|Dont mess with The Military Man|
Its Wednesday today but I couldn’t head down to the Markets because the Telephone Network was once again “Non Functional” This meant I had to stay in my flat in the hospital compound so that someone could come and get me I should be needed in Maternity, but I wasn’t, so when it came back on again after lunch I took my backpack and headed to the market. I mostly wanted some more Bananas but was also after some tomatoes and another beetroot. However by the time I got there all the quality produce was gone and many of the stalls were vacant, a few goats and donkeys were snacking on leftover cabbage leaves and spilled grain, and I returned empty handed. Whenever I head into town, and on my way back I try to vary the trip by going down different cross streets and paths rather than take the direct route by the dusty main road. I can walk past the prison for example, where at each corner there is an elevated guard tower with an armed guard – you can see through the prison walls because they are upright stakes made from the thin trunks of the Australian gum trees which grow everywhere in Ethiopia – indeed everywhere in Africa I believe. There is a colourful circular orthodox Christian Church within the prison compound, and religious people – just about everyone here – stop as they are walking past, turn towards the church, cross themselves and mutter a few words before continuing on. The really religious ones go up to the gate and repeatedly kiss it as they continue to pray and bow and cross themselves. There is also a shop that sells things made by the prisoners. Another route takes me past a busy outdoor mule cart repair place. They’re usually really busy on market days with wheels or suspension on these rickety carts needing repair – lots of hammering and grinding with sparks flying, a bit of welding, all without the benefit of safety eyeware, and the placid mules usually still attached.
|Your basic Mule Cart takes a beating on these roads.|
Today coming back I walked past a place where often, especially if am walking alone, a man in a nearby house starts yelling non stop at the top of his voice from the moment he sees me to when I disappear from his view. Is he abusing me, trying to tell me something, just vocalising gibberish, needing help? He is speaking Amharic so I have no idea what hes saying but he doesn’t sound happy. It took me a while to work out exactly where he was but in the shadows of the building I eventually identified a small window like opening quite high up with the head and unclothed upper body of the man on his side half protruding through. I was told he was once a successful local small businessman but he lost his business and went mad, and now he is chained up in there because he is too dangerous to let out. The people who told me this didn’t seem to regard that as unusual or cruel treatment! There are several other mad people in the town, but not chained up. One is dressed like a soldier in khaki fatigues, worn and filthy, with a military looking cap and a rifle on his back – apparently its “non functional” ! Theres another mad person, a woman who usually comes right up to me talking about something and grabs my arm. I nod and smile and give her a friendly pat and say hello and then after a minute she lets go and hurries off. There are others that I run into as well but these three I see regularly. On another street I also regularly see an old man sitting on a pile of dirt and rubbish with possible personal belongings among them, begging for money with hands that have no fingers. His feet are similarly affected, presumably by Leprosy, and at other times I see a sad insane figure lying in the dust, not even begging, just lying like a donkey or goat would in the filth and dust of the road.
Discussing these people with some of the doctors here I was asked if I believed in the Evil Eye. I learned that amongst the general populace madness is not seen as a mental disorder but as a result of some sort of spell or demonic possession that is transmitted by the Evil Eye, a traditional rather than Christian or muslim belief. I couldn’t quite understand what the Evil Eye is exactly but there is clearly a widespread belief in a supernatural world of spirits and strange powers. It helps to explain the unusual response I got from Shewaye and some of her friends when I showed them a simple Magic Trick – making a coin disappear and finding it later inside Tigistes pocket! I am still not sure they realised it was just a “Trick” rather than something “Magic”. I think it frightened them a little that I could do that!