Fears and Phobias.

Is fear good or bad? It’s a bit like the question is pain good or bed. In the matter of pain the answer is a simple one – it is both; bad because it hurts, good because it indicates something needs to be looked into or done about it. It is wise to fear some things.

My wife has a fear/phobia for rats or mice. Snakes she can tolerate and in her childhood has eaten snake meat, which she reassures me tastes quite nice – a bit like chicken. I have not asked her to prepare it for me even though we see them quite often around our place. Sometimes they even seem to come by post.

 However, she hates rats. But what is in a name? She was in the paddock the other day and discovered a delightful little critter. It didn’t run away, nor did she. She thought it was a poteroo, (like a small wallaby) but strangely it didn’t run away and she stood and took a picture of it. No fear at all.

Naturally she came home and shared the experience with us. It is not a poteroo but a rat! A Rufous rat kangaroo. Hereafter she may prefer to call it a Bettong, but really what is in a name? Maybe, just maybe, the word rat won’t terrify her any more.

On the other hand the husband of the family living here some years ago, built a lovely tree house for his children to play in. It still stands solid and useable maybe 50 metres outside the home area fence. The children were allowed to play in it once, before the wife knew that it had been built. It was never used again because of the wife’s phobia of snakes!

Dominic Cartier

Living in Another Culture

I can’t vouch for the absolute truth of all of this, but a lot of people escaped from the Crusade wars in what is the Israel area of today, via a slightly circuitous route through Ethiopia. The evidence offered to support this ‘theory’ is twofold. Firstly, St George, the patron saint of England, is held in very high esteem in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Interestingly he is supposed to have died eight times and risen from the dead seven times. I don’t know of any scientific proof of this. Secondly there are many Tudor roses carved into the walls of the stone churches in the north. Many of the fleeing Crusaders, it is suggested, helped out in carving out these magnificent structures.

I suspect that some of these fleeing Crusaders tried to teach the Ethiopians some basic English words and mathematical terms. But I guess they either weren’t very good teachers or time has dimmed the past scholastic abilities. They remember the word ‘chin’ but now use it for the ‘thigh’ as we call the upper part of the lower limb. They remember the word ‘feet’ but have transposed the word to the other end of the body, and use it for the face. I’m pretty sure that they taught them also the other parts of the face, they almost got ‘eye’ correct and say ‘eyne’. They all know what their mouth is for but forgot the word for nose. This is where their maths lessons came into play. (I suspect some of the English may have been cockneys) so they named the nose ‘arfincha’ because it is an ‘alf an inch’ above the mouth. Sounds reasonable, but I’m not absolutely sure of the truth of it.

I did have a man whose lover bit off a large part of his nose, I guess that is maybe why we usually make love after a meal, so that people aren’t hungry. It was a 3 stage procedure to repair his nose. I’ve put a couple of pictures below the line. I also have a picture of a lower lip bitten off by a hungry lady. But I’ll save that for another day.

Continue reading “Living in Another Culture”

I’m a carnivore!

African sunset

Whenever my wife asked what I’d like for my first meal when we arrived back in Australia, my answer was invariably pork chops and ice cream. Not on the same plate, of course, but, in the early days,  we didn’t get either in Ethiopia. As far as ice cream was concerned, after some years, there was one place, as you turned right at Mojo (about 80 km) to go to Shashemane, where an Italian guy sold gelati from a caravan. Years later there was a spot on the right side of the road as you drove out of Addis, where you could get several different kinds of ice cream; now there are places all over Addis and it is also available in most major towns.

Pork chops were off the list because neither Orthodox Christians nor Muslims eat pork. You couldn’t even get bacon. Because of the growing Chinese influence there are now a few places in Addis where you can buy pork, but it is still not a common meat and to many an absolute ‘no-no’,

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You could buy beef which was hanging outside the butcher shops. The butchered halves hung there for all to see. The animals were killed early in the morning and it was good to get there early before there were too many flies. You could point to the piece of meat you wanted and they cut it off. You needed to cook it well, preferably in a pressure cooker. It seemed as if most animals were killed after a long life of pulling a plough!

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Chickens (doro) were bought live. They were highly prized as meat. They were in the local custom killed in, to me, a rather gruesome way by sawing through the neck. We, as you probably know, kill them by placing their necks in a convenient place and with a swift swing of an axe chop off their heads, before hanging them up to drain out their blood. Again by local custom the bird is cut into eleven pieces and made into a very spicy meal. The favoured person is usually handed a piece called, when translated, the horse-rider, the meat on the breast bone.

chickens to market

If you wanted sheep meat you went to the market and bought a sheep. You could never buy lamb or mutton or hogget at a shop. You took the sheep home and killed it and prepared the meat there. African sheep don’t look like ours in Australia. They look like goats, but whereas goats ears and tails go up, those on sheep hang down. Goat meat also can be bought on the hoof, in the same way.

Being brought up in the south of Australia, in our childhood and youth, when not eating rabbit, we ate sheep, usually labelled lamb. On the farm they were aged by their teeth, in the shop by the butcher’s choice.

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One weekend we decided we’d like some sheep meat. So the teenagers who were living with us  A house full of teenagers.  and I went to the local market on the Saturday afternoon and after a lot of haggling bought one. As a white person we financially suffered racism. Everything was a bit dearer for us. So I sent the boys out to suss out the best prices. I fooled myself if I thought this would work as I was well known in the town, as was the fact that the boys lived with us!  I personally had no intention of killing it. Ato (Mr) Kassa, our gardener could do that on Monday, I knew that he’d be happy to do that for a share in the meat as a gift.

roadside market
This is a roadside market in Addis. Ours was held once a week as a major event in a square a hectare or so in size and people came from all the neighbouring towns.

Here I ran into an unexpected hurdle. Sheep are not kept outside in countryside Ethiopia, they sleep in the house, I think for fear of thieves or hyenas. At any rate, in the evening we tied it up in the garden but it didn’t like that at all. It baa-baa-ed to the point of driving us near to insanity. We had to end up clearing a space in the inside laundry, and inviting him in. After that peace reigned until…..

Monday when he was dealt with by Kassa. He was a very tasty and the much enjoyed centre of a number of meals.

Interestingly, the intestine is a favoured piece of the kill and locals make it into nice spicy dish. Kassa and his family enjoyed it as part of his gift. On the whole I don’t like tripe.

Dominic Cartier