After my hectic arrival to Awassa I soon settled in to this familiar place. It is soothing to have the crickets’ high pitched song in my ears at night, to have the familiar taste of shiro and injera in my mouth… AND it was such a thrill to meet everybody again; the children, the adults at the dojo, the workers at the AYC, even the lady who has one of those tea shags next to the dojo remembered me and greeted me like an old friend…:-)
Every afternoon I have an Aikido class to conduct but otherwise I’m free to explore what ever I feel like. I soon settled in the african rhytm starting my days lazily on my balcony facing the Awassa lake with it’s thousands of birds doing slow Qigong excercises relishing the view and the harmonious movement in me – it’s like meditating in movement 🙂
Lake Awassa – one can always see some papyrus drafts being paddled by.
After my morning rituals I might take a stroll along the lake meeting all kinds of wanderers, for example an Indian guy who is bicycling around the world arising awareness on Aids (http://www.somen2020world.com/). He has already gone with his bicycle through more than a hundred countries, including Finland where he enjoyed as something very exotic the highschool students’ garduation party in springtime.
I also reverted back to my habit of reading black African novelists. At the moment I’m reading Chinua Achebe’s novel Anthills of the Savannah and I can’t resist but quote something from the book:
– – -It has to be same with society. You re-form it around what it is, its core of reality; not around an intellectual abstraction. – – – In the vocabulary of certain radical theorists contradictions are given the status of some deadly disease to which their opponents alone can succumb. But contradictions are the very stuff of life. – – –
I don’t know if this short quote makes any sense to anybody who hasn’t read the book, but to me it somehow in addition to being a very insightful picture of this continent it also reverberates the ideas that I try here to pass on in the Aikido classes; don’t try to change yourself but get deeper into yourself, into who you are – and don’t worry if everything doesen’t seem to make sense first; feeling contradictions can make your understanding deeper and your life richer…
People here are as open as always; you get to talk with them starting from various situations. On Saturday morning I was on my way to AYC to give my two weekend classes. Since they start quite early (at 8am) and last until noon, I didn’t have any breakfast before but had prepared myself with a couple of bananas that I was carrying with me in a plastic bag. On the trees that fringe the street, the monkeys came closer than ever and I stopped to take close shots of them with my camera. With the corner of my eye I noticed that a guy walking near to me stopped also and was watching us closely. When I left my nature photographer’s post and continued my stroll I asked him if he was worried about the monkeys attacking me and my delicacies. And yes, that was the cause for his attendance and so we ended up chatting the whole bajaji trip to the city.
Later on that same Saturday I invited the children from the dojo for a lunch and they took me to a wonderful traditional restaurant for some injera, shiro and different kind of wats (sauces).
Traditional way of showing somebody that you like them is to feed them a handful of injera and wat.
The ceiling is made out of basket weaves.
After lunch we strolled to the area where the annual Timkat Festival (the Epiphany) was to be held the same weekend and the kids told me all kinds of interesting details about their culture. We also got to talk about their dreams, their plans for the future and I have to say, it doesen’t really differ very much from the dreams of children everywhere on this planet… They want to be doctors, engineers, actresses, hotel managers etc. and they want to have their own families and lead a happy, prosperous life. Even their role models are the same starting from some very trendy American rap artists whom a relic like me doesen’t even know via Angelina Jolie to Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa…
To enter the church area the women cover their heads with traditional Ethiopian scarves.
Young love – that’s universal too…
Even though I find it to be true that people are the same from their core everywhere in the world I have to say there are also HUGE differences between the cultures and having been now eight months back in the western culture I find myself struggling again to understand and to accept certain features in this particular African culture (I mean, as I have stated before, there is not one African culture, but hundreds of them, and what applies to Ethiopia doesen’t necessarily apply to other African cultures). But one thing I find similar at least everywhere I’ve been to in Africa is the perception of time. As much as I love this timeless being where there is no hurry to go somewhere all the time or accomlish something in the shortest of time, it takes a lot of adjusting from me again.
For example the students at the dojo are dropping into the Aikido class one by one all through the class – actually, this time I’m not even trying to adjust to that any more since Aiki Extensions and I along it is trying to plant some discipline and awareness of the entirety of a class into the students… Otherwise, what’s the use of a teacher to plan the classes to have a trajectory? It even came to my mind that maybe this is one of the reasons for African inertia and inefficiency; if nothing ever forms an entirety but is only separate fragments, how can there be progress???
Another difficult time related phenomenon to digest is making dates with Ethiopians. Instead of setting an hour for the meeting they say: ‘I call you tomorrow’ and the call might come tomorrow or the day after tomorrow or next week or never. On the other hand if you call them asking when can we meet they might be on your doorstep in five minutes – sometimes you don’t even have to call, they just appear… And sometimes they expect you to be ready to meet them the minute they unexpectedly call you. It’s a totally different perception of time! Here people are not that busy that they wouldn’t be able to adjust their schedules – but sometimes it also means that meeting you is moved aside for something that comes along before… A European friend of mine who has lived here for several years explained it like this: ‘I call you tomorrow’ means that I would very much like to meet you tomorrow if I am able and nothing else more significant or urgent or something doesn’t come on the way…:-)
Again and again I realize that it seems to be impossible for a westerner to fully understand these enigmatic Ethiopians – and wise versa. They are being soooooo polite and friendly all the time but actually, I’m never quite sure what goes on behind that beautiful, friendly face of theirs… But then again, we can also raise this existential question wheter anybody can ever fully know anybody else…