There are things that are absent here. One highly conspicuous absence are joggers. Running or jogging purely for the physical benefits of it does not seem to exist amongst the local population. I suspect it is because a lot of them spend a proportion of their time actually up and about, walking or running somewhere for a reason, rather than sitting in front of a computer all day. I only mention it because today, as we went by Arat Kilo on the bus, I saw someone jogging. They were white and wearing their jogging outfit (singlet, small shorts, special shoes). I couldn't help but think how ridiculous they looked. Having said that of course, as soon as I get back to London I will be out doing exercises in the park and looking just as ridiculous. It's just a different culture, different needs and different times.
Another absence is that of indication lights on cars and buses. They don't work, no one uses them and even if they did, no one would pay any attention to them. You've got to love this place.
Conversations that I've had here, two in particular that I recall. The first was with Sha as we sat in 'Lucy's' a restaurant in Sidist Kilo. When Amanda was in the toilet we got to talking about the beginning of the Hand in Hand project. Sha told me that he worked in a Coca Cola factory and that Tesfahun worked in administration, both in Addis Ababa. In their time off from work they cultivated the idea of this project and one day they decided to finish with their jobs and work full-time on their project. What began as a project for seven children is now at 218. It is clear that they are both extremely passionate about their work and have sacrificed a lot on behalf of the kids.
The other conversation was one I had today with Tesfahun down at the project. He said he'd been reading my blog via Facebook and he mentioned one of my very first posts about my impressions of the place. Particularly in terms of relative 'busy-ness'. Amanda had pointed out previously that the working day here is very different from that in the UK. I scanned my brain and worried and tried to remember what I had said, hoping I hadn't been offensive in anyway… in essence I had said that things were not as busy as I would have liked. To his eternal credit Tesfahun was not upset with me, he was more curious as to what it was like in London. We had an interesting talk about it. Having been here a little while now, it is easier to see that our societies are so incredibly different on so many levels that it's impossible to compare something like a work day.
We also talked about families and how different they are. For example Amanda brought me home to meet her mother, brother and sister after two months. In Addis Tesfahun tells me that it would be several years before such a thing would be allowed. The prevailing culture of parents and children is that children do not question their parents on any matter, they do not speak out of turn. This is something that Tesfahun and the boys at the project are trying to change. One of their aims with the project is to build the self esteem of the kids involved, to feel as if they can question and be curious about the world without fear of being told to shut up. It has been clear in the workshops that we ran last week that their methods seem to be working. Even though I have no idea what they are talking about when they speak animatedly in Amharic, it is clear there is a dialogue between the kids and the project leaders that is open and refreshing. I have not heard a single raised voice.
I still have so much to learn about this culture and have very little time left here.