Wednesday, November 30, 2011
The land of thirteen months of sunshine
When I heard that line being used,of thirteen months of sunshine, I thought to myself,wow some creative marketing! And yet again so how corny!
They have even increased the months in a year!
Till I visited Addis-Ababa.
There, from fireside stories of a friend I made there,I was educated about the history and the present of Abyssinia.
I sat there,on a small kitchen stool,the one they use to cook that all black coffee that you then take in miniature cups,that coffee which you have to smell before they crush and mix it.
That coffee whose flavor is is in its thickness,and for lack of a good word,bitterness. But Iam not a coffee connoisseur,and a few days drinking coffee do not make me one.
So there I sat,prodding the fire and waving away the smoke,once in a while looking at her small hands,lifting the lid,checking the kettle,checking if the coffee is brewing well,and whether it is time for us to get out the miniature cups and taste the brew.
I was told about the Ten commandments,and how one tablet,or is both tabs are in Ethiopia. About the rock-hewn cathedrals of Lalibela(which I will visit the next time I visit) and those wars of conquering and perfected scorched earth policy and how the warriors perfected the art of survival by feasting on raw meat.
There, in front of that disturbing smoke,whose presence you however miss if you are in front of a hearth,I was told,nay, educated about the Ethiopian calendar,how Ethiopia was never colonized by Zionist forces as Idi Amin would say, and there i attempted to learn Amharic.I still remember a few words,and the truth that there are actually thirteen months in the Ethiopian calendar. Days start at what we'd call 6am, and the evening starts at 6pm. So you wont have 4.00 am in the morning. In Ethiopia, the morning is in the morning, and the night is at night.
I got the name even,I mean of the thirteenth month,it is called Ṗagʷəmen (ጳጐሜን/ጳጉሜ);or Ṗagume according to my Bantu tongue.
You should hear it roll off my tongue. I was almost spanked and derided for failing to get that pronunciation; and that Pagume has five days. True story.
Then I realized just how much beauty was there to take in. I mean they even get paid a full month in Pagume.
When my plane landed at Bole airport. It was evening. It was winter,they told me.Yes,winter a few hours flight away from sunny Uganda. It was misty and as I collected my luggage I could see people,a lot of people, holding flowers.That confirmed I had truly come to a new land. Who carries flowers to pick someone from the airport!
Well, not in Uganda.
But they were not there to show off,or to pull some fast move as a guy would, if he wanted to impress a new girl. I surely would know that the first time if I saw one.
No,it was not to show off.It was with genuine affection and this glorious innocence.
That is what welcomed me to Addis Ababa,and oh yeah that double peck on the cheek,even by people I was meeting for the first time. People who had gone through life not knowing a particular random guy like me existed. And I did not need to be told,I just knew it is a way of life,I was among friends,among friendly people.
It is this friendliness which comes with beauty that had me fight a tinge of green jealousy. Oh my God.These people are beautiful. I say this affectionately,as one who lived with them for days.
Here are lovely,delicate,almost innocent beauties in their glory. They move around with a regal air, as f they are being tended to and when they smile,even effortlessly,the room glows. When one smiled,the chilly airport illuminated. Iam not trying to pull a fast one. I don't even remember her name. But I remember the smile.
The guys are picture perfect. I mean. That is why I was jealous.Men are supposed to be rough.They are meant to have rough edges and huge noses and if they appear even a little beautiful,yes ,beautiful,then they should be dwarfs to compensate for invading female territory.
Not in Addis.The guys are equally beautiful.Yet nice and friendly.Now you know why I could have been eaten by envy.
I lived here for days,speaking Luganda with colleagues and laughing in Amharic. Ha ha! and eating injera,with spiced lamb and when my stomach could not cope enough,my host was kind enough to take me to a tourist restaurant.
One day,while I was going through my mail at the Hilton cafe', I met someone important.The Ambassador of Uganda to Ethiopia. He recognized us fast,maybe because there are not that many dark people in Addis Ababa.So he asks us where we are from. We reply ,Uganda. He is pleasantly surprised.
He asks us what we are doing in Addis. To celebrate the new year,we respond. He must have taken us for spoiled young men. I mean,this is September!
But yet,that was the truth. Ethiopian year,yes with all its thirteen months, ends in September,I mean September according to our calendar. In fact I was there to usher in the new millennium.Yes, the new millennium has met me twice,once in December the year 2,000 in Uganda and in September 2008 in the Queen of Sheba's land.
I highly suspect this Biblical history like the beautiful Queen of Sheba and how she wowed King Solomon when she visited his palace is the source of all the present day magic of the place.
It is this magic that I rode till the end. Drinking beer in test tubes and two- liter beer mugs in full view of the brewery. Dancing to new year oldies at Sheraton Addis and nearly being kicked in the mouth by this damsel on the dance floor.
I sang with children and skipped over fire in a new year celebration. I almost dislocated a shoulder doing the eskista.
I watched the sun come out before end of bedtime. I breathed in the spirit of a new year. I drank more St.George beer and despite my six hour flight delay,I shall surely return.