If you’re read my blog, you know that Timket is my favorite Ethiopian holiday. It’s just so joyful and celebratory, I can’t help but be swept away.
This year I was lucky enough to go to Gondar, the city with the best Timket celebration in Ethiopia. The city houses 44 tabots (replicas of the Ark of the Covenant) and a number of them make their way down Fasilides’ Bath for the all night vigil and blessing of the newly-filled bath after sunrise. Then Ethiopian men strip down and jump into the holy water, celebrating the baptism of Jesus.
Although it’s typically men who jump in, this year me and several other PCVs decided to go swimming in the holy water as well. It was freezing! I filled up an empty water bottle with holy water for my compound and got out as quickly as I possibly could. Although we were surrounded by men, the bulk of them were really kind, calling us anbesa (lion in Amharic) and asking how it was. I also poured some holy water for older Ethiopians who weren’t going to get down near the water amongst all the young people jostling for a spot.
Eventually I will share all my photos, but for now enjoy this view as the priests were setting up for the service and the sun was just beginning to rise.
It’s hard to grow a garden in Ethiopia. Really hard. Aside from water issues and even the exceedingly poor quality of the soil, the fact that any random animal can wander in and eat your veggies just makes it next to impossible. For instance, my once beautiful container gardens have been absolutely ravaged by the Christmas sheep (the one we slaughtered and ate on Ethiopian Christmas) and now by the chickens, who previously hadn’t touched my veggies are now starving and therefore have picked my lettuce clean.
It’s disheartening, disappointing and makes me question why I even bother.
My boyfriend once told me about a conversation he had before leaving the US and coming to Ethiopia. The man he was speaking to told him that after living here, he would have a whole new understanding of a “fence in” society versus a “fence out” society.
Ethiopia is a “fence out” society meaning if you don’t want something screwing with your crops or garden, you have to put a fence up to keep them out. To put this in perspective, I’ve seen maybe one solid fence in the area around my town. The rest of the time cattle, sheep, goats, chickens and even people often wander into nearby fields or gardens to see what goodies they can find.
The people are the most frustrating. Even if an area is fenced off, they will climb over to grab some of the fresh chickpeas to eat for an afternoon snack, pick peppers off the plant or take whatever they can find.
In Ethiopia, if you hit an animal on the road you have to pay up to 3 times the value of the animal. People actually throw their animals in front of vehicles (as witnessed when my parents were visiting) to get money for it and farmers have no qualms when it comes to getting the maximum amount of money out of the “wealthy” drivers. In other African countries, if you hit an animal you get to keep it, so farmers work extra hard to keep their animals out of the way of motor vehicles less they lose an animal they worked hard to raise.
It seems like all things I take issue here stem from the perception that Ethiopians can take whatever they want from wherever they want. The example that I’ve used before is the director of an organization stealing charity funds to buy himself a motorbike. You can take food, items and money, and no one sees it as a big deal… in fact, it’s their right.
They should have been fenced out otherwise.