Typical Irish preoccupation with the weather ensured many of our friends worried about how we would cope with the African heat, just outside of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

By Claire Tuttlebee (The Irish Times) |

The torrential rain beats against our windows, bursts from the confines of the gutters, seeps through roofs and gouges craters from the roads. This is a land of extremes: giant grasshoppers, ancient tortoises, extravagant wealth, abject poverty.

A year and a half ago, we moved to Ethiopia to live and work at a mission school on the outskirts of Addis Ababa.

Typical Irish preoccupation with the weather ensured many of our friends worried about how we would cope with the African heat.

But life 2,500 meters above sea level, more than twice the height of Carrauntoohil, brings cool breezes and heavy rains, and we mourn central heating far more than air conditioning.


But the rains bring their novelties too; a committee of vultures returns from its daytime scavenging at twilight each evening and nests in the lofty eucalyptus trees that line the perimeter of the school.

A stroll underneath their customary flightpath regularly uncovers various mammalian body parts, picked clean of any flesh: a section of a windpipe perhaps, or the skull of a rodent.

Usually the vultures observe us from their thrones in the tallest branches of the trees, but today they have condescended to join us on the school playing field, strutting through the lush grass, waiting.

Suddenly the ground shimmers as a swarm of flying termites rises spinning from the soil after their long season of incubation, and the vultures pounce: this termite treat happens only twice a year.

When the rains subside, the vultures will leave too, and a family of kites replaces them in their eucalyptus thrones.

Outside the school walls, the sheer number of people is overwhelming: they spill from one-roomed homes onto the pavements to sell fried foods, fruit and flip-flops. Clothes are washed outside shopfronts and hung on the barriers of roads to dry in between the deluges.

The rich heady smell of roasting coffee mingles with the stench of untreated sewage from the river.

Children offer a shy “How-are-you?” when they see my white face; I answer in hesitant Amharic. There are seventy separate languages in Ethiopia and I have not yet mastered one.

Continue reading this story at The Irish Times
See also:

Ethiopia’s Omo Valley through the lens of Alex Franco

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