If you’ve been confused by our descriptions of the observed calendar in Ethiopia, here’s my attempt at a better summary.
New Years Day 2012 (yes…that’s not a misprint) was yesterday (Thursday, September 12th). 2011 was a Leap Year, so an extra sixth day gets added to the typical five-day-long thirteenth month (called Pagumay). The full calendar is made up of twelve 30-day-long months and the five or six-day-long Pagumay. Three out of every four Ethiopian New Year celebrations fall upon September 11, which has assuredly made for some interesting synergistic shifts since the tragedy in America back in 2001 (or 1994 on the Ethiopian Calendar, when New Years was on September 11th). The bottom line being that New Years here is a chance to celebrate with family and friends with feasting, music and the (hopefully) universal optimism that comes with turning the calendar.
Back home in America, I’ve fallen fully in line with Sarah’s family tradition of some sort of “Resolution Day Run” on our New Years Day. It then only seemed appropriate that we give a run a shot here in Addis on their New Years Day. The results were unexpected. And pretty awesome. The slideshow gallery below gives some visual evidence (WARNING: There’s plenty of blood and mud).
One of our regular running friends (Margot Szamier) has much more experience on the streets of Addis. We’re still in the rainy season here, which apparently has been wetter and might last longer than in typical years. It rains almost every day and can come down pretty heavily. The rain started before dawn yesterday. We waited for a window and it let up around 8am. Margot has a dog (Pluto) who provides an extra dose of security. But unlike what’s becoming the new reality for foreigners in some parks and trails around Addis, there’s little concern for running in the neighborhoods close to where we live.
The streets had filled the past few days with livestock for the typical feasting for New Years. Everything was largely purchased and distributed by yesterday morning. I know from chatting with our driver that a “really good” chicken would cost around 400 Birr ($13-ish USD), a sheep ranges from 3000 to 5000 Birr ($100-167) and a goat might set you back 7000 ($230-ish). A cow can run you from 25,000 to 30,000 Birr ($830-1000). In a nation where the Prime Minister reportedly makes $800/month, passing the hat is surely as important as who gets to lead dinner home from the abattoir.
We were just getting loosened up on the largely car-free streets when we came across the first cow being butchered by a boisterous, approachable group of men. My apologies to any animal lovers who might be shocked by the pictures. I won’t apologize, however, for feeling honored to be welcomed into the mix. Meat is serious business here. Even though I’ve joined right in on a mostly vegan (or “fasting”) diet that’s working wonders for my family, I’ve been intending to partake in the meaty stuff when offered.
But I didn’t expect it would come while out for our New Years run.
After I got permission to take pictures, the men asked if we would eat. Sarah and Margot waved it off easily. If I’d been seated at a table or thought about it for longer than a few seconds, my answer might have been different. Thankfully, I was hungry and eager to see what would be offered.
How was it? Very recognizable. Beyond rare. Still warm. I chewed and swallowed two hearty hunks. The gentleman doing the butchering ate three.
After that, we returned to what would be a 10K loop. We passed another gathering around a communal carving, where equally inviting people welcomed us in. In short order we faced the road that Margot thought might be a bit sloppy. As the pics can attest, it was a soupy bog of pitfalls and worse choices in all directions. No one lost a shoe. We all, nonetheless, sank in well above our ankles. Once again, it was an unexpected delight.
Later in the day, we were invited to a coffee ceremony with the people who work in our apartment building. That special treat never gets old, and I love to watch the prep on the jebena (the traditional Ethiopian coffee pot, heated over charcoal). We then joined a mix of other parents from ICS for a BBQ and insightful conversation about their much deeper experience at this and an array of other postings.
“We’re living through history here,” one of our hosts astutely summarized. All the more reason to pay close attention, while opening ourselves up to new experiences.
We’re heading outside Addis this weekend for our first in-country exploration. Expect plenty on that to come.
Oh, and in response to our good friends in Austin, TX who asked for visual evidence of Maya’s growing prowess throwing the javelin, here’s a few shots from the viewing platform beside ICS’s impressive track. Please do let us know if anyone has subject matter requests. Ciao.