April 13, 2005


The maid / brother-in-law feud seems to have come to a reluctant ceasefire. Both parties seemed to have calmed down, but they are still not speaking to one another. At least, my brother-in-law is not speaking to the maid. I think she’d be glad to return to relations as they were, but my brother-in-law is holding out. I’m trying to play peacemaker by encouraging by sides to come to the discussion table (the kitchen table, actually). The maid seems willing, even preparing my brother-in-law’s preferred lunch (pasta) once, but so far, he’s not budging.

I’m not really sure why things got to this level. The maid has always taken very good care of my brother-in-law. Her big drawback is she can’t hear; that can be frustrating when you are knocking on the door outside repeatedly and no one comes to answer. I could intercede with some kind of bell solution, but I’ve been a bit cavalier towards the whole situation. She hears our car honking and opens the door for that – that’s good enough for me. But like I said, I’m not sure what finally sent my brother-in-law over the edge.

By the way, a fan favorite, driving lessons with my brother-in-law have been discontinued ever since he burst through the gates of our driveway. I haven’t been particularly inclined to offer him the keys and he hasn’t asked. I think it’s better anyway, now that I’ve developed a healthy respect for the Ethiopian legal/traffic system. It’s better this way. I’d still like him to get a license, but driving him around the neighborhood won’t get him there and I’m not willing to take him out on the road.

I don't have too much to report. I’m still waiting for rain. Today, there’s a cloud cover – a semi-sheet of grey (I can still see some blue). The clouds have definitely been increasing. You know, in the future, or even now, my blog can be used as an authoritative source on Ethiopian weather. I swear I’ve heard so many versions from diverse sources of how the weather works here. People tell me we are in the short rainy season; others tell me we are not. People tell me just wait for the hot weather; others tell me Addis never gets above 30 Celsius. I don’t know who to believe, so I’m left to rely on my daily observations. Between February and today, I think we had 2-3 days of rain at most, with exceedingly short sprinkles on a couple of others. Maybe that’s a short rainy season. I can’t be sure. What I can tell you is that clouds are increasing. Every day, there are beautiful puffy white clouds dotting the sky. Towards evening, and sometimes in the morning, there is usually a sheet of cloud somewhere above the Entoto Mountains. But no rain.

Well, work is going well. I’ve been sending out my CV like crazy. A friend recommended me to the organization where I’m currently working, and I’ve really been enjoying that. They might have another assignment for me after this one: working with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. That could be fun. Just to give you an inkling of how serious the Orthodox Church is, my wife and I were driving to her parents’ house last weekend when we passed a Protestant Church that had just ended service. Being a hot day, I had the window down and because the streets were packed with the faithful, we were only inching along the road. That’s when my wife heard an Ethiopian Orthodox priest in the vehicle opposite say, “Satans” as he looked at the devotees in the road. Pretty funny, but people here are serious.

Anyway, I look forward to working with the church because of my experience writing the retrospective study of HIV/AIDS patients at Zewditu. We found that almost 90% of the patients in the clinic were Christian (of these, probably 90% were Orthodox Christian). Like I said before, this could be because Muslims don’t report to the clinic as frequently. More likely, they don’t contract HIV as frequently. But given that Addis is split almost 50/50 between Muslims and Christians, it seems to me that 90% is awfully high. My guess is that the church, rather than actively addressing the problem, is burying its head in the sand and scorning its followers and those who contract the virus.

Not that I’m going to argue with the church. It's strange being here, in a country with civilization dating back at least 5,000 years (that’s a pretty random number). Ethiopians have been through multiple wars, survived multiple colonization attempts, droughts, famines. They’ve built amazing architecture – rock hewn churches in Lalibela, obelisks, and a castle at Gondar. And all of this took place a long time ago. Further, the Ethiopian Church was there for a lot of this history. When I enter with my American mindset, I think of solutions too quickly, without understanding just how long this country has existed and just how many different strategies it has employed in different situations. That’s okay; I’ll keep going ahead with my American mindset because, in the end, I offer a fresh perspective. But, I’m humbled on a semi-regular basis when I realize just how much this country has been through.

Last night, we attended an art show at the Greek Club. I don’t know why it was at the Greek Club, but you’ll have to take my word for it; it was at the Greek Club. Are Greeks into art? Maybe statues, and big architecture, but paintings? Anyway, the show was pretty cool. It was a collection of Ethiopian artists displaying their work. One guy's work stood out far beyond the others. He had painted images on embossed wood (actually strips of paneling laid on top of big flat backing). The colors, mostly orange and yellows, on this black wood backing, were soothing but grabbing (I’m not an art critic). He also did a piece in mostly blue, which I really liked.

Anyway, this artist was the class of the show. The majority of his works were selling for 5,000 Birr (about $600). A little out of my price range at this point. The greedy part of me was thinking, however, how much I’d like to buy a piece like that and sell it in 20 years. Probably wouldn’t work, because I’d have to keep it dust free for 20 years and in this household, and probably many in Ethiopia, that is a complete impossibility. I guess I could have it framed behind glass, but because the wood protrudes, that would be difficult.

Well, we didn’t last too long at the art show, but it was definitely interesting. I want to be a collector like my parents were with Rie Munoz and Nancy Taylor Stonington. They were in during the artists’ early days and now the art in their house is almost exclusively from these two artists. And the paintings have become more valuable than they were, though we're not talking major sums of deniro.

I’ll sign off there for this morning. The cats on the service quarter roofs of our neighborhood are having their morning struggle for territory. Actually, they’ve been coming around our place a lot more as I think our female cat has “come of age”. One cat has actually come inside our house twice that I’ve seen. I have a pile of rocks and small pieces of wood next to the door that I like to scare them with. They always exit our driveway behind the doghouse which is made of sheet metal – it makes a horrendous crash when a rock or wood projectile hits it. Not that I’ve had much success with my scare tactics – they always seem to return for a little something something, I’m guessing.


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