The sun rises at 6:30 and sets at 6:30. Every day. Colors seem brighter here, vibrant under the intense sun. Off in the distance you can see mountains… sometimes they are just blue shapes on the horizon, other times you can make out details. Animals roam the streets freely, grazing on whatever grass or crop they can find. Occasionally, a random goat will wander into a friend’s compound and eat all the kale growing in the garden. It’s been known to happen.
Everywhere I go, kids follow. Some days they trail along quietly, wondering where the fareng is heading, other days they run after us as a screaming mass, grabbing, touching and tripping over themselves as they crowd around us. Some kids ask for money, others for pens. Some kids don’t have shoes. As someone who prefers not to be noticed, it’s next to impossible here with the constant shouts of “You you you!,” “Fareng!,” or (my personal favorite) “CHINA!” To get our attention, kids repeat the one string of English words they memorized in school, “Hi! What is your name! Where are you go!” Once, I really startled a boy who yelled out “China!” when I responded in Amharic, “I’m not Chinese, I’m American.” He almost fell off the pile of rocks he was sitting on.
Thursdays are the big market days, and the population of the town swells noticeably as those from the surrounding areas come in to buy and sell their wares. On a normal day, you’d be hard pressed to see more than a handful of buses come through during morning or afternoon buna break, but on market days, they are non-stop, bringing dirt and exhaust with them. Men carry chickens around by their feet, donkeys graze off in the distance and women fill their baskets with vegetables. I can always count on coming home to the smell of onions being peeled and cooked on market days.
Every morning, my host brother runs out with his black plastic bag to buy fresh bread. Most days it’s the standard white fluffy bread, but once in awhile, he comes home with this fantastic flat bread I have yet to learn the name of. At some point in the second week, my entire language group finished telling our LCF what we’d had for dinner and he was so proud that not a single one of us mentioned injera. Why would we when it comes with every meal? Sometimes, we get injera with injera. I started to write that I hadn’t had the gunfo, but as I was typing the words, my host mom brought out gunfo. Believe the others and just avoid the gunfo. Never trust that meat in sauce is some siga wat. You might eat all of it, really like it and be well on your way to a second scoop when you realize that it’s kitfo. Especially if you happen to be at a birthday party.
And at night, millions of stars spread out across the sky, reminding me how small I really am and how fleeting each of these little moments really are.