We had a low key New Year celebration. We went up to the pizza place on the hill for dinner, where Hywät works, then drove to the Embassy and spent New Year’s Eve with the Marines at their house. After a subdued midnight “yippee” and a small glass of champagne, we headed home.
Every time we go to the hill and eat with Hywät, the first thing she does is greet Terese. The two of them do the hug, hug, kiss, kiss routine, and inquire how things are. I once asked Hywät, how come you never ask me how I’m doing? She laughed and said, “If she is okay, then you are okay.”
Once while we were eating, she came by and asked Terese if her food was okay. “Yes, it is very good.” I waited … and waited … then stated, You didn’t ask me! She looked over at me and again laughed and said, “You always order same thing!”
Humph! – even if she is right.
The other night I went there alone to get some pizzas to bring home and Hywät was not there, but another young girl served me. She asked me, “Where is my husband?” I looked at her and said, Excuse me? “Where is my husband? Where is she?” I realized she was asking where Terese was, but used the wrong word and wrong possessive pronoun. I explained to her that Terese was not feeling well and stayed home. Then explained that I am the husband and Terese is the wife. I think it may have embarrassed her, so I then asked her the correct pronunciation for the Amharic phrase, Thank you. It’s about a paragraph long and I always have trouble saying it. Perhaps me asking her, made her understand I have trouble with languages too. But I was surprised how well she said what she said, because I detected no accent. That is what threw me when she asked where her husband was. My first thought was, Well, first of all what does the ol’ boy look like?
Well, this is Christmas in Ethiopia and there is no snow for thousands of miles, except perhaps on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It was interesting watching people as Christmas got closer. Yesterday I saw a boy carrying a goat on his back. No doubt the animal is sitting on a table being devoured as I write this. The other day we saw an old woman carrying a live chicken under her arm. That’s something you don’t see every day in the States. Not even in West Virginia. I imagine the bird is also history now.
The Christmas celebration began very early yesterday morning. I woke to what I thought was the dreaded call to prayer which is normally between 5am and 5:30, right before my alarm usually goes off. I got up to pee and get a drink when I noticed it was 3am, so it was a nearby church starting up. Couldn’t go back to sleep, with the constant wailing and chanting going on. You would think it would be a comforting sound, but it’s not, as the sounds are distorted. All the churches and mosques have outside sound systems, and recently, the mosque across the river evidently installed a new system. About twice as loud but still distorted.
So as the first Mass took off, several others started within the hour, then at the usual time, the call to prayer went out. Could not go back to sleep. The wailing and chanting continued all through yesterday and into the night. But lo and behold, there was silence when I woke early this morning … until the call to prayer raised its voice.
If I remember right, the Ethiopians start their Christmas morning with a 7am butchering of the animal they will be eating. (refer to the above comments on the goat and chicken) I believe they eat a portion of it then, and finish the critter off later in the day. But the real celebration will be on the Ethiopian Epiphany which is a greater celebration than Christmas. I was not in country last year, but Terese commented on the beautiful chanting and singing that took place in the streets. Notice there was no distortion because it was from the populace themselves instead of multiple horns mounted on buildings. Also there will be ceremonial fires throughout the city. I should be here this year and will get to enjoy it with her.
In a week or so, I will be in Djibouti City, but at this time of the year, the temps will be in the upper 80’s. A few months ago, it was consistently in the mid 100s to the lower 110s. So it will be a good time to go there. Afterwards, it’s back to Juba, South Sudan where the temps should be near 100 if not above. The hottest place I have ever been is Kandahar, Afghanistan, where the first Summer I was there the direct-sunlight temp topped out in the 150s. Unbelievably hot. That is when the crews worked from 3am to 3pm. Luckily for me, I secured an inside job as a Construction Coordinator by then. Yeah, I know, I’m a wuss, but I will never forget the stifling heat during the late afternoon. The AC units in the tents ran continuously but could only keep them in the 90’s. By morning the tent would be in the 70’s.
We found out our next posting is Ankara, Turkey and we are excited. I worked there for about 3 weeks a few years back and realized how much I wanted Terese to see it. Now, she will be able to experience it. For the first year, my boss will be a character I very much enjoyed working with in Moscow, although he is half a bubble off plumb. I have great respect for the gentleman and look forward to working with him again.
As I work on this document, I am sitting out on one of our balconies watching the birds in the trees and yard. If the damn cat was not asleep on one of my jackets upstairs, she would be itching to go play with them. There are so many birds that come and go in the yard, I decided to set up a posting with pictures of them. It will be boring for you youngsters, but old people like me and Mom will appreciate them. I’ll let you know when it’s online.
I’ve been hearing thunder in the distance and it seems to be getting closer. We have not had rain for quite some time and I hope it comes this way. Besides, my rain gauge is getting lonesome.
More later. Kick butt and don’t stop. D.
Mom elleta nolte said:
Dinner with the Marines at the Embassy in Africa sounds like an impossible happening. Tell us about the Marines at the embasses, a large group? Are they from all over? Do send us the bird pictures there at your house.
Embassies that use the Marines generally have enough to maintain a constant 24 hour watch with extras. Embassies may have anywhere from 6 to 18 Marines, depending on the size of the Embassy and the Host Country. These young men and women are especially trained for this work as it is a coveted job in the Marine Corps. Each one serves only one year then moves to the next post. I believe they are only allowed to serve a maximum of three posts. They are always extremely polite and serious when working, and cut loose when they unwind. Very energetic and healthy. To get a better idea of the Marines being at Post, imagine having a half dozen people like your grandson who went through the Marine Corp, protecting you. They are very much like him.
Mom elleta nolte said:
My son, from the time you began work for the U.S. State Dept, in Moscow and in Africa, I’ve plied you with questions, for I have an insatiable curiosity. Each time you patiently answered all my questions with descriptive words, and especially this one with the Marines. Your answer gave me a warm good feeling for the work of these young men and women and especially for the service of my grandson. Thank you, Jeremiah.