“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Oscar Wilde
One of the many wonderful things about Ethiopia is the evenings. On clear nights the sky is truly spectacular, with the universe at its finest, something I was never truly able to appreciate back in Britain. Even on the rare occasion there is power through the evening, the minimal street lighting does little to take away from the moment. I often lament the street lights there that steal away so magnificent a sight in the UK. I always thought that if more people back there could see more stars they would appreciate it more, but here no one seems that interested, but then perhaps there are more pressing issues than pondering the infinite.
Last week the education team from VSO came to see Adola, I have no doubt that it was the highlight of their year; the beautiful scenic drive, especially the delightful stretch from Hawassa to the junction of the road to Adola, which has kindly been ripped up to deliver a more authentic experience of Ethiopian roads, is only the first of many delights before the hunt for quality accommodation in the town. The hunt is not a very long one, there may also be some comment on the success; I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. The many diversions offered by the town are sure to thrill and, after all, who can tire of tibs, where there are so many ways it can be prepared?
After some work during the day and the earlier mentioned hotel hunt, we arranged to meet in the evening to take dinner (Tibs ,naturally). Fortunately my game of find the bajaj was relatively successful and quicker than usual, so I avoided the not infrequent standing outside of the college looking lost look.
Tibs and a pleasant evening later, I started to head home at the hideously unseemly hour of 8pm. Surprisingly it was relative easy to get a Bajaj, unsurprisingly it only went half-way to the college (I may well share another time the trials and tribulations of getting a bajaj to the college). So, at the market I realised I was going to have to take shank’s pony the rest of the way.
Still it was a good night for a walk, clear beautiful skies and as a strolled the dark street of Adola I found my mind wandering onto many deep philosophical topics, such as can only occur on such a night. About to give a friendly nod to some locals heading the opposite away I suddenly discovered that the ground below me had disappeared. What I have feared and anticipated since arriving in Ethiopia had finally happened. I’d fallen into one of the many holes that are no doubt put for the purpose of trapping unsuspecting ferenjis. This particular hole was part of the drainage system and I could only be thankful that it hadn’t been raining the past few days.
Recovering briskly from the shock I regained the street if not my self-esteem. How could I hold my head high again in the town? The locals had politely and quietly passed on, perhaps sensing my embarrassment. No doubt the story of the Ferenji falling into the drain would soon be spreading across the town, just one of the many diversions the place has to offer. Being somewhat unusual here, I am rather identifiable.
The thing about a place with no street lights is that it’s dark, and the think about holes is, they are also, frequently, dark. It is quite understandable how the sequence of events came to pass and it is a sad indication of the wisdom of the locals who rather walk on the road than the pavement. Realising now my folly I plucked my phone from the pocket of my slightly battered left leg, intending to use the pleasingly powerful LED light to guide me the rest of the way home. I quickly decided that instead I would continue my adventures in the dark, the decision influenced by the shattered screen and the reluctance of my trusty mobile companion to turn on. Now experienced I appreciated the local way to tackle night time walking- I took to the road crossing to at least be sensible enough to be facing the majority of the traffic. I have to admit to chuckling to myself a few times as I made my way back to the campus, wondering what the locals must have been thinking as they saw the ferenji suddenly disappear. It must have looked hilarious from the viewpoint of the spectator.
Back home I examined my phone and discovered that it had taken quite a beating and had also contributed to the pain now being experienced by my left leg. Somehow I had even managed to bend the battery. By some miracle I actually managed to get the thing to start and although the hideously cracked screen makes reading difficult, the thing actually still works.
I know what you are wondering, what is there left to do now surely I have experienced all there is to experience in such a place as this, however there is still one of my fears left to be realised; to be run down my a donkey cart. There is time yet, and after my latest experience, my new way of walking has just increased the probability of this significantly. Needless to say there is little more embarrassing than falling into a drain, but having to head home because of getting run down by a donkey and cart could just about beat that.
I am not sure on Oscar Wilde’s philosophy, but what I do know is that if I hadn’t been looking at the stars I wouldn’t have ended in the gutter.