14 March 2008


i am practically giddy with the excitement of having the ability to post things. the biggest leap, actually, was the need to type these things in gmail. a whole different screen? very unnerving.

right now, i shall have to type without capitals, because the shift and letter keys on this keyboard do not function in coordination with one another. sometimes you can get a capital, say, g, by pressing down the wrong shift key and slamming the g key many times, but just as often you cannot. so i am going the easy, capital-less route.

ethiopia is famous for its handwoven white cloth with colored ends. well. famous. famous-ish. i had a vague idea that they existed, largely because i went to an ethiopian orthodox church once in nairobi and also because when i was in college/university there was one ethiopian restaurant in town and they had some in the corner for sale. i always wanted one. now that i'm here, it is clear that they are not just tourist items. every woman wears them, and both women and men wear a heavier version at night, to stay warm. i am infatuated with them. i have mentioned before my obsession with textiles. now that i am here and surrounded by them, i cannot keep myself from buying ridiculous quantities. or, after i have purchased ridiculous quantities, from walking around oogling the colored weaving on the ends of other women's shawls. ooh! a black and gold one! oooh! a red and yellow one! ooooh! blue with silver! (never mind that i already have a blue with silver. and a blue with gold.)

so i went to the market today in search of more. because i only have two so far! that's not enough, at all. it's a ways out of town and the number of faranji (whiteys) drops dramatically. not that, comparatively, there are really that many faranjis here. one little kid followed me and told me where to go, and then an older one came to translate. we haggled and discussed, and i ended up with two double-wide shawls, the single widths sewn together by a woman bent over a treadle machine like i learned on as a kid in liberia.

on the way back, the littler kid asked for money. for books, he said. i am very reluctant to give money, ever, to anyone, without a reason. i will sit down and eat with someone, but i don't want to give money. usually, my strategy in any city is simply to look beggars in the eye and smile and say hello (hey, they are people, too), but not to give money. this kid, though, had actually been helpful. i was going to give him money anyway. so i stopped, and explained through the older kid that faranji really dislike being asked for money, but i was grateful for his help and he didn't need to ask, i was going to give him something as a thank you.

the older kid walked me back to my hotel, asking me about w. bush, as he called him, and whether the americans might change their government. I might have, um, accidentally, claimed to be canadian (i've been throwing the two nationalities out at random for some unknown reason. it's the first time and country in which i've ever bothered, but it's sort of addicting to claim to be canadian, oddly), so i had to answer his questions in the third person.

when we arrived at the hotel, i dug into my bag for some change.

no, no. he said, and shook my hand, then leaned in to nudge my shoulder with his the way friends greet one another in east africa. no money. next time you are here, look for me.

(my quotation marks don't work either, by the way.)

i'm probably not going to recognize this kid all grown up, the next time i make it to ethiopia, but it was very sweet.

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