• Richard Scrimger

does anybody really know ...


So, Addis Ababa. It's a real city, in that there are masses of people on the roads and sidewalks, walking and arguing, smiling and sitting around, driving with hands on the horn and heads out the window (love the drivers here -- no sense of lanes or right of way, plenty of smiles, and horns as conversation), selling food and I don't know what and shoes (lots of shoes, seeming like pretty good quality though I am no judge) and generally doing their best to get along and have some fun in the process. It helps that the sun is shining. It may help that it is Sunday and hardly anyone has to work. And it may be that I am missing something. I won't lie to you guys -- there's a whole lot here that I don't get. Like the guys in the uniforms. They seem to pop up all over the place. I haven't seen a lot of consistency but there are brass buttons and caps and stripes galore. No guns, no agenda that I can work out, but they stay where they are, at ease mostly, and we regular walking-around guys leave them alone. I say we but I kind of stand out. I am not a regular guy here. The gifts of a city are invisibility and unconcern, and they don't apply to me here. I get stared at. Not heckled or approached, but noticed. I did not see any other white folks on my walk. None. I don't think I was in a tough part of town. The streets were wide and there were all sorts of women and babies and old folks walking calmly. But no tourists except me. I am gradually getting used to the time thing. After 24 hours on airplanes crossing who knows how many zones, I have no sense beyond day and night. My various electronic devices tell conflicting stories. Computer: 5:13 am. Cell phone: 11:14 am. Wrist watch: 1:15 pm. I set my watch to the clock in Tesfaye's car last night. It said 10:00 but I know that car clocks lie. (I still haven't switched mine to daylight savings.) When I asked him whether the time was correct he shrugged. Sometimes in Ethiopia when we say 10:00 we mean 4:00 pm, he told me.

I nodded but had to ask: Um, why?

4:00 pm is ten hours past sunrise, he said.

Of course, I said. But what do you do at night? Do you call 5:00 am 23:00?

He laughed heartily. He's got a good laugh.

At night we sleep, he said. So when I say I am getting used to the time thing I mean I am getting used to not knowing. With luck I may get around to not caring.

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Richard Scrimger | scrimgerr@gmail.com | Toronto, ON, Canada