago, a man was going to replace all of them, even ordering some of the newest ones on the market, but there were so many people in the government who demanded money from him, he just gave up. So, Addis does not have any modern traffic lights due to the corruption in the City Government. Sounds like Chicago.
The people in Africa can come up with some unusual ways to get money off you. Often times, especially in a light rain, men will stand at intersections with shovels, and when they see you coming, they will start shuffling dirt into the pot-holes in the road, like they’ve been doing it all day. When you pass them, they will stop like they are taking a much deserved break, hoping you will stop and give them money for making the road easier to drive on. Why they do this only in the rain is beyond me.
We have finally got ADSL Internet installed. We will be paying about 10-15% more, but we are no longer limited to 4GB and it’s much faster. So, I will be uploading some images to our Flickr site soon.
Speaking of pictures, below is a picture taken in Heidelberg I forgot to post. This was at the train station. No further comment needed, except, that is Germany.
Many times on our way home on Fridays, we will encounter a mess of cattle being herded along the road to the packing plant near our house. We finally had a camera with us this time. Usually, the herds are much larger.And here is a picture one of our Seabees took on his way home. If there is a further comment, I don’t know what it is, except, this is Africa.More later. D.