Sunday, 27 May 2007

Earthg Girl in Ethiopia 2

I would love to be able to say that I was in Addis Ababa doing charity work but I wasn't. I was accompanying Mother Earth while she sorted out some legal stuff and visited family.

She is Ethiopian although she now has spent more of her life in England. She classifies herself as a British-Ethiopian since she departed for the bright lights of London as a teenager on a Nursing scholarship ended up staying married an Englishman and had 2 kids.

She goes back now and then and a couple of years ago decided to build a house there, as so many ex-pats have now done. About half the houses on the development have been built by foreigners who want a place to call home in the land of their birth.

On our daily strolls around the estate we found out about some of the more impressive houses. There was an almost finished ground plus one built but the American sisters (unusual as most of the houses are bungalows). The immaculately landscaped house of the Italian man and his Ethiopian wife, the very grand house being built by a foreign Ambassadors, the house owned by the Germans - protected by 2 large and aggressive Alsatians specially shipped in from Germany and the house which I christened The Palace - being built by and American couple.

Mother Earth bring the extremely nosy soul she is managed took us on a tour of all the unoccupied houses one Sunday when no one was around, peering in windows analysing floor plans and garden sizes and coming to the conclusion that although some of the houses may have looked fancier on the outside her house was indeed far superior in design.

Everyone in Ethiopia who has a marginally good income has home help. It's normal and expected for everyone except the very poor to have at least a house maid to do the cooking and cleaning and make coffee (the coffee ceremony is an integral part of everyday life for Ethiopians). Those with a little more income will also hire a Zebinya who acts as a security guard and sometimes gardener and handyman.

All large houses have servants quarters known as the 'service' which are regarded as a perk of the job. Servants are always from extremely poor families - often coming from the countryside to the city to find work. Their homes are simple village mud huts or tin shacks in the cites slums. So a bricks and mortar servants quarters with electricity and running water are considered quite the luxury.

Most of the completed but unoccupied houses on the development have a Zebenya, which is a necessity to deter thieves and keep the gardens in order. Owners typically only visit only once a year so they have a fairly easy life earning reasonably good money, having a nice place to live and working on the side labouring for the construction company still building houses on the estate.
The following pictures are of typical rural dwellings just a few miles outside the capital city Addis Abeba. Although you can actually find this type of wood and mud dwellings in the poorest areas of the city.

This is a traditional style round house made with wood and mud which you now don't often find outside of the most rural areas - villages deep in the countryside. Houses are now typically made square or rectangular so that a tin roof can be easily fitted.

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