Getaneh is the young man who brings me my water - he is not the same one who was here last time, because Moges has graduated from school and is apparently now at a University down south. Moges was a splendid guy, tremendously honest, always happy and hardworking, he lived in a concrete room about 12 feet square and slept on the floor beside a pile of school books. The guy who used to kill chickens for me has also gone from the hospital – he was also a charming guy but apparently he was trying to charm money out of the foreigners and was asked to move on. I’m told he failed his exams in Road Construction, so now he hangs around the coffee shops down town – believe me that sounds a lot more glamourous than it really is – theyre nothing more than really dingy dusty run down little stalls with cracked cups and filthy chairs and a couple of wobbly tables. Whenever I pass he hails me and we have a chat, and he runs his latest scheme by me, tries to talk me into giving him some money, I pay for the coffees and that’s it till next time. No hard feelings apparently. Actually I feel a little sorry for him because about 18 months ago a middle aged American photographer was in town working up a series on poverty or something for her Portfolio back home , and she seems to have become completely infatuated with this young guy – hes about 24. I know this because she has a Blog and she wrote the most adolescent sort of stuff on it about his dreamy eyes, and how her days lit up whenever he appeared, and how she longed to see him every morning – well she took her photos and headed home without him of course but made a big fuss on her blog about buying him a Gabi which is a traditional cloak sort of wrap everyone wears round here – they cost about 300 birr for a reasonable one – less than 20 bucks! My poor pal read on her Blog her declaration that even though she was leaving Ethiopia she was taking him back to the USA in her heart. His English is better than most but still poor, and the metaphor escaped him : when I met him several months later he was still waiting for her to send for him. He showed me the Blog to prove it was really going to happen – I tried to break it to him gently!
Anyway, the new water boy has almost no English but he still managed to get 100 birr off me the other day with some story about an exam he has to sit – I agreed to give it to him when he agreed – or so I thought – to kill a chicken and chop it up for me this weekend. So I duly went to the market with Shewaye, and got the chicken yesterday for 80 birr. Things got a bit busy in the hospital and there was no time to do it yesterday, and when I saw him wandering past late in the afternoon I called him into my flat and showed him the bird, legs tied, standing in the shower recess, and asked if he could do it in the morning “no , me fasting” he said, much to my disappointment – but then it was Sunday after all. “OK, Monday then” I said “Oh no, fasting to december 29” “So you cant do the chook till 29 december?”His face lit up “yes 29 december” “Good grief!What next” I thought!
Fasting here doesn’t mean the same thing as it does back home – there are various modes of fasting, all of which include eating food, but it mustn’t contain animal products – so no meat, eggs or milk, and for some they eat nothing at all during the day. After December 29 they can eat meat again!
So I lay awake long into the night steeling myself for the task I was now going to have to do myself – slaughter the chook that I was feeding and giving water to in my shower recess. I considered giving it away. Could I find someone else to kill it – but I had already paid Getaneh !! And I was hungry and had been looking forward to some meat at last! It seemed like a massive problem, but it turned out to be a massive misunderstanding. He was just saying he couldn’t eat it – because he turned up in the morning all set for the kill!