Friday, July 20, 2007

Blogging break, so over to you...

I am somehow not in the mood to write these days, hence all the copied and pasted news stories, so for the moment I live precariously through the blogs of my friends. A favourite recent post is from What Possessed Me and is one of many brilliantly narrated travel stories by Persephone who has just returned to NYC (reluctantly) from Ethiopia:

Bahir Dar diary: Move over, Maria Shriver
by Persephone

My hotel in Bahir Dar is steps away from the shore of Lake Tana. After several excruciating hours of boat travel through a monsoon to see the monasteries, I set out on a long walk along the papyrus-lined path leading to the source of the Nile.

I learn quickly that solitude is not easily attained in Ethiopia, nor is it considered a desirable state. A slender young Ethiopian man approaches me as I scan
the water for hippos and pelicans.

“Welcome you!” he says jovially.

Soon, an older man with an enormous gun joins our conversation. I ask him why he carries a gun when the surroundings seem so peaceful. Is it dangerous here? The slender man explains that his companion is guarding nearby chat fields. The leafy evergreen chat plant grows wild in Ethiopia and is coveted for the mild buzz it produces when chewed. I am curious about chat – or qat, as it’s known in the Middle East – and ask if I can see where it grows. An elaborate exchange in Amharic transpires between the guard and the slender man, and finally, they lead me far into a field. We walk for ten minutes and I begin to wonder if I will end up hacked up into a million pieces and discarded by the lake in a Hefty bag.

Finally, we come upon a host of scrubby chat bushes and the slender man begins to pick the tiniest and greenest leaves. When he offers, I chew a few tentatively, aware that getting fucked up in a field with two strangers and a large gun could be problematic. The chat is about as pleasant as a mouthful of aspirin, but I continue munching until they are satisfied. We walk back to the lake and I wait for the buzz. In the meantime, the slender man seems to have taken a shine to me. He tries to take my hand. Not wanting to be rude, I let it go limp, much like a raw pork chop, until he gives up.

“Why are you so fat?” he asks pleasantly.

Having given this a lot of thought lately, I am not offended, and convince myself that this must be some sort of post-famine compliment.

“Too much injera?” It’s true – I have been eating more Ethiopian food that is strictly necessary.

“But why do you not exercise?” he insists, still smiling.

This is definitely killing my buzz. Still, I am determined to have a cultural exchange with the slender young man and rise above my vanity.

“Because I’m too fat?” I am hoping this is the right answer, because he is nice and because I want to please him.

“I will kiss you now?” It’s not so much a question as a command. I decline politely, saying that I already have a boyfriend. A blatant lie, and apparently not a deterrent.

“Do you not like the black man?”

“No! No! I like the black man! I like the black man very much!” I am semi-hysterical, thinking I have somehow offended him.

“Then why don’t you marry me? We will make pig babies.”

Pig babies! Balls. Am I really that fat?

“Who is your boyfriend?” the young slender man asks. It appears that he wants to kick my boyfriend’s ass.

I think for a moment. “Arnold Schwarzenegger,” I say.

In the moment, it seems like a good idea. In fact, it seems perfectly plausible that Arnold Schwarzenegger would throw over his beautiful and accomplished wife to run away with me to Ethiopia during the rainy season.

The slender man’s eyes widen. “The Terminator!” The reverence with which he says this fills me with self-loathing and guilt.

“And you will marry him?”

“Yes,” I reply. “And we will make pig babies together.”

But the young man grows suspicious. He wants physical evidence of Arnold. “Where is he?” he asks. I begin to panic. I am suddenly reminded of the time when I told my parents that I won a huge swimming competition at day camp and had no trophy to show for it when they became dubious.

“Exercising!” I say triumphantly. Miraculously, this is the right answer. The slender young man nods sagely, and I slink away wondering what time Arnold is going to come home from his workout, for Chrissake.

Later, I see my new friend, Solomon, who was born and raised in Bahir Dar. I explain what has just transpired.

“Solomon, what’s a pig baby?”

He thinks for a moment. “BIG baby,” he says. “BIG.”

Oh.
Right.

2 comments:

Persephone said...

Elly, you can't do this to me! I've been obsessively clicking on your blog hoping for new material and then I see my own drivel on the page. Thank you for the vote of confidence, but it hurts my very soul to read my own words.

Raouf, where are you? I need fodder for procrastination! And thank you very much for your comment on my blog - yes, I would like very much to see Sudan (beyond the Khartoum airport, that is) and will be sure to contact you for tips when I do. And no, my Arabic is appalling. Almost not worth mentioning.

Sometimes Raouf, sometimes Elly. Who knows said...

Me, Elly, a bit blue and my mind is a jumble of contradictory ideas and denuded of any pretty images. Just a phase I think x