10 October 2008

i'm a joke that you probably enjoy.

I'm sorry that formatting is always screwed up on these posts - I have to post via email since blogger is blocked in Ethiopia (but not on the PC computers, which is why this one has been corrected).

I was walking down the street this week and suddenly found myself craving shiro wat (chickpea), so I went to the famous tibs (meat) beyt and had some. This has never happened to me in the ten months I've been living in this town. Ironic that I'd pick the tibs beyt, but it's a good place to get vegetarian food since everyone else eats the meat - they have to make the shiro fresh.

We ended up not discussing religion in english class - we talked about the relationship between parents and children. They were interested in the notion of allowances and chores and learning
fiscal responsibility. We also talked about how women are generally better savers than men - some of the older guys said that's because the men have to do the calling (rather pricey on the Ethiopian telecom network) and "inviting" (taking out for tea, coffee, food, etc). I said, and most of the women agreed, that that's a small price to pay for also having the freedom to be out after dark and not be a domestic servant in your own family. Some of the girls mentioned that their mothers are better with money because they're the ones who go shopping and see how changes (well, really just massive increases) in food prices affect the whole family. Men in Ethiopia generally have no idea how to cook food, let alone what it costs.

Case in point: Gizaw, my counterpart at Alliance for Development, mentioned that injera is easy to make. His daughter was visiting and she said it's not. It's a 3 day process to ferment the batter, then the baking takes the better part of an afternoon. The teacher mentioned that men get married when they want someone to take care of them at home - us women said that makes marriage a very attractive arrangement for us. We had to explain the sarcasm, which ruined the moment, but they got it eventually. All in all, not as exciting as religion, but a good discussion. I'm pushing for religion next week. I'll also be investigating the location of the Tae Kwon Do center since I feel I need some variety in my physical life and I don't think there's a dance studio in this country.

After class (which fell on t-minus 4 weeks until Election Day), the teacher, Bantie, and I got into a discussion of the election. He'd vote for McCain to make the world safer. He's a die hard, neo-con, Bush-loving Republican who supported and continues to support the Iraq invasion as a means of catching the 9/11 perpetrators and ensuring global security. Bantie also believes the world is safer since the invasion - I think victims of bombings in Madrid, London, Casablanca, Amman, and elsewhere might beg to differ. It was an ironic little moment to hear a US policy most conservatives have rejected defended so passionately. He's the most fiercely anti-Islamic person I've met outside the American south - he contends that all Muslims want to see the destruction of the West and all infidels. Then he asked if I knew any Muslims (you can actually see the minaret of the main mosque in Assela from the window of the classroom, a visual irony I enjoyed). It seemed to deflate him a bit when I reminded him where I lived for the better part of last year. While I'm hardly an apologist, I think even moderate religion (of any denomination) does in fact pave the way for extremism, and I didn't mention my Iraqi neighbor who made us watch "Insurgent TV" (the propaganda channel often celebrating the deaths of American soldiers), my experience in the Muslim world suggests that the vast majority don't give a damn about global jihad and would prefer to have things like schools and hospitals and the ability to use them without fear of untimely death. But I remember why I love my conservative friends - I realized I hadn't had a genuine debate over policy since I left last year. I still think he's a bit nutty, but I enjoy the debates.

One of the students was lingering after class during this discussion and couldn't resist the urge to jump in. He had a hard time following in the beginning, and assumed I was the McCain supporter and interrupted to ask me why I liked McCain. The horrified look on my face set him straight (although it's not really McCain I can't stand, it's Palin being second in line to a man who's a long way from young and vital), and then he seemed painfully confused defending Barack Obama alongside me against his teacher and fellow Ethiopian. I was proud that he was willing to stand up to his teacher and assert himself - that's pretty socially unacceptable here. He probably only dared because it was an English class and I drive home the point every week that discourse is an important part of my class, but it was a small victory nonetheless.

On Thursday night (okay, afternoon), I got mildly tipsy on homemade moonshine that's been brewing in a bucket next to my toilet (covered, of course) for the last two weeks. What has my life become? FYI, the last two inches in a 20 liter bucket equals more glasses than you'd think. For my first attempt, it wasn't half-bad. I may have a future in this. You know, if bringing peace to Israel and Palestine doesn't end up working out.

Photos from the Olympic celebration last week:

-freeze dried mangoes
-original cheddar goldfish crackers
-powdered drink flavorings (gatorade, crystal light, etc)
-hot cocoa mix
-instant broccoli cheddar soup mix
-non-refrigerated cheese products
-dried seasonings
-sourdough pretzel nuggets
-sour jelly bellys
-baking products (chocolate chips, frosting, mixes, etc)

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