Sunday, March 25, 2012

Don't Dream It's Over

At first I counted the days. I had sentenced myself to sixty days of penance in an African reformatory; I intended to do the time, rehabilitate, and move on with life. Three long days passed. That was 5%. After twelve tedious days 20% was in the books; that felt like a milestone.

New friends arrived. Real friends. Suddenly I didn’t feel incarcerated anymore, but I was still rehabilitating. Every day was exactly the same, but every week was a little better than the one before.

My friends left. I felt alone again.

I learned the names of all the kids at school. Recess became tolerable, then it became the most rewarding two hours of the day, then I started grabbing onto kids at the edge of the rye. I made too many friends, habesha and firenje, to hang out with. I never get enough sleep, but I always wake up before my alarm goes off. Life hasn’t normalized, it’s just gotten dreamier. I used to be enthralled riding the buses. That got boring. Now for amusement I walk back roads and alleys five miles home from school without a map. The sun is my compass. I deliberately lost myself in a labyrinth of cobblestone alleyways in a nearby village at night a couple weeks ago. I had nothing to fear from the shadowy figures rambling the alleys, but I forgot about the feral dogs. I made it home without incident.

I extended my stay in Addis, and then I extended it again. I am having a hard time leaving this enchanting shithole. There is a 1% chance I never will. I scoffed at the concept of reverse culture shock when I got here; now I am terrified of it. I went to a firenje party the other night. A house full of white people drinking and talking. Its normalcy made it weird. I don’t want to go to firenje parties. I want to be the firenje. I dread the people at home who will ask me “How was Africa?” There will be no way to explain this illogical rapture to those who haven't been wrapped in it themselves.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Differences Between 29-Year-Olds and 19-Year-Olds

I hang out with a lot of 18 and 19-year-old kids out here on their gap year between high school and college. Most of these kids are surprisingly mature, way ahead of where I was ten years ago. I always have to pause and remind myself how much younger they are, how much younger they are than my little sister. Really most of them are pretty similar to people my age, but they all seem to exhibit three key differences:
  1. They have little experience in relationships and therefore have erroneous expectations for their future boyfriends and girlfriends
  2. Alcohol is a wildly powerful and mystical substance for them
  3. They've all read Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Harry Potter, but none of them have ever heard of Game of Thrones

Sunday, March 18, 2012

African Subjugation Part Three: The Six-Cent Birr Note

A couple months ago we went to this “resort” town Debre Libanos about fifty miles outside of Addis Ababa for the weekend. I woke up one morning, headed straight for the outhouse, and let loose. As I was wrapping up the session, I realized there was no toilet paper in the stall. The bowel movement was around a 7 on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being a sphincter-severing rock and 10 being pure liquid. This was not a scenario in which I could simply hike up my jeans and move along.

I quickly surveyed the stall. There was a wastebasket containing some disposed tissues, but they were flecked with blood. No one else was around, and the outhouse was far enough removed from the compound that yells for help would go unheard.

I generally bring a book with me to the commode, but this time had left it in my room in my haste.

It was then that I remembered I had a single birr note in my pocket, worth about six US cents.

Money is about the filthiest thing on the planet and birr rapidly disintegrates into cupcake paper, but this note was relatively clean and crisp. It was the clear option.

I hesitated. What could be more colonially haughty than wiping your ass with another country’s currency? The symbolism was brutally overt. Six cents, I kept saying to myself. Six cents.

What do you do?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Wild Ride

With Duke's shocking loss clearing the path to the regional final in the South region, tonight's game against Baylor would be the biggest Colorado men's basketball win in fifty nine years.

Go Buffs!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Great Moments in Sportsfandom

Bussing forty minutes across the city to one of the two hotels in town with high-speed wifi, hunkering down in an abandoned lobby, fistpumping and nail-chomping your way through an improbable, gutwrenching playoff win from your favorite team on a grainy pirated feed while the staff looks on in confused amusment...then doing it all over again sixteen hours later.

I love Ethiopia.

I love Colorado.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Two Months In

Some things I miss:
  • Seasons
  • Audio speakers
  • My own room
  • Lawns
  • Sushi
  • Poker

Some things I don't:

  • Red Meat
  • Clothes
  • My condo
  • Porn
  • Words With Friends
  • Drinking
  • Driving
  • TV

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

February Top 15

15. Griffin House - Let My People Go
14. Wilco - Black Moon
13. The Beatles - Dear Prudence
12. Griffin House - Standing at the Station
11. Griffin House - Native

10. Griffin House - Gotta Get Out
9. Griffin House - She Likes Girls
8. Bob Dylan - Visions of Johanna
7. Griffin House - River City Lights
6. Loreena McKennitt - Skellig

5. Metric - Gimme Sympathy
4. Griffin House - If You Want To
3. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Salvation
2. Griffin House - Just Another Guy

Song of the Month: Green Day - Welcome To Paradise

Monday, March 05, 2012

African Subjugation Part Two: The Equatorial Conundrum

Obviously southern (equatorial) civilizations lagged way behind northern "Western" civilizations economically and technologically heading into the twentieth century, which led to subjugation, which led to the backwards and broken societies we have today. What I don't understand exactly is how, when, and why the equatorial part of the world fell behind. The only explanation I've heard is that the colder weather of the North forced its peoples to develop the technology to combat the cold while simultaneously restricting them from depending on purely agrarian pursuits. Anyone who could shed some more light on this topic and/or recommend a book or other source of information would be greatly appreciated. Anthropology, geography, and history majors - we're looking at you.