Like a son

kids galore

In 1968, when we first went to Ethiopia, we had a lady W/ro (weysero – mrs) Balynish. She was separated from her husband and had four children – 2 girls and 2 boys. We didn’t see much of the girls but the boys were often at our place playing with our boys. Tadessa the younger of the two was almost always at our place. He was confident, cheeky and lovely. He and our oldest son used to ride around on our two horses as bosom pals. We kept in loose contact with him until sadly he died recently. We helped send one of his sons to University. We were friends.

A couple of memorable moments.

Ethiopian food is more spicy than most of ours. I guess maybe this is not so true now as many other nations (eg Indian) foods have become part of Western food. This particular day Tadee (as we called him) was carrying on about how there were no very spicy spices in our ‘ferengie’ foods. “Are you sure about that,” I asked him. “Certain” he replied. So I went to the pantry and gave him half a teaspoon of Tabasco sauce. With great superiority he opened his mouth wide, confidently swallowed all of it; dropped the spoon and ran outside screaming for water. Lesson learned.

He was attending a nearby small church school where they had full day lessons. One Wednesday he came to our place, at lunch time, and was talking to his mother in the kitchen. We could overhear the conversation. He was boasting about how he had bested his teacher that morning. Apparently he had obtained 1 out of 20 for a maths test. The teacher at the end of the lesson asked the students to call out their marks to have them recorded. When asked to give his mark, he replied 11. 1/20 sticks in a teachers mind, so he was called out the front for lying. In spite of knowing that the punishment was a caning, he confidently went to the front and told the teacher that the teacher couldn’t cane him, because his name was Tadessa Cartier! He got away with it.

Calling him into where we were eating he, smiling broadly, verified the story. “What do you think I would do to your very good friend, my son, if he lied like that?” I asked. As the sentence came out his smile quickly disappeared. “You’d give him a hiding?”. “Yes I would. Are you sure your name is ‘Cartier’?”. He clung to our really very tenuous relationship. So I told him that I would give him a hiding but at school in front of his class, as if I gave it in our home no one else would learn a lesson.

After lunch we went to school together. The teacher said the facts were true. So I took off my belt and applied 3 good whacks to the seat of learning. He fled screaming and neither his mother nor we saw him for 3 days. I went off to review the hundred leprosy patients we had on the compound with severe foot ulcers, as I did every Wednesday afternoon. He came back without grudges and carried on as if he was Tadessa Cartier.

I loved that kid and still love the memory of him.

Dominic Cartier

3 thoughts on “Like a son

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