Silence of the sheep
The young brother of a friend’s was graduating yesterday. He didn’t want anybody fussing over him, so we’ve decided to take him out of town and treat him to a lunch & a private photograph session in which he’ll be wearing his gown and cut a cake (whose frozen bottom was stabbing the sister’s tigh with it’s hundreds of mean little fingers even as we drive).
Any hot-blooded Ethiopian would tell you there isn’t a more perfect time to drive out of town, and enjoy the scenery, as the week before New Year: when the hill tops are half covered in a brooding cloud, and their bottom in lush green; when the fields seem to wink at a passer-by with the golden yellow and black flower that heralds the approaching of a new day, with its promises of change and when “Ager AQwarach” (cross-country) buses flood-by laden with holiday necessities to the urban population: charcoal, grasses with various shades of green and luggages that belongs to men and women coming to spend the holiday with their families.
Things have been changing lately, ofcourse. “The fields covered in Adey abeba” has proved one of those things we tell our younger kins as happening way before their time. Just as rare, it seems, as seeing the “Kiremt” (rainy season) kick-in around the beginning of June or hearing the sound of harmonicas play at “TimQet meda”, or the delicious pleasure of eating a “sambusa”, which everybody considered was a “durye migib” (bad-boy’s meal) back then.
So I was far from expecting to see the sides of the streets covered in “adey abeba”. But I wasn’t expecting them to be crowded by herds of sheep wearing bright green & red ribbons neither. The sheep that had ribbons on looked more feminine than those sheep without. But that wasn’t the funny part. The funny part was, the ribbons used to help tell each sheep apart were exactly alike. They used to serve as the demarcation lines for the various construction works being done around the area, these ribbons, and every pastoralist seems to have gotten his hands on them.
“How would they know which sheep belongs to who?” I asked, baffled by the sea of similar-ribbon wearing sheep coming from every which way blocking the road and making our journey slower than that of a snail’s.
“They’d know!” said our driver confidently.
“Why steal the ribbons in the first place then?” I wondered.
“You aren’t from this part of the country” the driver joked “Whatever one farmer is seen doing, the next farmer copies. They’ve made a culture of it”.
Then, ofcourse, the discussion turned to prices and the holiday. We all confessed how this “Addis Amet” hasn’t been the kind of “Addis Amet” we’ve always anticipated. To me personally the New Year “has just happened”. I wouldn’t have known Hamle/2000 E.C. has gone, never to return, if it weren’t for a notice on AAU’s board bearing my name and advising I contact my advisor until Pagume 5. Which maybe a sort of hangover from last year’s anticipation & the social & political disappointments that followed. Just as well!
However, the hike in the price of goods and services hasn’t helped neither. My mother has been telling me only the other day of her plan to swallow the pride and buy “yebegg siga beKillo” for the holiday. Which encouraged my uncle-in-law to confess how, if it weren’t for “Ali-Amoudi’s chickens”, he has no choice but to consider vegetarianism this new year (a life style that felt almost as unmanly to him as having your “kitfo” cooked). These two being at the head of families whose income is equal to or more than 2,000 birr a month, giving them an almost middle-class status in Ethiopia, it’s safe to assume there would be plenty of sheep-free space to stretch the legs while riding minibuses this holiday around. Not that a kicking & screaming sheep will be the worst thing that can happen to you while riding a minibus in Addis these days. So..
Peace & Prosperity to the motherland;
A chance to see another New Year for those of us in Addis;
And to all Ethiopians!