Cris in Ethiopia

Boredom Remedy, Battle in the Street, and One Mystery Solved

Posted by Cris on March 14, 2007

We got our residency permits yesterday, arriving at the Ministry of Immigration at 1:30 pm, and finally leaving at 4:00. What took so long? Beaurocracy: aka six people doing the job of one person. There was a man who was employed specifically to make sure people were sitting in the right order as they waited on the benches in the hall. It didn’t matter that they all had a number, so getting out of order was pretty impossible. They had to have a number and sit in the right spot. Then there is one person to enter your information into the computer and take your picture (Im surprised there weren’t two people splitting this job), another to enter your signature into the computer, another to collect the money, and another to collect the forms and generally harass you on your way out. But the process is done; we are officially in the system in more ways than we can count. And having residency permits means we get discounts into some museums and on Ethiopian Airlines, so that’s pretty worth it. I think the beaurocracy isn’t without purpose though- not only does it allow the government to employ six people when it could only employ one, it keeps people in line for 2.5 hours to accomplish a simple task. If people aren’t sitting in line, what else are they going to do? They could get bored. So could this beaurocracy be an anti-boredom measure as well? Beaurocracy- the opiate of the people.

On our way home from the Immigration Office we saw a group of small children in the street in front of us, involved in some sort of skirmish. One kid was crying and hitting another, and the rest were all throwing things at each other. “Oh god,” I thought, “Theyre throwing rocks at each other!” But then I looked closer. No, not rocks- what they were throwing was darker and sitting in piles on the road. Any guesses? Yep- donkey poop. It was a full on poo war happening in the street, and we were walking right into it. Not wanting to be made into innocent dookie bystanders, we started yelling, “Whoa, whoa, time out! Cease fire! Peace!” and they stopped, came over, and wanted to shake our hands. Noooooo… not today. We safely passed through the militarized zone and as we walked away there was a roar and one side was taking up the attack again, a volley of turds flying through the air.

Every morning several men walk around our neighborhood, in coveralls, with an old feed sack under their arms, saying a word in a very specific voice and tone. It sounds like “ehhp”, and I have no idea what it means. For a few weeks now Ive been wondering what theyre looking for- obviously work, but of what kind? Then I figured it out- theyre garbage men! I saw a guy with his bag full going to the bridge over the stream/open sewer and dumping it over. Sadly this is very common. One mystery of Ethiopia solved, frillions to go.

The streams/sewers aren’t only used for garbage dumping though. Twice now weve seen people at one spot- perhaps the water is cleaner here than in other parts (not saying much)- washing their clothes and hair in the sewer water.

On that note Ill leave you to your day.

3 Responses to “Boredom Remedy, Battle in the Street, and One Mystery Solved”

  1. Nicci, Keith & Mason said

    The Ministry of Immigration sounds a lot like the post office. We’re looking forward to new posts (I read them out loud to Mason and the smiles on his face are evidence that he enjoys them as much as I do)!

  2. Shalene said

    Oh my! On that note I think I will go take a nice, clean, hot shower! teeheehee

  3. Rob said

    The concept of waiting in line is just about non-existent in some cultures I’ve been in, so the concept of a ‘line monitor’ to enforece an otherwise obscure notion isn’t too much of a stretch. I think you nailed it on the head though, the government is trying to improve their people by helping more of them meet the lowest level needs in Maslow’s Heirarchy. Too bad all the good work is easily wiped out by activities like the garbage.
    Cris – Love the blog… keep up the good work. It’s really interesting to read your interpretations of events!
    Amy – Your tech savvy cousins are now reading this too! Love the pictures!

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