July 10, 2006
A stranger in a strange land
Ethiopians are famously friendly people. It is easy to spend months at a time thinking that you have been accepted - that there is nothing more natural than being an Englishman in Addis Ababa. Then a chance remark or encounter jolts you back into reality and reminds you that you are very much a foreigner.
There was the time a non-Ethiopian friend was driving down Bole Road when an Ethiopian shot out of a side junction and smashed into him. There was no doubt about who was to blame. My friend got out of his car and went up to a traffic policeman to make his case. The policeman just shrugged and turned his head. "Come back to me when you can speak Amharic," he said.
Then there was the time I was sitting in a café with a group of African colleagues. One of them called the waiter over in the classic Ethiopian way - with two short sharp claps. "I just can't do that," I said, meaning that I still felt awkward making such an imperialist gesture. "What!" said the woman sitting next to me. "You mean you can't get the rhythm!"
Posted by aheavens at July 10, 2006 7:41 AM