Happy Valentine’s Day! I know it’s just a big ploy to get people to buy roses and cards and such, but it’s fun nonetheless. Hallmark has even reached its long, ruthless, pink and heart-covered arm all the way to Ethiopia. Kind of. Ethiopians do know what Valentine’s Day is and some of them even kind of celebrate. The most obvious thing is that on Valentine’s Day I get shouts and screams of “I love you!” as I walk down the road to town. Oh wait, that happens every day.
Confessions of undying love, marriage proposals and flat out disgusting remarks are as common as downtrodden donkeys in Ethiopia. Some are funny; others make me want to punch people. I haven’t yet, but it will only take one well-timed “sex, sex, give me sex” to give me a reason to use the Aggie Ring that graces my right fist. Thankfully, comments that make me laugh are a more regular occurrence.
This week one of bus boys in town came running up behind me, hollering my name, trying to get me to slow to a Habasha pace. When he reached me, he turned and confessed his love. I explained that those words are inappropriate to say to someone he didn’t know and he said, “but I appreciate you.” That was better, so I thanked him and continued on. “Katrin, I appreciate you for your fashion!” he enthusiastically tried again. I chuckled, and here’s why: I’ve got a standard Atsbi uniform that consists of worn out jeans, a long sleeved t-shirt in one of three colors and my dusty Choco sandals. That’s it. So really, my fashion sense, bro? Nice try.
By no stretch of the imagination am I the only one to which this happens. Every female PCV in Ethiopia has a story or two or a hundred about ridiculous scenarios involving love-struck men who just could not stop the words from spilling out of their chat-filled mouths. I’ve got one friend that gets proposed to every single time she uses public transportation. I get forwarded texts from others that contain legitimate love letters and poems of admiration. It’s a never-ending source of entertainment, and all too often, a never-ending source of stress.
So on a day with perhaps more proposals than any other day of the year, female PCVs around Ethiopia are preparing for…another normal day. We’ll get up, throw on a pair raggedy jeans and a faded t-shirt, twist our hair into a messy bun and walk out the door, only to be called “sugar” and “beauty” and “baby” by just about any male that passes. We’re an undeniably hot commodity. But on this one day of the year we can stand a little taller and grin a little wider. He loves me! He really loves me!