update for the past few days
Day 6 (1/19/09)- So it's 5am and I am wide awake. My good health was too good to be true. L The past 2 days I'd only eaten 2 meals. Sunday I ate breakfast and then spent the rest of the time at the airport and when I arrived in Mekele and found no one there to greet me I didn't know where to eat here that was safe and since I can not cook my own food here as I could in Addis I just opted to try and get some sleep and wait until the morning. So Monday morning I ate some toast here at the hotel with marmalade. Their version of toast is actually quite good. I guess the closest thing I can compare it to is pizza dough. So I was feeling great and went to the University and met with the entire staff and they were all lovely and very accommodating. (they literally only have 2 antibiotics here … Oxytetracycline and Penicillin). I sent the e-mail/blog post that most of you likely read yesterday and honestly minutes after I sent it I started to break out in cold sweats. I immediately knew what was coming next b/c of my history of GI issues. I tried to quickly take 500mg of Ciprofloxacin and some Pfenegrin (spelling?) but that didn't even touch the nausea and cramping. So thankfully I found a post graduate student who spoke very good English and he tried over and over to call the Dean but the cell reception at the school was very bad so we just started walking toward the road to try and find someone to take me back to the hotel. This is at around 11am and I was supposed to teach at 2:30pm. After what felt like an eternity we were able to flag down a driver to take me and the student rode with me to make sure I was okay. Once I got to my hotel room I started vomiting over and over. They came back to the hotel and picked me up at 2 o'clock in the hopes that I would be able to teach but the little activity it took to get to the University again made the nausea start all over and I began vomiting again. We think it had to be the marmalade b/c I have been very careful about eating/drinking and if I'm not sure about something I just don't eat at all. I'd rather go hungry then be sick. So I fell asleep at around 3pm and now am wide awake but feeling MUCH better. I ate some applesauce and crackers I brought with me with a little peanut butter for protein and so far my stomach is really more sore then nauseous. The worst part is that I was so looking forward to teaching and some of the staff were going to take me downtown to celebrate the eve of Tim Kat (spelling?) which is the celebration of Jesus' Baptism. The holiday is actually today so there is no school and hopefully the Dean will pick me up to go and see the celebrations. My biggest fear is being our among the masses and getting sick again. Then I will teach on Wednesday the classes that I was not able to cover.
I was able to call Michael the night I arrived in Mekele and I got the bill yesterday for $21.00! I don't have a calling card yet but I was so lonesome I just had to call. That's almost the price I'm paying to stay in the hotel per night. So no more phone calls for me until I get a better deal worked out.
Also a cool thing to mention is that I have been told several times that Ethiopians love Americans and love American culture. But what I didn't expect to be asked is if I'm a Republican or a Democrat. Many of the Christians I have come across ask me this and when I saw I'm Republican they say, "me too!!" I love the Republicans! J When I ask them why they identify with the Republican party they just say b/c we are Christian. Which is think is really neat b/c I also sometimes don't understand (not to sound judgmental or anything) how some Christians can support a man who is so in favor of abortion and doing everything in his power to make it cheaper and easier to get one. Now of course I also know of Christian Republicans who are in support of the death penalty which is hypocritical so I'm not trying to sound all high and mighty here but I just thought it was a neat experience to convey.
Another not so neat experience happened to me in the airport on the way to Mekele. I was reading a book called 'Knowing the Enemy- Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror'. In retrospect obviously not the best book to be reading in a country with a large Muslim population. Anyway…. So when we are waiting to board the plane a man comes up to me and says, "Excuse me but I couldn't help but notice the book you are reading. Who is the enemy? Is it your personal enemy? What does this mean?" Now I'm thinking oh gosh, here we go. So I tell him that I have only read the first 10 pages so far and can't really expound on the book much but from what I can tell so far it just addresses the beliefs of radical Islam and the textual interpretations their reasons for acts of terror stem from. I told him the reason I wanted to read the book is because some of my favorite people (my Somali family I volunteer with) are Muslim but their father was killed by radical Muslims and their brother lives with a severe mental handicap after being brutalized by them. Why would Muslims want to attack and kill other Muslims as seen in Sudan and Somalia? I tried to stress that I KNOW not all Muslims are violent but if Islam is a religion of peace then I wanted to know more to try and understand how they justify killing innocent people. Now of course this man spoke very broken English and I don't know how much he understood. He just kept talking and talking to me and challenging me and I honestly couldn't really understand what he was saying half the time. Then he said, "I am Egyptian. What to Americans think about Egyptians?" Well having read 'Now The Call Me Infidel' I wanted to say that my opinion of Egypt has diminished greatly, but I just told him I was unsure what other people thought but that I had a big problem with Egypt giving amnesty to Muslim governmental leaders responsible for acts of genocide such as Idi Amin. He then told me that I was wrong and that Egypt didn't harbor these people. Thankfully it was my turn to go through the security check point so I was freed from this onslaught of questioning. I felt terrible b/c here I am with a great opportunity to represent America in a positive light and show that people want to understand Islam better so that we can find a way to peacefully co-exist but I lack the proper political and religious knowledge to support my stance. The entire time he was very polite and non-threatening just really genuinely curious. It was me that felt uncomfortable and inadequate as the United States civilian representative.
After that I put the book up and haven't taken it out again J I think I'll read something a little less controversial next time.
Another interesting think I learned yesterday was that the "top job" in Ethiopia to have is a civil engineer. The Dean told me that it is a very competitive field. So I'm going to try and get some sleep now that I have "unloaded" and gotten stuff off of my mind. It all just seems to pile up in my brain with no one to talk to. I can totally see why Tom Hanks needed to create "Wilson" his volleyball friend in that movie 'Cast Away'. Just to have some way to drain the thoughts in your head.
Day 7 - I've been in Africa for a week already. In some ways if feels longer then that and in some ways it feels like I just got here. So yesterday I was feeling a bit better and I really wanted to experience Tim Kat so I called up on of the professors and he sent a car to come pick me up to meet them to see the celebration. It was amazing! If you've ever seen pictures of the priests at Lalibela with their heavily decorated umbrellas and robes leading a procession then you know what I'm talking about. Honestly it reminded me a lot of Mardi Gras. EVERYONE heads downtown to first meet at one of the large churches and then they parade downtown into the piazza where they sing their prayers and celebrate. What was so neat to witness is how the different tribes and zones w/in those tribes celebrate. They each wear different traditional garments, some sing and dance, some beat huge drums, some have these really long sticks that they tap on the ground and dance with.. I LOVED it! I got some video on my camera so hopefully I'll be able to post that when I get home. There were also some decorated horses. The kids wear either traditional muslin clothes or suits and ties and wear visors embroidered with the date and location of the celebration. Some wear little make shift crowns. They also have sashes that say Ethiopia and are like the ET flag and carry these large wooden sticks that are wrapped with thread in the colors of the ET flag. I wanted to buy a sash and stick for Ezra but the guy I was with didn't know where to guy one and said I may be able to find them in Axum L Then after the groups celebrate together they break up and each goes their separate ways to their own church where the celebration continues. We saw some of the procession from the street then went to the balcony of a hotel (much like you would on Bourbon Street) and watched the rest from there. I hoped that they guys would bring me along for more celebrating but they just dropped me off at my hotel. I was trying to find something to do so I walked the grounds of the Castle compound a bit and then just came back to my room and watched movies. Again I was left all alone w/ no idea of where to go or where I could get some safe food so again I went hungry. I am STARVING! I like this hotel b/c it's sort of out of the way and everyone is very nice but no one really speaks English so it's not like I can just ask for directions or just walk somewhere. I'm trying to ration my food I brought since I still have over a week left here. I'm supposed to teach today at 2:30pm so until then I'm on my own again. Then tomorrow I teach again and Friday I'm on my own but Sat. and Sunday the Dean is supposed to take me to see some of the famous rock churches and sights of Mekele. So I guess I just have to look forward to being bored out of my mind for a while. I would hire a tour guide but that costs so much money. I hear there's this depression where it's like a sea of salt near here that's supposed to be really amazing and at least I'd know that would take up most of the day so it would give me something to do. I can't really complain b/c everyone here is busy working and teaching but I really feel left out to dry ya know. The 3 things I'm craving the most are salad, fruit, and chocolate J And of course my boys!!! I'm soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo lonesome. With so much downtime I can't help but wish I was at home or that they were here with me. Everytime I start the remotely think of home I have to just immediately push that thought out of my head or I'll start crying. Don't get me wrong I love Africa but I miss my family and being able to eat things without worrying about getting sick. Today I feel great though I so far I have no residual abdominal pain so that's good. In retrospect I wish I'd brought some beef jerky, dried fruit, fruit leather, and an electric one cup tea pot or something that could boil enough water to make easy mac or oatmeal.
Also a funny thing is that I have started to do the inspiratory sound that people here do to signify "yes", or "ah I see". I only noticed that I did it after one of the professors pointed it out. He was like… how long have you been here? Do you speak Amharic? Then I realized that I guess since I have picked up on a lot of words and their mannerisms and greetings that I'm doing pretty good. J No one in Mekele has come up to me begging for money! I mean in Addis you can't go 100 feet w/o having someone put their hand out or follow you for money. So I think I'm going to look into my travel book and try to fill some of my down time so that I don't spend this whole week in my room re watching Harry Potter over and over.
Becky Lee Burk