January 28, 2005

Afternoon report

I am definitely no good at picking the weather here. I think I called for blistering sunny skies this morning, and we just finished a few minutes ago with an afternoon downpour.

Today was a fun day. Aside from editing my colleague's term paper, which was not fun, I gave my brother-in-law his first driving lesson. He was so pleased. By the end, he refused to make the turns that would lead us back to the house.

Not that it wasn't without event. He's an ambitious learner, but it was his first day. And, unlike in the U.S., there are no huge parking lots on which to practice. I was racking my brain to come up with a big lot and the only one I could think of was at the airport. I don't think the armed guards would have thought too highly of us training in their lot.

So we practiced around the neighborhood. This is a problem on a number of levels - bumpy roads, lots of blind corners, and my favorite, tons of pedestrians. This last obstacle turned out to be the greatest concern. I think more than one was frightened by a sudden peeling out on the gravel (which today's experience showed me that it makes nothing like the sound in Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider, or any of a host of shows I grew up watching).

But like I said, more than one unknowing neighbor was given a scare, either by a spinning out of the wheels, or by a sudden acceleration in their direction. I'd forgotten how hard it is to shift while looking ahead at the road. Or to accelerate while keeping the steering wheel aligned. But, it was a lot of fun and his enthusiasm was contagious. He truly kept taking us around the block, just one more turn, before I eventually had to force him back to our house. Even then, he wanted to pull the car into the driveway, an idea I vetoed, as our driveway requires a high degree of maneuvering skill.

Hgh. Now it's sunny, or has the makings. Ethiopia's tourism slogan is "13 months of sunshine". 13 months because it's the Julian calendar (12 months of 30 days and 1 month of 6 - that seems like an extra day to me). To me, the name implies 13 months of continuous sunshine, but there are sinister things at work in the Tourism Commission. The slogan has been reinterpreted to me a number of times, after my persistent inquiries, as meaning that within each month, there will be sunshine. A little disingenuous, a little brilliant, a little Ethiopia. Maybe that's a new slogan for the tourism board to consider.

Speaking of Ethiopians, I once saw a shirt that spelled HABESHA down the back, all in capital letters. Then for each letter of HABESHA, there was a descriptive word (for those of you who don't know, Habesha is a word apparently of Greek origin used to describe Ethiopians - it's in common use and apparently well-liked or at least accepted). Anyway, it was on the back of this guy's shirt. I can't remember what each of the words was. The only one I remember was that the "H" stood for honesty and maybe the "A" stood for altruism.

It was interesting. I can't think of too many developing/African countries that would have such self-pride. I can't imagine a similar "BENINOIS" or "NIGERIAN" shirt. Maybe Senegalese. I think it's reflective of Ethiopians in general - proud people with a long history of greatness, tragedy, etc. They've got it all.

So anyway, that's where we are at.


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