Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Taxis Round II

Monday May 24, 2010

Ethiopians have a flare for faux fur. This did not go unnoticed by me for more than 20 seconds because I am hyper attuned to the hilariously tacky. They like to coat everything short of their person with said fur, and seem to favor car interiors. Dashboards, back window “displays,” steering wheels, seats, gear stick, no surface is immune. The more eccentric driver uses the fur to prop up miscellaneous items such as dolls, stuffed animals (aka more fur), and souvenirs in general.

But now I must back-track and apologize for any sarcastic, condescending or otherwise insensitive comment I made about the fur. For today, I appreciate the fur, I thank the fur, I owe it my intact skull.

On my way home from foster care today I was in my very first automobile collision. It is kind of surprising that it was my first considering the condition of the road. Picture your average 4 lane highway, three rows of broken white lines dividing the lanes, nothing too unusual. Now picture both flows of traffic driving head on amongst these four lanes. Not rationally dividing them two and two either, oh no. All four lanes are free for all. Drivers just weave in and out of each other’s way and 99% of the time avoid head on, side on or rear end collisions. Today, my taxi was the exception to the rule. To narrowly avoid a head on crash, the taxi veerd right, and slammed sideways into a big jeepy car. Thankfully no one was moving fast by any means and aside from some sever denting and a bum headlight there was no damage done…people included.

But why the peace with fur? Well my taxi was exceptional in more ways than just crashing. When I climbed in I nearly had to shove my fist in my mouth to avoid laughing. It was decked out in faux fur. The ceiling had a fur rug affixed to it and held in place with a clear plastic covering. Dangling from the plastic were 8 rows of tassels run horizontally across the van. The seats, the dash, the gear shift, all the usual suspects covered in fur. There was even fur trimming the windows. And this is where my qualms end. Instead of bashing my head into the window frame during impact, I nestled nicely into some fur. I have a major goose-egg bearing resemblance to a plum in both size and color, but that is largely better than any other alternative I can consider. Of course I was the only one to demand a refund of my 4 birr (roughly 30 cents) but it’s the principle that counts, and at heart I will always be a New Yorker.

Ethiopia is really growing me. Nothing is short of an experience and an adventure.

But I can’t let all this excitement distract me from the best part of my day. After I finish reading I pass out the books for “alone time,” were the children usually spread out, some even go to their own corner, and flip though the pages. Some talk to themselves, others are deep in concentration, and still others give it a quick once over and move on. Just like adults hold varying levels of interest for books, it is fascinating to see these different levels of excitement play out in children. “Alone time” is my favorite time to just watch them, although I usually end up re-reading most of what I just read. Today, however, in one of the rooms the toddlers stayed clustered relatively close together. Then they chorused the ABC’s and “Are You Sleeping, Brother John?” I was beside myself it was so adorable.

Another new development, for the older ones at least, has been “trading.” They are cautious, but if they can be sure the other is going to release the book and not run away with two, they will make trades repeatedly.

Today is the first day of fasting for the Orthodox Church, which means that about half of Addis goes vegan for the next month. I fully believe the food is about to get better, especially since today for lunch we had this amazing chickpea puree with spicy spices in it and then big chucks of chickpea that resembled falafel. The smell was so strong and fresh it made my eyes water and in my opinion there are not enough bright orange foods. Even the ingera has significantly grown on me, dare I say I almost like it. I am beginning to feel like Sam-I-Am, the central character in “Green Eggs and Ham.” (These are my literary references of late, it’s that or Twilight)

The point I am trying to make has nothing to do with food however. It is the first day of fasting which means that it was a school holiday. In addition to having the 4-6 year olds, I also had the 7 and ups, which changed the whole dynamic of the room in a more positive way than I could have anticipated. At first I was wary, thinking they would be board because the books are “baby.” But they were so enthusiastic, and the younger kids, who clearly look up to them, followed the lead. They had them making more animal noises than I could, naming all the animals or colors on the pages and actually asking questions about stuff they didn’t recognize. I was so pleasantly shocked.

Like I said, nothing in Ethiopia is short of an experience, an adventure and, I will add, a surprise.

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