Trip Start Aug 30, 2006
Trip End Nov 10, 2006

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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Thursday, September 7, 2006

Often the only walk through town that I have is the one first thing in the morning when I travel from my hotel to Mama Buzu's. Sometimes later on in the day I feign hurry in something and no servent can free themselves from the task at hand to accompany me anywhere. I just inform Buzu that I'm leaving for a few moments and I'm free. Otherwise I have company everywhere I go. In town Buzu believes there are too many enemeies. People from the days of the monarchy that still hold grudges. She even told me that everyone at the hotel I am staying at has been informed that absolutely no one is to be allowed up to see me. And now the hotel has an armed guard that sits outside all night. All of this! No kidding.
I'm told that everyone in town knows that I'm here and it seems like it. My morning walks have to be more and more calculated.
A 90 year old lady who lived across the street from Mama Buzu's passed away.
I've seen Ethiopian funerals before, but I didn't realize they had something like life insurance here. The lady had been paying a monthly fee so that when she died everything would be looked after. Death is a big business here. Families wail, friends cry, but apparently they also hire wailers, women to come and make a big scene with their tears.
They erect these wooden posts outside the family's house and lean corrugated roof material on it to protect almost a whole block of the street from the sun and the rain. And its here that people from the town gather and pay their respects.
Everyone brings a gift for the family. Sometimes sugar or coffee, or some sort of present to commemorate the event. For three days they sit under there, rain or shine, in the heat and the cold. Family members sleep on the floor, friends sleep on the earth. All to show respect and mourning. So for a couple of days now, every time I venture in and out of Mama Buzu's house I step over benchers and nod to people.
I create quite a stir everywhere I go, but now imagine the recipe of dozens and dozens of older people sitting together for hours talking about everything under the sun. Throw into the mix a young white western lady, who is the granddaughter of Buzunish Atsbeha.
And basically every single piece of information everyone has on me is shared. I'm the buzz. Now when I step out people hush to whispers (unless the know me and greet me) and strain around company to get a better look.
I like the family of the dead woman, the ladies especially, they smile generously which is comforting to me because at least the disturbance I cause is not offending those in the most grief. I like that Zephan (a lady who rents a room from Mama Buzu) is often out there with them as well. At least she can set the record straight.
Apparently one lady came to pay respects, heard that I was here and claimed that she would see this granddaughter of Buzu. So she knocked on the door, Bahafta answered and told the woman that I was sleeping. Which was true. It was seven in the morning. And she hasn't been back. I guess its embarrassing to be turned away in front of so many people.

Grandma has been heavily involved in business talk for the time that I've been here. A lot of talk in Tigrinya, which flies over my head, and can be quite frustrating.
None the less, it's been good to be here.
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lilti on

Re: Nice story
Hey Dan!

Thanks for the comment. And for reading.
Yeah, it's not life insurance exactly. It was just the best reference I could think of to use in order relate the story to people at home.
There wasn't a large sum of money given to the family at the time of this dear old lady's death. Her fees during her life just paid for the funeral costs, etc.
I did have someone translate the wailers words. And the prayers and sentiments are certainly understood and appreciated in their cultural context.
It's actually a very common practice across the 'developing' world. Although there are certain aspects that are particular to Ethiopia.

I think its especially interesting to see the mass mourning (and mass celebrations) in contrast to the solitude of lifestlye. Ethiopians do not amalgamate in enromous cities - although its a very populated country. The desire to farm, and spread out - have a piece of land thats their own and a time thats their own - times of silence. It's interesting.

Hope you manage to return to the Agame district at some time.
If you do, be sure to stop by and greet my Grandma.
Joanne (lilti)

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