Sunday Walk

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Africa » Ethiopia » Somali Region » Jijiga
September 10th 2008
Published: September 10th 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

Between sicknesses, I have begun a walking routine with my colleague from New Zealand, Erin. We usually go at 6am during the week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In an attempt to try to maintain some type of healthy lifestyle which includes exercise. I am losing weight and muscle too -so now I am skinny fat as a friend’s friend once described his ex-girlfriend. I skipped Friday since I did not feel well so we decided to take a walk this Sunday. We walk just a few meters away at the old airfield walking up and down the landing strip, which is an unpaved path of dirt and gravel. The wind is calm one way and a crazy, cold torrent when you turn back towards the opposite way. It blows in your ears and makes you cold and not able to recognize the fact that you may be sweating.

We walked with purpose this morning. I had my jacket fastened and my hood on when we were approached by some youths. They started talking to using limited English. I answered a few questions and spoke a little in Amharic which they responded to in Somali. They continued to follow us and speak to us in Somali. Then, one small boy took Erin’s hand and wouldn’t let go just as the other began to ask for money. Saying, “Give me my money.” or “Farenji buy me food, I hungry” then laughing. They also said the word “angry” and kept saying in Amharic the word for “buy”…Erin and I chose the ignore technique figuring they would eventually get bored. Some of the older boys did get bored, but the younger ones stayed close by still talking to one another and periodically asking for money.

As we approached the exit, the little boy finally let go of Erin. Another tried to grab my hand which I ignored and did not allow. When we exited, they did not keep following us but they kept talking and yelling towards us in Somali. Then, I felt some small stones flying towards us and saw them landing near us. Then, a small stone hit the back of my calf. I looked at Erin and told her the kids were throwing stones at us. She looked and said “cheeky little bastards” (exactly the right comment!).

Then as we passed some men building a driveway outside a newly built compound (possibly for Save the Children as we saw their vehicle parked there during our walk to the airfield earlier), a larger stone pelted me on my back at my waist. I lost it! I was so furious; I turned around and walked back towards the culprit. Then, I yelled at the top of my voice in Amharic …”Batam balagay nachew!” You all are very rude (literally very rude you all- Amharic is like Yoda speak with verbs at the end of sentences). Thanks to Peace Corps training and lots of annoying Ethiopian youths 10 years ago this phrase is permanently ingrained in my brain.

Everyone stopped, the street became silent and I yelled the same statement again! Then, I looked to the adults building the driveway and mimed the throwing of stones and pointed to where the stone hit me. I think they saw the fury in my eyes, because two of the men immediately walked towards the children saying something serious in Somali. Then, the other adults nearby started talking to one another and an older woman began to walk across from us. She was speaking to us in Somali so I turned to her and shook my head and made a “tsking” sound …the universal sound for disappointment or sadness…and she followed across from us the entire way to our house. I kind-of felt she was a bodyguard from additional children’s harassment.

Another day in the land of confusion! I am not your television and I am a human, please teach your children some respect of others/foreigners! I can’t say similar things don’t happen in America- bad kids live everywhere! This event does motivate one to learn Somali, so I can capture the kid and take him to his house and explain his behavior to his parents. I say “his” because I have never, ever seen a girl child do such things.


10th September 2008

a stones throw
We are teaching Gwen to throw stones at those who look different including foreigners, the elderly, and the handicapped.
From Blog: Sunday Walk
25th October 2008

I remember how challenging aerobic physical activity was in Botswana - between the two extremes of affable daily greetings and harrassment, it is hard to get in a "regular" target-heart-rate routine!
From Blog: Sunday Walk

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