Monday, October 17, 2011

Village Life

Motta Street Scene
Early morning is my favourite part of the day here. After waking just as the sun is rising, its wonderful to stand outside with my Ethiopian coffee and just listen to the sounds of village life. The thing I notice most of all is the com-lete absence of traffic noise and I have never heard or seen a plane  anywhere in the sky which is clear and pollution free. Instead what I here are the bleats and brays of goats sheep and donkeys, the occasional bullock bellowing and often children laughing or calling out. There are lots of small bird calls and coo-ing from pigeons. If there is little wind, smoke from cooking fires hangs over the houses across the field and I often catch a woody, eucalypt aroma if the wisps of smoke drift my way. There are always a few people about  walking quietly along behind their goats or bullocks as they move them off to pastures somewhere, but there are no fences other than the one surrounding the hospital compound. Village life can seem idyllic at that time of day, and maybe even for the villagers for a brief time it is.

  A row of houses and a pile of tef straw
One morning, walking back to the flat  after  checking the maternity ward, I heard what I thought were gunshots. In fact it was whips being cracked as  several  local farmers were ploughing , using pairs of bullocks to pull a wooden plough with a single blade, technology that must be many centuries old. . A couple of other people following behing were scattering seed, but I couldn’t work  out what the crop would be, perhaps Tef, the crop whose tiny seeds are ground into  powder, mixed with water to ferment a few days then cooked to make injera the staple food of Ethiopia. On another day I saw those same bullocks  being made to walk round and round on a thick carpet of  harvested grain – not sure which type – and afterwards, in a light afternoon breeze, it was separated from the chaff by tossing it into the air.  The stalks are then piled into a a very heat pile, a hay stack near the house and among other things its used as animal feed. It is also used as a building material by mixing it with mud to make the thick plastered walls of village houses.
Mixing up the mud and straw
I saw two women and two men preparing this plastering material one day, walking round and round in knee deep mud, trampling in the straw scattered across the top. A week later they have yet to start plastering the deteriorating walls of the house beside it – perhaps they are waiting for it to stiffen up a bit.  The mesh into which the mud and straw is pressed is made of branches, and the plastering apparently needs redoing about every ten years.– the raw materials are all free and biodegradable, and of course you do it yourself. A pretty good example of recycling and sustainability, the carbon footprint of poverty is probably invisible.

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