Sunday, May 2, 2010



Thus far, Evan and my time in Ethiopia feels like swinging on a pendulum from
extreme wealth to extreme poverty and back again. We’re driving
through impoverished villages and desolate landscapes in a Toyota Land
Cruiser, which I believe cost more than my college education. We’re
staying in tidy hotels that neighbor urban slums. We’re feasting in restaurants outside of street children beg for food. This constant undulation (from wealth to poverty and
back again) has an effect similar to going from North Dakota to
Ecuador, back to North Dakota and back to the equator. The physical
body goes into relative shock and becomes slightly ill before finding
equilibrium (equilibrium, might I add, is not guaranteed and I am
still searching for mine).

Currently we are in Hawassa where I
feel very much like a princess protected from reality high up in her
tower. When said princess decides that said tower
is starting to feel like prison, she heads down to Hawassa’s main
street for some third world urban site seeing. There she is bombarded
by homeless peoples’ coo for “one birr” (equivalent to about $.08),
broken English catcalls and an ocean of harmless but lingering eyes
into which she attempts to look with loving compassion, “We are all
one…We are all one…We are all one, Namaste”. After some 2 hours said
princess is exhausted by black clouds of toxic diesel fumes, the site of emaciated
nursing beggars and weight of the unconscious barrier
she has now erected around her heart regardless of any loving mantras.

And so said princess retreats once again out of poverty’s sight, into said
tower until said tower begins to feel like a prison at which time she
descends upon Hawassa’s main street for some (more) urban third world
site seeing…. (It goes on like this for 48 hours.)

Clearly I am deeply grateful for my tower even though I am still making peace with the feeling that I am a spoiled clean-sheet-loving American who somehow (through dumb luck or good
karma or stellar celestial alignment) won the metaphorical lottery.


Every country in Africa has been, if not officially colonized at some
point, altered by Europe’s long reach. For some reason this used to
really piss me off. Why can’t the West just keep to its own business?
Why does the West insist on tasting everybody else’s honey? Or sugar
or oil or timber? Turns out in the late 1800’s Ethiopia was the first
African nation to defeat a European power. “Hip, hip, hurray”, I
silently cheered upon learning this fact throwing up a fist-pump for
the people of Ethiopia. And then I learned about the “Red Terror”, a
bloody era when Ethiopia’s own military government over threw the
Ethiopian king, killed all his ministers and then proceeded, in the likes of
Nazi Germany, to murder over 500,000 innocent Ethiopian civilians. Let me clarify, they didn't just murder 'innocent' people, they specifically murdered the best and brightest, the intellectuals and innovators. They wiped out anyone whose intelligence or inner power might threaten the military's standing. Whoa. Ethiopians killing Ethiopians on purpose without cause? Maybe
being under Italy’s control wouldn’t have been such a bad idea after
all. At least then they could have blamed someone else for their
current state. (I don’t sound much like a yoga teacher any more. Honestly, I don't even know what "yoga teacher" means anymore. This is only one of the many aspects of my former reality that hardly seem 'real' anymore. “We are all one…We are all one…We are all one,

Anyway, power has pretty much been a game of hot-potato for last 100
years in Ethiopia. This constant changing of the guard, in combination with
severe droughts, high inflation, the recent tragedy of the “Red Terror”
and a lack of education and medical resources, leave millions of rural
and urban Ethiopians out to dry in the unforgiving African sun.

But you guys probably know all this. I’m just sort of having my 31 year old
mind shattered as the reality of Ethiopia’s “situation” bulldozes the
china cabinet of my naiveté. This destruction of my previous model of
reality, by the way, is excruciatingly uncomfortable. Necessary, I
know, but uncomfortable as hell. Basically the tidy box I had
designated as “Real” is now but a pile of wood chips and bent nails.
And here, amidst this rubble, is where I stand. “Okey dokey,” I look
around with my hand on my hips. “So where shall I go from here? “