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.


Blogger Ryan Wanger said...

In college, I went to Australia for the semester. Even though Australia is pretty much just a more laid back version of the US, it was still really weird to come back.

Was my life always this preppy? Why do things seem so much less rewarding now? The things I thought I missed become unimportant as soon as I came back to them.

But eventually all that faded away, and the feeling is long forgotten. That isn't to say that life wouldn't be more rewarding if I were still living abroad...

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time for some redtube

11:24 AM  
Blogger Bag said...

I think your feelings are pretty standard for situations like this. When I went to Chile in 8th grade I hated it for 3 days and by the end of 2 weeks I didn't want to leave for a lot of the same reasons you mentioned. I had friends, I was comfortable with the locals, I was self-sufficient. A similar thing will probably happen when you come back. You'll hate it for a bit but then you'll love it again once you are check raising tourists and taking huge pots off them in Vegas.

12:13 PM  
Blogger TheGraveWolf said...

Now what do you count?

12:23 PM  
Anonymous The Count said...


12:24 PM  
Anonymous Cookie Monster said...


12:24 PM  
Anonymous Chad Batista said...

Werd. Cookie Monster is gangsta.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

This might be one of your best posts about Ethiopia yet Tom.

Glad you are enjoying your time there so much, but I can also assure you that coming home can prove remarkable and enjoyable as well (although, if you are anything like me you won't be able to remove the constant itch/desire to make yet another return trip).

12:36 PM  
Blogger Michal Greenberg said...

Reverse culture shock for me coming back from Africa was pretty devastating. Way harder than when I got there. I have some good re-entry strategies for you when you get here though, I've been to conferences on it & stuff.

My first piece of advice to you though is do NOT throw away all of your belongings as soon as you get back! You may think that they are wasteful & useless now, but you'll regret it a few months later :)

1:24 PM  
Blogger Spencetron said...

Tom, as meaningless as it seems for you now, I cannot possibly foresee a future where you miss a single second of Peyton Manning leading the Broncos. I mean c'mon. Maybe you should just come back when training camp starts.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A special friend says: I hope your "re-entry strategy" starts on the east coast. After that we can throw all your shit away! Nothing but 5 televisions and a bar...

6:54 PM  
Anonymous G. Quagmire said...


2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the overarching theme of these comments: Don't worry about coming back and having no one understand "the rapture" of Ethiopia. You just left boulder, likely the most well-traveled, worldly population in the country. Also, there are some hot girls I've been building you up for. But then again, I suppose the idea of Tom Fuller could be better than the real thing.


10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is, obviously, an anonymous comment from someone who really doesn't know you at all - but, why in the world are you going home? your writing about life in america is endless masturbatory rumination on how you 'coulda been a contender' at poker, coin-flip quality predictions on meaningless sports games, and oblique references to relationships with adult women that you're obviously not ready to have. your writing about ethiopia has been interesting, insightful, and has made minimal reference to 'settlers of catan'. if i were in your position, with somewhat non-zero access to capital and few real obligations, here's what i'd do: email whoever sources beans for stumptown or bluebottle or vita or intelligentsia (etc etc) and find out if they know any ethiopians looking for someone to bankroll a plantation. go live up in the mountains, learn how to grow something, employ people who need the work. it'd sure as hell beat five more years of reading about how 'this is gonna be your year' at whatever bullshit tournament. sorry for the rather long comment. best of luck.

6:56 PM  
Blogger Bag said...

^ Haha, reread this like 4 times.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The post after Somebody just dropped some REAL TALK on this blog.

This person may or may not be lying about not knowing you, but definitely has been reading your blog forever.


9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:51 PM  

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