Saturday, January 27, 2018

Rampaging bulls, melancholy chickens:
My First 36 Hours in Gondar
(Gondar, Ethiopia) –As we zoomed around the corner in downtown Gondar in a tuk-tuk, a small three wheeled conveyance, we spotted a very testy bull ambling down the street, daring anyone to cross his path. Unsuspecting pedestrians who came within six feet of him were shown his horns in a most threatening manner, and fortunately everyone leapt to safety, some angrily calling after the bull in Amharic words that undoubtedly couldn’t be printed in an Amharic newspaper. About a minute later, and at least a block  behind, we finally spotted the bull’s handler scampering after his wayward bovine. I can’t imagine him ever catching up with the bull.

Riding with me in the tuk-tuk, and assuring me that rampaging bulls aren’t a daily occurance in Gondar, was Tim, part of a contingent of two Fulbrighters and their family members encamped here. They are wonderful people who have already made me feel welcome. This is especially true of 3-year old Reggie, who can’t wait to take a swim in my hotel pool.

I was invited over for dinner Friday night, and our hostess planned to make chicken. Here in Gondar, if one wants chicken, there is only one option—go to the arada, the central market, and buy a live chicken. This was not an appetizing prospect for me, though I did not vocalize this since I didn’t want to be seen as the soft city boy that I am. Yes, I am a chicken, and no, the irony does not escape me.
We found our way to the chicken aisle of the arada with me trailing as far behind as I could without arousing suspicion. As we showed an interest to the first chicken vendor, we were swarmed by a dozen chicken sellers, each showing off the relative merits of their birds. I let my friends make the purchase, since I wouldn’t know a good chicken from one with a more checkered past. (The arada, by the way, is amazing in a way that only an African market can be.)

On the way home from the arada, we crammed three humans and four live chickens in the back of a tuk-tuk. The chickens, which they didn’t make me hold, thank God, were mostly quiet. However, occasionally, one of them would let out a soulful, melancholy cluck that indicated that they might just understand the fate that awaited them. On the way home, I was asked if I wanted to come over and partake in the, ahem, festivities involving the chickens, axes, and knives. I politely passed.
During the 10 minute trip, I tried my best to not look at the chickens because if I made eye contact, I knew that I couldn’t eat them. One did peck at my pants.

At dinner, I unenthusiastically nibbled on the expertly prepared chicken, comforted somewhat in the fact that there was a chance I was eating the "pecker." Should the chance arise, however, I would much more enthusiastically partake in a plate of rampaging bull.

Steven Youngblood is in Ethiopia for the Spring, 2018 semester as part of a special State Department peace journalism fellowship. His (mis)adventures will be posted regularly in this space.

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