Archive for June, 2010

“I love Canada!”

This exchange is very common:

Man following me in the street: “From what country?!”
Me: “Canada”
Man: “Canada great country! I love Canada!”
Me: “Yes, great country.”

Or sometimes, if I’m in a good mood:

Me: “Why do you love Canada?”

My favourite response so far:

Man: “Me, I love Canada! Because I have many t-shirts with Canada flag!”


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It hasn’t been very easy to get to know the local people in Africa. I meet and talk to lots of people every day, but most of those conversations are very shallow. I don’t feel that I’ve connected with many people on a personal and intimate level. There are some specific reasons for this.

It’s very hard to make friends with the women here. I mainly only meet women in situations that are not really conducive to socializing such as while riding buses or being served by them in restaurants or markets. In bars and clubs, where friends are more likely to be made, few women are found. The crowds in these places generally look like this: a small handful of mzungu (white) men, a slightly smaller handful of mzungu women, 3-4 local women, and the rest all local men. The inbalance of local males to females is very striking and to me very, very odd. It’s a bizarre feeling to look around a crowded bar and mainly just see men. Coming from where I do I’m completely unused to such a division of the sexes. I don’t know where the women are in the evenings. Maybe they have their own secret club or bar where the male-female ratios are reversed, but realistically they are probably just at home cleaning, cooking and taking care of the children while their husbands/boyfriends/brothers/fathers are out drinking beer. It’s sad that in the “fun” places in Africa there are so few women.

On the other hand, it’s certainly very, very easy to meet local men. It’s actually almost impossible for me to go anywhere in Africa without having at least a short conversation with a man. They don’t believe in leaving anyone, especially a mzungu woman, alone. When approached in a public place I’m usually not in the mood to engage in a lengthy conversation. When I’m out socially however, I do enjoy a conversation with someone new – man or woman, tourist or local, and even though I’m there with other people. I’ve met some interesting guys this way. Many of them have told me interesting life stories, expressed surprising opinions and were all around intriguing to talk to. Meeting people like this at home would mean new and interesting friends. The problem in Africa though is that there is no such thing as “friendship”, in the platonic sense, between a man and a woman. So any man I show interest in by conversing with assumes that I’m interested in him for the purpose of eventual marriage. The concept of just enjoying a conversation with someone, with nothing else following seems completely inconceivable. I’ve tried to explain this idea a few times but it’s futile.

So this leaves me with a dilemma with no solution. One of my options is to not talk to any local guy at all and only talk to the westerners I came with, but this results in accusations of me “hating Africans”. The other option is to keep up the conversations with the local men and just ignore the inevitable “you’re so beautiful” comments and make excuses over and over about why I won’t be able to go to dinner, the beach, or the local bar with them tomorrow. This makes me very uncomfortable though and even sometimes leads to the guy getting angry at me.

It’s a frustrating aspect of African culture. I simply can’t imagine a life like the people here have where relationships between sexes are limited to familial, marital, and professional. I feel that by not being able to interact socially with each other the people here are missing out on learning about almost half of their fellow humans.

I’m sure that once I start my volunteer placement in Namibia things will be different. Once I’m settled and living in a place I know I’ll be able to find and meet more women who I’ll be able to get to know. There will probably also be some older and married men that I might be able to have some good talks with. I suspect that I will still have to keep the single guys at a distance.

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I’m not good at describing food, so here are some photo from my picasa page.

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For the foodie Addis Ababa is a great place. Sure it’s no New York, or even Toronto, but for an African city the food is top notch.

Firstly of course is the Ethiopian food. For lovers of injera and the delights that accompany it Addis is a great place to get it all. And it’s super cheap! The below plate cost me less than $2.

Ethiopians also have many wonderful breakfast foods. Fetira is a somewhat flaky, crispy pancake covered in honey and often baked around an omlette. Full is a spicy chickpea puree, sometimes with a type of cottage cheese mixed into it. And firfir is made of chopped up bits of injera fried up in berbere (a mix of spices) and can be served with eggs (or meat).

Apart from Ethiopian Addis Ababa is also a great place for international food. There is Italian, Indian, “Mediterranean” and middle eastern food that does not disappoint (stay away from the Chinese though). Addis, especially the Italianish piazza area that I stayed in, is littered with wonderful cafes. They are as ubiquitous as Starbucks in the west and serve all sorts of beautiful pastries, cakes and coffee drinks.

The thing I’ll miss most from Ethiopia however are the spriss. These are mixed fruit juices – usually a combination of avocado, papaya and mango. They have a consistency that is thick like a smoothie, look beautiful, cost less than $1 and are simply delicious!

Yum Yum!

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