Yoga Journal Pose of the Day

Monday, January 12, 2009

around town

November 21-22/08:

My hotel is very close to the centre of Addis. In fact, it is on the race course, which I didn't know until later. I have fun over the next few days, exploring Addis. I'm not interested in history on this trip. So, after I find some running routes, I want beauty and relaxation.

My friends take me shopping. I am very interested in textiles and traditional clothing, so that's where we go first.

Then we look for the Former Woodcarrier Women's Project and get a little lost along the way.

I was interested in purchasing a traditional coffee pot here.

People generally walk everywhere. And perhaps it's a sign of a walking culture that people seem to be oblivious to vehicles until the driver honks. Even on the busiest highway, trunk roads between major cities, pedestrians were everywhere and seemed to be startled by the appearance of a truck or bus, jumping off the road in alarm when the driver honked. Once, a girl ran right into the path of our vehicle in a panic, unable to decide in which direction safety lay.

Often a woman carrying a heavy load would venture to cross the road without looking for oncoming traffic, or if she did look, would underestimate the speed at which a vehicle was approaching. Invariably there was the startled reaction. Then I'd find it nearly unbearable to watch her run out of the way, laden down with her back bent under a load of firewood, or sacks of grain.

Men also carried heavy loads. But the more usual sight was men strolling elegantly along, dula casually across their shoulders.

In the country side, they would be found walking along the side of the road, but in the villages and towns, men would often be standing in the middle of the road, talking, or starting off to cross the road in any direction at all as they hailed a friend they happened to see. Their pride was stung just a bit by the impertinence of drivers honking a warning and vehicles bearing down upon them without any regard for their manliness!

Donkeys are made to carry incredible loads in Ethiopia and I saw some evidence of cruelty at times. I often saw people beat them mercilessly. I saw donkeys and mules with sores on their backs from where their loads or ropes had chafed their skin raw.

But the worst thing I saw was a horse that had wandered onto the Ring Road in Addis, and was standing, trembling, by the concrete median. It had been hit by a vehicle. It wasn't standing on its left hind leg which was shortened in a contracted fracture. It was bloodied and panicked.

I also saw great kindness towards animals all over Ethiopia and I hope that attitude will eventually prevail.

In the rural areas, vehicles have to contend with livestock on the roads all the time, but nobody complains about that. Drivers honk to warn the herders or shepherd boys and with a lot of whistling and prodding from dulas or the cracking of a whip, the herds and flocks are guided out of the way of the passing cars, trucks and busses. It's all a rather cheery business, actually.

But an animal is no match for a speeding truck or bus and I did see animals that had come to a sorry end.

We did eventually ask one of the relentless little boys who are constantly begging from likely looking people on the streets. After he volunteered the information we needed to find the Former Woodcarrier Women's Project, I noticed that he was cuffed and kicked by an older boy.

I thought the man nearby, who spoke to them both, was intervening on the smaller boy's behalf. But I think I was wrong. As the man casually walked away, the older boy continued to kick and punch the smaller boy. The littler boy danced away out of reach, but then they both walked off together with the man.

Hmmnnn. I started to think that maybe the little boy was actually being chastised for failing to extract some little bit of money from us. That was obviously the "job" of the little boy, to look as cute and winsome and pitiful as possible.

There is so much about Ethiopia that I admit I don't understand at all.

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