February 26, 2005

Saturday Am - good morning all

Good morning to the blog,
Hello all. What’s happening this morning on your side of the world? Here in Addis, life is calm; the city is just waking up for a Saturday morning. The Orthodox Church priests are singing in the neighborhood – some kind of call to prayer. The sun is coming up. I expect it to be a hot day capped off at the end by some light rainfall. That’s been the pattern the last two days.

Well, yesterday was full of surprises. I’ll start with the least interesting, in order to build up and give readers something to look forward to at the end. To start with, the dog is in the doghouse. Literally, he’s tied to the doghouse right now. Usually, he gets a reprieve in the night when I’m around. Last night, though, I discovered that he’d been involved in some unsightly activities involving our neighbor’s house.

I think it came up in conversation because I’d seen him jump through the hedge separating our neighbor’s house from ours. There’s some sort of fence contraption there as well, at the base of the hedge, but the dog has managed to find a way through. To me, it seemed like cute, harmless play. The neighbor’s kids really like the dog and actually feed him on occasion, though if I’m honest, I must say that Simba far prefers the victuals that we provide.

Anyway, the whole bone of contention surrounding our dog and the neighbor is that 1) they are Muslim and 2) that our dog pooped inside their house. If you are not up to speed on your Islam, the dog is considered a filthy creature to be avoided. Dogs unfortunate enough to be born in Muslim countries are generally treated poorly, at least that was my experience in Senegal and that is what I’ve heard in general. So, the fact that our dog was even in their compound was a big problem to begin with.

Even more embarrassing is that the dog pooped inside their house. I mean, when he does it here, we get mad and send him outside. But the carpets in this house our old; any mistakes are always cleaned up quickly – not a huge deal, but annoying. But the fact that he did it in our neighbor’s house – what is he doing!? Well, I’ve got to come up with a solution by increasing the size of the fence and possibly digging it under the surface a bit, as Simba is beginning to dig holes. So for now, he stays chained.

I didn’t plan to write about this, but the whole animals pooping inside is a more significant issue than I considered. Both our cat and dog our offenders in our house. The dog is always obvious and you can generally catch him in the act and send him outside. But the cat is deceptive. On occasion, you’ll see her come downstairs with kind of a determined look on her face and in her manner; then she disappears and you return to whatever show you were watching. Shortly thereafter, you might amble over to the fridge when you notice a smell that’s just not quite right. As you investigate, the smell gets out of hand and you nearly lose it.

I have no idea why, but the cat favors the curtains in our living room – one in particular. The curtains are too long, so they bunch up on the floor. That is the major problem. But our cat has selected one and I’d say, on average, 1-2 times a month makes a deposit for us to discover. Our domestic assistant must hate the days when she comes into the living room and sees the curtains removed or wakes up to see them placed outside.

Well, enough on the unpleasant side to our pets. I set out to write about three interesting things from yesterday. Part two is more interesting than the pets. Yesterday, I received my first traffic ticket. I ran a red light. I didn’t go through an intersection, just continued making my turn after the light had clearly turned red. A taxi before me made the same fault, but as soon as I turned the corner, there was a policeman flagging me to the side.

To give you a little background, I’ve been driving somewhat with impunity here in Addis. I’ve been stopped by police four times (three of which were for violations) and I’ve only been given a ticket once. It’s like the police see the violation, stop me, and then realize that because I’m a foreigner who probably doesn’t speak any Amharic, it will be a pointless exercise. Generally, they just ask to see that I have an Ethiopian driver's license and let me go on my way.

Not yesterday. The full brunt of the law came down on me. The officer walked up to the car and started pleasantries in Amharic. I unthinkingly responded in Amharic (possibly hurt my case, but I think this guy was going ahead no matter what). I just said give me the ticket. I didn’t act apologetic or plead. I definitely didn’t offer any indication that I wanted to discuss the issue. Just give me my ticket and I would be out of there. The officer was equally disinterested. Passers by made cautious glances and I heard a reference to myself across the street, but all in all, the response from onlookers was pretty subdued – I really would have expected more laughing and attention given that it was a busy intersection and I was a white foreigner receiving equal treatment before the eyes of the law.

The ticketing part passed fairly quickly. However, it was the follow-up that was the real pain in the neck. The officer took my license and said I could retrieve it once the ticket was paid. I had to go out to the Road Authority and pay my ticket. It’s funny, when I went to the Road Authority the first time to get my license, I hadn’t thought anything of the line of people on the other side of the compound. This time, I came to learn that that was the location where tickets were paid.

The atmosphere of the ticket line was somewhat lighthearted and embarrassed. As I arrived at the back of the line, I couldn’t help but smile to myself at the same time as I put my head down so as not to look at anyone. I was the only foreigner in the line and only drew mild attention. The most attention I drew seemed to come when the attendant behind the desk asked me to clarify my name and nationality. As I corrected her pronunciation of my name and told her I was from the U.S., the information was quickly disseminated through the line and a few enterprising co-violators started to say my name to me.

Anyway, I don’t have my license, but my fine is paid. Apparently, I committed one of the most severe violations and two more of those and I will have to reapply for my license, including driving school and tests. So, I’m a bit more cautious now.

Now, to part three of this morning’s entry. Last night, as I was driving everybody from the clinic home after a night of research, I was flagged down by soldiers standing on the side of the road and commanded to drive them to the scene of an accident. I’d assumed car accident, but it turned out to be much worse.

I’d just dropped off my co-researcher at his hotel and it was just the last doctor and me to go. We were driving along a bypass street, when we saw three soldiers running on the street ahead of us. As our car approached, they stopped running and directed us to stop. Something had clearly happened and they made motions for Dr. A to move so they could climb into the back seat, guns and all. There was frantic discussion on the radio and they instructed me to drive quickly and directly (including a few violations) to the scene of the accident. When I became stuck behind traffic, they told me to honk and get everybody out of the way.

We arrived a couple of minutes later at the scene of the accident. The soldiers hurriedly jumped out, pushing the doctor’s seat forward onto her (a bit). There was all sorts of what I assumed was smoke in the air. I asked the doctor if it was a fire and she said, “no, the building collapsed”.

That’s all I know at this point. I circled back around for a second look, but saw nothing, other than the thick dust cloud hanging in the air and people lining the balconies of the adjacent building. Today, we’ll find out what happened, though ominously, last night on the evening news, we saw a story about a conference that had been taking place in the building that afternoon. If it continued into the evening, and the building truly collapsed, then this could be a big problem. I’ll keep you up to date.

Later.
Ken

15 Comments:

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I love your blog Kenneth D. How long has it been on-line? Reason I ask is I am doing a ton of work in the area of wedding favors catalogs and will probably end up starting a blog of my own. Funny how the internet brought me here when I was doing searches on wedding favors catalogs. Oh well, I am glad it did. Keep up the great blogging and I am sure I will visit Saturday Am - good morning all again!!

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Blogger Derek said...

Hey Kenneth D. Very nice blog :0) I just got inside from washing and waxing my truck. It is my baby. Took me 2 hours though. So I settled down into my basement and started doing some web surfing. Anyways I am in the process of grabbing my masters degree and have spent the last 6 months researching mexican wedding favors. In the midst of my surfing I landed smack dab in the middle of your blog. I hope you do not think I am intruding but I must say it is great blog. Even though Saturday Am - good morning all is way off base from mexican wedding favors I found myself cruising through your blog archives for the last half hour :0) You have some nice blogging friends. Anyways, I need to get back to my mission. I wrote don’t your url and feel free to visit me here at mexican wedding favors. I am so busy so I can only update my site monthly. Keep up the great work

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Blogger Rachel said...

Hey Kenneth D. Very nice blog :0) I just got inside from washing and waxing my truck. It is my baby. Took me 2 hours though. So I settled down into my basement and started doing some web surfing. Anyways I am in the process of grabbing my masters degree and have spent the last 6 months researching mexican wedding favors. In the midst of my surfing I landed smack dab in the middle of your blog. I hope you do not think I am intruding but I must say it is great blog. Even though Saturday Am - good morning all is way off base from mexican wedding favors I found myself cruising through your blog archives for the last half hour :0) You have some nice blogging friends. Anyways, I need to get back to my mission. I wrote don’t your url and feel free to visit me here at mexican wedding favors. I am so busy so I can only update my site monthly. Keep up the great work

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