Grass house adventures….

I don’t even know where to begin narrating my time spent in the countryside. When I told my guard today where I had been this weekend and after he asked three different times if I had really stayed in a grass house (somehow he found this hard to believe), he just chuckled and said “Oh, Katie” – as in “Oh, Katie, what were you thinking” and “Oh, Katie, I wish I could have witnessed that.” Yep, “Oh, Katie” pretty much sums it up for me. My bed and my shower have never looked as good as they did when I came home today!

Friday, the day I was scheduled to begin my weekend stay, was a day full of unforeseen adventures long before I ever set foot in that grass house. I was told at 7:45 Friday morning that some people were here to buy a few of our goats and I needed to meet them in town at 8:30 to show them to the site. I wasn’t quite through packing for the weekend and I was nowhere near ready for the day, so I quickly got ready and grabbed what I thought I might need and headed out. In my rush, I left my ear plugs on the table by my bed – I lived to regret that. We got the goats sold out at the site and I took some metal troughs and doors to a town about 40 minutes down the lovely dirt road and sat and twiddled my thumbs, attempted to make small talk, and got stared at for about three hours (all of which is more exhausting than you might realize) while they were making the repairs and then brought the stuff back to the site. When I got back to the site one of our workers and a relative of one of our workers was there sick and waiting on me to take them to the clinic which was about 20 minutes in the opposite direction down that lovely dirt road. I took them to the clinic, waited on their diagnosis (malaria and typhoid), and then dropped them back off at their houses and headed off to my mud hut adventure. Thinking back on it, the last time I was here without a partner was when I got roped into driving up and down that dirt road taking people to the market. I’m not sure how this happens when I am by myself and it always makes for a long day, but it also nice to have opportunities to help people. You just never really know what is going to happen in a day around these parts.

By the time I got to my friend’s house, I was slightly tired but the show had just begun. I was the guest and the hospitality here can put Southern hospitality to shame. There would be no resting for me, only constant fussing and attention by them to make sure that I was interacting and eating and not sitting quietly by myself. My friend, Negia, lives in a very nice mud/grass house with her 4 younger brothers and sisters, her mother, and her father. She also has one younger brother from her father’s second wife. In Muslim culture, a man can marry up to four wives under the condition that he has enough money to support those wives. Being able to marry a second wife in these parts is a little bit of a status symbol and if the man is wise, he puts his second wife in a second house…it is basically understood that that will be the situation when he takes a second wife. Because I was coming, my supervisor informed the father that he needed to stay at his other wife’s house, which is just down the road. I found out later that her father has about 12 acres of land, which is a significant amount around here, and he apparently is a very successful farmer. He grows coffee, wheat, corn, teff, sorghum, barley, and trees for harvesting. Their house is a notch above most mud huts I’ve been in, but a mud hut nonetheless. All of the grass houses are simply one room, but the size of the house can vary. Everyone sleeps on the floor on mats and eat there as well. A fire is usually in the center of the house and this is where all the meals are cooked. The animals all come in at night to protect them from the hyenas and they sleep in stalls on the right side of the house.

We mainly made small talk Friday night and seeing as how they don’t eat supper until 10:00 (I did not realize that!) there was a lot of awkward staring and attempts at conversation while we were waiting for dinner. I was very grateful when dinner had been eaten and I was able to go to sleep….or try to go to sleep. I had not realized before that there was a bed in there house, but when I saw it that night I already knew that was where they would insist that I sleep. At first I thought about being gracious and offering to sleep on the floor like the rest of them, but knew that because I was a visitor, they would never let me. Negia did sleep in the bed with me, which made me feel a little less guilty about having the bed. However, I soon realized that there was no reason for me to feel guilty about being on the bed instead of on the floor. I can not even begin to describe to you how uncomfortable this bed was – I swear there are rocks that are softer than this bed was. I don’t think you can even technically call it a bed. There was no mattress, instead it was basically dried corn stalks made flat and packed in to the bed frame. I soon thought about asking to sleep on the floor because I just knew it had to be softer than this bed! Regardless, I laid down on the rock…I mean bed…and it was then that I realized that the cyst I have on my back was very much inflamed and did not agree so much with the rock hard bed. No matter how I laid on my back, it was extremely uncomfortable. So, I attempted to sleep on my side – I’m pretty sure I swapped sides about every 30 minutes and I now have bruises on my hip bones and shoulders as proof of the hardness of that bed. Somewhere between 12:00 am and 1:00 am I finally fell asleep. I had been warned that the sound of the animals defecating all night long would likely keep me up, which was why I wanted my earplugs. However, when I had entered the house that evening, the animals were in their stalls and they were really quiet, so I didn’t think it would be a problem after all. Unfortunately, I had underestimated the situation. At 2:30 the rooster started crowing…IN THE HOUSE! It was at that point that I knew sleep that night was certainly out of the question. Between the crowing rooster and the mooing cow, I was really regretting forgetting my earplugs. I’m not sure that even earplugs would have drowned out the noise of a rooster crowing 20 feet from my head. No one else in the house even seemed to be phased. The next morning when they let the animals out, I counted – 10 cows, 2 donkeys, one sheep, 4 hens, and one rooster.

to be continued….. #gallery-615-6 { margin: auto; } #gallery-615-6 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-615-6 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-615-6 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

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© 2020 by Katie Murray