Archive for August, 2008

That’s the First Time I’ve Ever Been Called an Explorer

August 2, 2008

I hardly know where to begin with this post.  It seems like I’ve been out here for so long.  Forever, in fact.  This morning I had a last excursion with Yonas and Amaha as they insisted on taking me to Menelik’s first palace above the city, a nice gesture since I officially stopped paying both their wages and the vehicle rent yesterday.  Amaha, I know, wants to see me again tomorrow (and tonight, but that’s not happening) but I suspect that’s the last I’ll see of Yonas.

It’s been a good trip, and it’s been funny to watch how quickly the two of them will say “no, research” whenever anyone asks if I’m a tourist.  Once, when I got up before them and went to have a coffee in a cafe on my own in Sodo, I met a Tanzanian guy, doing some work for the IMF.  When I tried to explain to him what I was doing he said “ah, you’re exploring.”  I hadn’t thought of it quite like that before.

Just as quick as “no, research” is Yonas’s “Ambasha” (Ethiopian) whenever anyone points out that I’m furangi.  He takes as much delight in pointing out the other furangi’s to me as other Ethiopians do in pointing at me though.

During the last week and a bit, we’ve criss-crossed southern Ethiopia as I’ve met agriculturalists and nomadic pasturalists alike, building up what I hope is a pretty good series of provisional notes to sort out a funded ethnozooarchaeological PhD.  I’ve spent the last six months saying “I’m convinced that there’s some old man somewhere in Ethiopia who knows how to butcher animals with stone tools – all I have to do is find him.”  Well, I have.

In every community I’ve visited, the last question has usually been “have you ever heard of anyone using stone tools to make meat?”  To begin with, the answer was invariably no, but then we began to follow up tenuous leads which grew stronger until, just as I was about to give up, we found him.  He’s 82 and has three wives.  (Although he’s now a Christian.  I’m not sure how that works.)

So, superficially, all my objectives have been achieved. Coming out here was always going to be a very big risk (why do I always go for the big risks instead of doing the simple little things right?) and ultimaely it’s proven to be a very expensive risk as well, so I’ve cut my time here and changed my flights to fly back on Monday, 11 days earlier than originally planned.  As for whether or not it’s been a success, ultimately, the question can only be answered in about nine months time.