tagNon-EroticDust in the Wind

Dust in the Wind

byRubenR©

All names, characters, situations and incidents portrayed in this story are fictitious. No identification with actual persons is intended or should be inferred.

Copyright blablabla...


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"Mister, mister... Mister, one birr!"

"Mastika sir? You want gum sir?"

"Stomach zero - me hungry!"

"Shoe shine?"

"Mister, give me one dollar!"

"Soft?"

"No father, no mother, sir! No brother no sister! Give me one birr!"

It was the first of January; New Year, and my first day in Addis Abeba.

I passed another hotel, and its porter sent the kids away with a sweep of his stick. Five steps further, and I was surrounded again. My shoes had been polished twice already, I had bubble gum, tissues and I didn't smoke, so I didn't need anything. Nevertheless, 'Another day in paradise' from Phil Collins kept haunting me.

"Caramella?"

"How much?" The shouting increased - others trying to convince me to buy their candy instead. I bought a hand full, and distributed them to the children around me.

"Waayyy!" Two young women across the street saw me, and shook their heads, laughing at the begging hands surrounding me.

"You want some?" I shouted, and lifted my hand, showing some sweets. They giggled and shyly turned their heads, hiding in their shawls when I approached them. However, their outstretched hands didn't reject my candy and their whispering voices returned a soft "Ameseginalehu".

I took place on a terrace and ordered a coke. The children, not allowed to follow, dispersed, looking for other people but ready to come back as soon as I would leave this place. At another table, a young couple, accompanied by a little girl in a wide white princess-dress, drank their soft drinks. The girl waved at me; I waved back, making her hide her face in her father's chest. He nodded politely.

I looked around over the street; the asphalt covered in a thick layer of dust, pieces of plastic and paper being chased by the wind, an occasional oil spill. It was a quiet street, a few cars, some sheep, a man walking by, carrying chickens tied by their legs to the stick over his shoulder.

The air was dusty and smelled of smoke. Although the temperature was not too high, I could feel the sun burning my skin. I probably should go back soon. I finished my glass, called the waiter and paid. As soon as I stood up, the first kids slowly gathered again, and when I left the entrance, I was once more surrounded. I lifted my head up high, and walked, with a quick pace, along the road. Especially the smallest children had to run to keep up with me, and after a while, I lost them all. "Fuck you!" I heard one calling in the distance.

But after a short while, a young man came walking next to me. "Do you need a guide?" He asked, but I shook my head. I was doing fine.

"But can I talk with you? I'm a student, and I would like to practice my English!" I told him I wasn't in for that, but he didn't leave. While I kept walking at high speed he followed me, talking about the beauty of his country, and the difficulties for the people, students in general. He described the typicalities of his culture and the interesting tourist-sites - nothing I hadn't read in the tourist guides.

"Where do you come from?"

I told him, and he named some of our football players, and some old musicians. Friends of him had visited the capital, he told me.

When I saw a hotel, I told him our routes would part there.

"Are you staying here?"

"No, I'm meeting some friends. No, you don't have to wait for me." I told him I didn't want to give money so he could buy his books... And I wasn't interested in his sister either...

I entered the shabby hotel lobby and looked around. There wasn't much to see, but I didn't want to leave too early and see that guy again. So I went to the desk and asked if the hotel had a bar. The woman didn't understand me, but when I said 'Coca' she gave me a tired smile and pointed to a door.

I entered a courtyard with small benches, some rusty tables and chairs, shaded by grape vines. An old woman was sitting on a small stool behind a small table; actually, it looked like a chest, several small cups on top. On the side stood a charcoal burner with a black clay pot; in the front stood another, smaller burner. Some grass was draped on the ground, sprinkled with flowers. So this must be the famous coffee ceremony. The woman spoke to me in her incomprehensible language, but I lifted my hands. "No Amharic. Sorry..."

The woman smiled and lifted a cup. "You" pointing to me, "buna?" lifting the cup, and then pretending that she was drinking.

"No problem?" I asked - there was no-one else, so I expected the coffee to be for the staff.

"You buna!" the woman said, decisive, and then indicated me to sit down. "Kuchu belu!"

I took a place close to the woman; I saw a small girl coming from behind, offering some brown powder to the woman, probably grinded coffee beans, which the old woman dropped in the black pot. "Konjo buna! Konjo, konjo buna" the old woman murmured.

The child stayed behind the woman, trying to peak at me. The girl whispered something in her ear, and the woman lifted her on her lap. "Ciao Ferengi, Ciao Ferengi!" She pushed the little one a bit, who was very, very shy, but eventually her high-pitched voice sang "Ciao Ferengi!" and she waved her little hand to me.

"Ciao!" I replied; "Hello, wat is your name?" The little one quickly hid her face in the woman's bosom. She hugged her, sang some smoothing words to her, and checked her coffee pot.

"Your child?" I asked, pointing to the little-one.

"Yene baby!" she sang back, hugging and rocking the little girl. "Yene mamush, yene fikr, yene mar!"

"What is her name?" I tried, slowly.

The girl looked up and whispered something to the woman. They seemed to deliberate, and then the girl turned to me. "My name is Tsegay, what is your name?" For a moment she seemed to turn her face away again, but she was too curious to hear my answer. The woman stroked her hair.

My name is William. How old are you."

"Wil-li-ham" I could hear her whispering to the woman, who nodded "Williham". And then the small angel said "I'm fine thank you!"

"I'm fine too."

The girl wriggled herself out of the arms of the woman and took place next to her. Then, with one hand around the neck of the woman, she sang

"Hello, hello,

Hello, hello,

Hello, how are you?

I'm fine, I'm fine,

I'm fine, I'm fine,

I'm fine, I'm fine thank you!"

Then she ran, through the door, away.

The old woman pressed her hands to heart, murmuring "Whayeh, yene mar! Whohoo, yene konjo! Oefff..."

The water in the coffee pot started boiling; some liquid splashed out of it, sizzling in the hot charcoal. She quickly took it off, and placed it on a holder, made of woven grass. "Tsegay!! Tolo bey! Tsegay!! Ney, yene fikr!"

For a long time, nothing happened, and I thought she hadn't heard it, but finally the door opened, and Tsegay returned, carrying a very small child on her back. As soon as the toddler saw me, her large, dark eyes glued to me, and vice versa. What a beauty. The woman took the child, and showed it to me. "Conjit" she said. "Conjit, Tsegay" first lifting the toddler, then nodding to the other girl.

"Conjit and Tsegay!" I said. "Are they sisters? Your children?" I pointed to the children and then to the woman.

She nodded, "Aw!.. Yene lijoj!", padding one hand on her heart. Then she said something to Tsegay, who quickly left again.

She took the coffee pot, but I feared for the toddler. I stood up, and stretched out my arms. "Can I take Conjit from you?" She returned some rapid babbling which I didn't understand, but I got the message - I picked up Conjit, and sat down, causing an emotional outburst from the woman, with patting on the heart accompanied with a continuous flow of sweet-sounding Amharic words.

Conjit, only wearing a dirty brown shirt, sat on my lap, looking at me with her large black eyes under her long, long lashes. Her hands stretched out, carefully stroking the hair on my arms, then pulling it, as if to check whether it was real or not. The woman clapped her hands, and called once more, this time I could distinguish the names Conjit and Mehret, together with the word Ferengi; the last one, I knew, was their indication for foreigners. The door swung open, and a girl walked in - she saw me, gave a scream, and quickly moved back inside, slamming the door closed.

"Mehret, Ney Mehret!" the old woman shouted, her voice forceful, decisive, but loving. "Mehret!!" The door remained closed. The woman shouted more sentences, and finally, the door opened once more. First Tsegey came in, beaming happily, followed by the older girl, who I assumed to be Mehret, turning her head, keeping her hands in front of her mouth. She might have been seventeen, maybe eighteen years old, looking... The dark, dirty and torn dress didn't hide, but emphasized the thin, long, attractive body. The black hair braided and pulled up, and the glimpse of her face told me it was angelic. Another daughter?

The older girl quickly took place on a bench, hiding behind the grapes. She called Tsegey, apparently gave her some orders, and the little girl quickly came to me, stretching her arms out to Conjit. Conjit, however, wrapped her arms around my neck, making both Mehret and the old woman squeal - the first probably in stress, the second clearly in delight. Tsegey, though, followed her orders. She spoke to Conjit in a cute but strict way, and untangled her arms, careful not to touch me in the process. Conjit started crying, but Tsegey didn't give up, and eventually carried the screaming and kicking toddler to Mehret, who shushed and cradled the little one. Tsegey went back to the old woman and squatted next to her on the ground.

Other people walked in, clearly surprised to see me. I also recognized the woman from the reception desk. The old woman rattled delighted with the others, probably explaining all that had happened earlier, and every now and then they turned their head to me. Then, one of the bravest came to me "You. America?"

I shook my head, and told them where I came from. They looked not understanding. "England? Italy?" I told them again, complimented by 'Europe'. Now they nodded. "Ah, Europe - nice country!"

"Nice country" I confirmed.

A new person, a man, came walking in, and all of a sudden the atmosphere changed. People quickly took their seats, and even the old woman looked more sullen now. The old woman put a piece of charcoal in the small burner, some kind of stones on top of it, and all of a sudden, a thick white smoke of incense was filled the courtyard.

The man saw me and walked my way. "Hello sir, how are you doing? What is your name?" I told him my name, and that I was doing very fine, enjoying the company. He gave me his name, Sisay, and asked, clearly surprised, if I was staying in his hotel. I denied, but told him that, out of curiosity, I had entered the place, looking for a drink, and that I was welcomed very friendly. And that, apparently I'd been invited for coffee.

"It's our culture you know, the coffee ceremony. Have you experienced this before?"

I told him I hadn't but that I was very much looking forward to it. "And the hospitality is also in your culture, I understood." I added.

The man smiled, and then gave some orders, apparently to Tsegay, who quickly hurried to us with a basket with popcorn. "Also part of the coffee ceremony" he said.

Unfortunately, Sisay asked me to come and sit with him at one of the tables away from the rest, and bored me with the social talk. The coffee, however, was delicious. A small cup, filled up to the brim with coffee, sweetened with several spoons of sugar. Hot, strong and delicious. Sisay started by slurping some coffee from the teaspoon, and then called "konjo buna" to the woman, who obsequiously replied "Ameseginalehu".

"Konjo buna?" I asked Sisay.

"That means, good coffee - in Ethiopia, we always compliment the maker of the coffee."

"konjo buna!" I also said, and the woman thanked me profoundly, causing some chattering from the other people.

After I finished my coffee, I prepared to stand up, but Sisay grabbed me by the wrist. "The Ethiopian coffee ceremony consists of three rounds of coffee. Also part of our tradition." Indeed, I noticed the coffee pot on the fire again, and I had no objection for another cup of pure delight. Tsegay came to collect the empty cups, which were ordered on the small chest. After a while, the pot was taken off the fire again, and put aside, probably to let the coffee sludge settle.

The second round of coffee was not as strong as the first one, but still very tasteful. Once more, I said "Konjo buna" to the woman. She politely replied, but it caused soft laughter and murmuring of the other people.

"Normally we only compliment for the first coffee." Sisay explained. The second isn't nearly as good as the first, so some people may take it as an indication of bad taste, when you honor the second one.

My head turned red, and I asked how I could apologize for that, but Sisay wavered my words away. I was a Ferengi; I didn't know any better...

While exchanging polite banter with Sisay, I every now and then tried to sneak a peek at Mehret, but she was well hidden behind the grape vines. Tsegey, however, was openly studying me, and also the old woman couldn't keep her eyes from me.

The third coffee was very watery, but that was just fine with me - I guessed I had obtained sufficient caffeine for the rest of the day. The others started leaving after they finished their coffee, and I looked at Sisay. Is it ok if I also leave now, or would that be impolite? "After the third coffee you can return to do whatever you were doing before" He rejected any kind of money from me - the coffee was a gift from the Ethiopian people to their guests, and he was happy I took the effort to learn about their culture.

I stood up and walked to the old woman. I wanted to shake her hand, but she took mine with both hands, and kissed it. Her next babbling caused the others to laugh - one tried to explain "You... you, back here!" pointing to me, and to the floor of the courtyard. The old woman nodded approvingly, and I told them I certainly would come back. I kissed the hair of Tsegay, taking in the dark smell of her body, causing an even louder round of laughing and chatting. Then I left. I Before I walked through the door, I turned once more, in the hope to see another glimpse of Mehret, but to no avail.

Once outside, I straightened my body and quickly walked the streets, like a man on a mission. Apart from some small children, loudly whispering 'Ferengi' to each other, no-one took notice of me. When I finally arrived at one of the larger roads, I asked some well-dressed men directions to my hotel. They looked at me, and told me it was too far for a Ferengi to walk - they suggested I should take a taxi, or otherwise a minibus. However, I insisted, and they told me the way. Indeed, it was quite a distance under the soaring sun, but I had no other business. And eventually I started recognizing the surroundings again. Only once I was back in my room, I realized how tired I was - perhaps also caused by the low oxygen due to the higher altitude of Addis Abeba.

I took a cold shower, extinguishing the heat of my burned skin, and lied down on the bed for a moment. The bottle of spring water quenched my thirst - reminding me to buy a new one before it was too late - and after an hour of staring at the ceiling, replaying the things that happened this day, I left my room for the hotel restaurant. I took a western meal, informed my parents from all my new experiences by the use of Skype, and eventually went to bed.

After a long, restless night, a quick shower and a continental breakfast, I took a taxi to get me to the university. I hoped my tiredness wouldn't show off too clearly - I didn't want to make a bad experience on my first meeting with my boss. I walked in and looked around. Eventually, I found a door with the label 'receptionist' but it was closed. Some students saw me, and asked who I was looking for. I gave the name and they showed me the way. Also that door was closed, but I decided to wait, walking around the hall and taking up my first impressions.

After more than half an hour, a large man, radiating authority, came walking to me. "You must be William!" We shook hands, he introduced himself as Ashibr, and invited me in his office. There he gave me a very short introduction about the university and his - our - department. Then he asked if I already got the keys of my house; the university had arranged a place to stay for me. I told him I only arrived the day before, and so he called someone by phone. A young, beaming man came in, introducing himself as Girmay. Ashibr told him to show me the office, then to accompany me to my house and help me getting started there. I should take care of my new home first - I had one more week before I would start working at the university; first I had to get settled.

We took a minibus, cramped with people, which brought us to a different area of the city. From there, Girmay led me through a labyrinth of small, dusty streets all the way to an undistinguished brown iron door in a stone wall. He knocked on the door, and a woman's voice yelled something in return. After a while, the door was opened by a small child - I wasn't even sure if it was a boy or a girl, partly due to its short-shaved hair. Before I had a change for a good look, the child had turned, and its bare cheeks under the red shirt didn't give me any additional information.

Girmay talked to a woman who was washing some laundry, and eventually we walked to one of the houses around the open place. The key fitted in the padlock and Girmay pulled the door open. This would be my house for the coming years...

It felt cool inside - that was a good thing. It wasn't very big, but I guessed it was huge for Ethiopian standards. It had one living room and a bedroom, a toilet and shower inside - Girmay whistled, "You even have hot water!" and switched on the boiler - and a small kitchen. Girmay nodded approbatively; "Very nice... very, very nice!" Then we left and took another minibus to my hotel, to collect my luggage and to check out.

Once my belongings were in the house, we went back on the streets. Girmay asked around, and then dragged me to a place where they assembled beds. He asked me which bed I wanted, and, taken aback by his short measures, I pointed to a large one - at least large compared to the other beds inside. Girmay started rapidly discussing with one of the people from the shop. I thought their emotions were running high, but I could see both Girmay and the other person winking at me, so apparently that was how the game was played.

Eventually, we were taken to a coffee bar nearby, the salesperson started filling in some forms - playfully dragged on the arm by Girmay at a certain point, and the discussion flared up once again, after which, eventually, the salesman crossed out one line and wrote something new instead. Then Girmay turned to me, explained that I had bought a bed with a matrass and pillows - the matrass and pillows would be brought in that afternoon, the bed somewhere next week. For now, I had to pay this - Girmay pointed to one number behind a row of their incomprehensible letters; when the matrass and the pillows, three pillows (!), were delivered, I had to pay this, and when the bed was delivered, I had to pay the final sum. No transport costs - and he repeated something in Amharic, causing the salesman to laugh full-heartedly, and they shook hands once more. I paid, also shook hands, and we left.

Next, we moved a few buildings further on, into a workshop where they welded and upholstered sofas and chairs. We looked around, Girmay talked to some people, but eventually we left - even without consulting me - and moved on the next workshop. After two more, finally Girmay got what he wanted, and asked me if two chairs and a three-seater were ok with me. I was a bit annoyed by the fact that he didn't involve me in any other decision making, but then, what use would it be... As if I could go in a shop and start negotiating... Girmay made clear that all sofas were the same - I actually had noticed that already - and it was no problem to cover them to my liking afterwards. Again, a form was made up with a cup of coffee, I paid some amount, and we left.

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