Posted by Cris on May 12, 2007
Amy spotlight: Apparently there have been some requests for me to post on the blog. I quite happy to as maybe my dad will parade my writing around town for once! I was beginning to feel Cris was the favorite!
When most people think about Ethiopia a picture of a starving orphaned child often comes to mind. Cris has done a lot of writing on other topics which is good because this country is nothing like Lord of the Flies, however, the poverty is undeniable and ubiquitous. The begging, for starters, is pretty astounding. I have encountered more beggars here than anywhere else I have ever been combined. People get weird diseases and infections we don’t get in our ulta-sterile lives in the states. Beggars display their illnesses hoping to get more sympathy and therefore more $$$. I’ve seen open sores covered in flies, men with their shirts lifted up showing their bloated worm ridden bellies, women who set out false legs, and children who run to me from their mothers ragged skirts asking for birr or bread. Most children begging say this to try and win me over: “Money? Dabbo?” When this fails to get them change or bread they begin the sob story “no mother no father….” While I am sure this is true in many cases, I don’t give to these children because it is frowned upon by the locals. Why? Because this country is losing its dignity because of all the international hype about Ethiopian poverty. Instead of the proud history children were once taught about Ethiopia, now they know a country run by a corrupt government and foreign NGOs. These are not things to be proud of. I don’t feel depressed about it, sad yes, and sometimes angry. I have become frustrated with all the begging, not that it is bothersome, but that so many people seem to feel entitled to receiving something. By my giving I don’t know if I am helping by providing them with means to have a meal, or just supporting a lifestyle that does nothing to improve Ethiopia. It drives away tourists and makes the locals depressed. What is sad is that many people seem to have given up on working in Ethiopia. Either they beg for change or for a visa to get out.
I am not saying it is a cake-walk to find a decent job here, not in the least. The unemployment is terrible and some people are so poor they are driven to do horrible things: stealing, cheating, even leaving their new-born babies to die in the woods. When I think of that, I gain more sympathy for the person who can’t find work and must beg, or for those who are waiting to go to the U.S. But I still get angry—where to direct my feeling I am still sorting out. For now, I am just trying to not be a jerk and hand over a little cash.