On the Bathroom Wall

8 July 2008

Written 7/6/2008

So this year has gone by and I think about the things that make me smile, cry, laugh, and weep, the things that inspire me, hinder me, hold me up when I just feel like falling, and some things that just don’t fall into any of those categories. And when I stop and take a moment during my busy Addis Ababa days, I think back to the place I spend quite a bit of time each day and experience all these emotions…the bathroom.

As one sits on the pot in our small home, your face is just inches away from a crapily tiled wall filled with clippings from random American magazines that make a person think. And with as much time as I spend in the bathroom on an average day, I have read these short blurbs and stories over and over again until the point of wrote memory. Here are just a few…

I CAN, with a flying pig taking away the ’T. True pigs can’t fly…but what if? As children in Ethiopia grow, they hear the opposite of what children in America hear throughout their child years. “You can be anything you want to be!” says the 3rd grade teacher in America. “Do what I tell you. Don’t do that. You can’t do that!” says the improperly trained Ethiopian 2nd grade lecturer. But this reminds me of what they can do. So have done my best to tell them.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit. Pursuit of what? Happiness? Joy? Christ? Food? A home? For most Ethiopians, the first two aren’t given. So it seems to me, that for them, Pursuit is how they live their lives. Pursuit of everything, even Life and Liberty. But before this, food, shelter, water, family. Life and Liberty don’t enter the mind until it is freed from the bounds of basic needs. But as my thoughts progress, I realize the confines within which my brain functions. I think of Life as the right to life, the right to be fed and be safe. Liberty is a nationalistic freedom. But in Ethiopia, perhaps they understand these more holistically. Life is embedded in everyday coming and going. Life is found in each breath, in each embrace, in each meal with a friend. Life is Christ, as Paul said. Nothing more, nothing less. And Liberty is the freedom within oneself, regardless of what governmental standard people find themselves in. I think I have a lot to learn.

Flavor Your World. Food in the US is bland. Throw a little berbere or mitmita on something and it’ll spice up the rest of your day.

Expect Everything. Donkeys and fresh fruit stands, ox herds and roundabouts, sheep poop and goat heads for sale, mothers giving away their babies to go to America and Apple iPhones, beggars and sellers on every corner, sun in the morning and monsoons in the afternoon, 30% yearly inflation and cemented wages, no electricity today and no water tomorrow, Italian lasagna for lunch and spicy Indian for dinner…Ethiopia has it all. And if I forget it, all I have to do is walk outside the gate.

Long Live Sunny. Thirteen months of sunshine. That’s Ethiopia’s slogan to attract visitors. The thing is, it’s true.

We’ve Grown Stronger. The phrase tells the story.

Loads of Hope. Third world doesn’t have it, but I see it. But it takes the hope of the fortunate to instill it in the ones who aren’t. That’s our job.

Who Will Get What They Deserve? I never really understood this one…but there are flames behind it…so I’m thinking hell. I guess it translates into the repercussions of mean practical jokes.

Naughty and Nice. In my interpretation, this defines the women I live with…and also perhaps my students.

Never Miss the Fun. Refer to “Expect Everything” and you’ll soon realize that I don’t have to worry about this one. It’s all around me all the time.

Why is Pregnant Christina Not Wearing Underwear? Breaking news apparently. Hmm…what are the things I don’t miss about America?

Wish for Anywhere. Today. I wish for a fireplace and a big comfy couch in Bothell, Washington.

Make the New Year’s Resolution Not to Go On a Diet. Easy enough…move to Africa. I lost 40 lbs that I didn’t think I needed to lose.

Best Dressed, Sexiest Alive, Most Eligible, Most Beautiful. I don’t pretend to understand this one.

Evil Knievel, 1938-2007
Robert Craig Knievel Jr. died in November after 69 years, which by all rights is more than twice as long as it should have taken him. The motorcycle stuntman was known for his astonishing leaps but even more for his crashes. With every boast, world record and broken bone, he became a bigger figure and graced more lunch boxes—particularly after his fall, on his rocket-boosted Skycycle, into Idaho’s Snake River Canyon. That wich did not kill Knievel—as he proved more literally than most—only made him, and his myth, stronger
. I’ll give you three guesses as to who put this up. It’s the girl who, during Freshman year, was voted biggest homestate fan…that state being Idaho. And that Skycycle thing, that was in her hometown of Twin Falls. If you didn’t know that already, you aren’t that close of friends with her. Thanks Bethany.

Then, there are a few poems that inspire me to get up, get out, and do something worthwhile. They are untitled and need no explanations, so here they are.

#1
“Change is inevitable”
What a ridiculously unfair statement.
Unfair to those who lost their lives,
or fortunes, or sanity for it.
Change doesn’t just happen.
And you’re not going to find it in the hall closet.
You’ve got to fly 230,000 miles into space in a steel tube for it.
You’ve got to scribble on a chalkboard for 50 years for it.
Sometimes, you’ve got to go to jail for it.
And even then, failure’s there, ready to pounce.
Change?
Inevitable?
Hardly.

#2
Behind every great idea,
every significant achievement,
every important accomplishment
is a full wastebasket.
Or a cluttered blackboard.
Or a doodled-up legal pad.
Is scribbling all it takes?
Are you just a cramped writing hand away
from changing the world?
Probably not.
But no one ever led a revolution of any kind
with his hands in his pockets.

#3
Thinking begets ideas.
Ideas beget change.
Change begets human rights.
And longer-lasting light bulbs.
And doughnut holes.
You don’t have to cure cancer to change the world.
And besides,
there’s more than one world that needs changing.
So change something.
Anything.
It’s all good.

So that’s what is on my mind each day as I hop out of the shower, do some other stuff, and jump into my day. It’s also the stuff that I’ve been thinking about more and more as the days wind down to my departure from this place. And I’m grateful that I have been able to process some of this stuff with all you faithful readers. Hope you all have a great day!

6 MORE DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!

Beginning to Process it All,
Joshua

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