Those of you who keep up with my posts probably understand the love-hate relationship I have with Ethiopia. Some days I think I’m living it up in a beautiful, sincere, vivacious country; Other days I can’t leave my house for fear of being swallowed up by the God forsaken hellhole that exists outside my door. Thursday was one of the hellhole days.
There’s no easier way to hate Ethiopia than by traveling by public transport. Except to travel by public transport the day before a major holiday. I should have known better. I should have known that getting back to Atsbi wouldn’t be worth the tears I’d shed. But I did it anyway. I made my way to the bus station, where, as fate would have it, I missed getting a spot on a bus by just seconds. As the minutes passed, the station filled with irritable travelers carrying livestock of all kinds, but no more busses arrived. I sat in the shade, looking up the mountain for the telltale cloud of dust that would mean the impending arrival of a bus.
So an hour later, when one did finally pull into the station, people were expecting it. As per the usual approach, dozens of people bum rushed the bus while it was still moving, grabbing onto the door and windows to be drug along until is stopped. Then before anyone exited the bus, people began pushing, shoving, clawing and fighting their way up the steps in an attempt to gain a coveted seat. The only way for me to get a seat was to do the same, but I dropped my bag in the mob and was left pinned to the ground as people clambered over me to get on the bus. It wasn’t until I began screaming and kicking that people gave me room to get off the ground.
By the time I got on the bus, my rage was near blinding. But then I looked around and I was the only woman on board, despite the fact that at least half of those who were waiting were women. None of the others had been able to fight their way on. I had already been voicing my harsh opinion of the behavior of Ethiopians, but I decided it was my duty to stand up and address what had just happened. I asked who spoke English, and several responded, so I asked them to translate. Voice shaking, I asked, “where are all the women?” Blank stares. Then snickers. I explained that I had lived in Ethiopia for two years and that the most common question people ask me is “how do you find the condition of Ethiopia.”
“I find the condition to be crap,” I said, “complete crap.” More snickers. Finally someone shouted “it’s our culture, our custom.” There it was: The answer to every problem in Ethiopia. Culture. Screw culture. This was just another group of moronic Ethiopians who were too stubborn and lazy to change their awful behavior. And let me be clear, it’s almost always men who have this attitude. I sat back down in my seat, tears streaming down my face as I listened to the disgusting men talk about what I had just said, laughing with one another and mocking me.
Before I moved to Ethiopia I had never felt disrespected by a man just because I’m a woman. Here, it happens every single day. I cried the whole way to Atsbi for the women that are forced to live in a society where they are disrespected and demeaned daily. Where they are forced to do far more than their share of the work while their husbands drink away the family’s meager income. Where women actually believe they are inferior to men because that is what they’ve been told their whole lives.
In my last Unchangeable Ethiopia post several Ethiopian women commented, mostly sticking up for a country they love. So let’s hear it, women of Ethiopia: are you going to stick up for the men of your country? The hateful, chauvinistic pigs that are running your country into the ground? The fathers of your daughters? Because I certainly never will.