Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hosanna and Camelot

Hosanna is like Camelot: “the rain may never fall till after sundown.” I had expected more because the big rains should have started by now. It poured down, though, without stopping on Saturday, the only open market day in Hosanna and Workenesh promised to take me. I have to leave next Saturday so it’s now or never, rain or no rain.

This market is bigger than I remember from years ago and the goods for sale have changed. At least half of the space is taken up by modern clothes; only a few tables with traditional dresses and blankets and shawls. Only two people are selling pottery dishes and coffee pots and there are very few baskets. They do have all the food staples, though: tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, salt and sugar, oil and butter, and freshly made soft cheese. We arrived late in the afternoon, foolishly waiting for the rain to stop, which it didn’t, so the bananas and oranges have been picked over. I am the only ferengi (foreigner) here so everyone watches me, thinking I will surely slip in the ankle-deep mud and fall. I, too, am afraid I will so I move very slowly, clinging to the branches when available or leaning on a passing do0nkey’s back. They laugh at the scowl on my face as I try to find foothold. One very old woman takes my hand as we cross a miniature flowing stream, both of us trying not to slide down its side. I’m embarrassed but she smiles and calls me “gobuz,” (brave) and the by-standers applaud.

I also gained favor and fame when we bought tomatoes. I figured out that the seller over charged us four birr (40 cents). I was able to explain the calculation in Amharic and convinced all the women customers that I was correct. The seller was surprised that I could do math in Amharic so I told them, “Astamari neyn.” (I am a teacher.) Ah, that explains it. Lots of smiles from the women. Workenesh was proud of me.