Farewell Asrat
Dec. 25th 2004
The dog is mad. He has recently acquired a wall jumping trick where he can get over the compound wall. This is, by comparison, a little trick and doesn't really compare to his master-piece. Scooby normally jumps over the compound wall early in the morning. He had been building up to it for some time. Every time I saw him on the wall I would push him off but the others didn't seem so worried. I am not going to worry about him anymore. Ali and Hans, his 'parents' don't seem concerned about his little excursions. I just don't want to have to deal with any problems caused. And although very unlikely, I really do not want to deal with a rabid dog. Rabies is definitely here although we have never seen any ourselves.

Getachew our new day guard (more on this later) is a young man and, by comparison to both the dog and the previous day guard, a much brighter character. He has attempted to stop Scooby jumping out by placing stones on the lower levels of the wall to prevent him being able to jump up to the first stage. What this means is that you can hear the dog preparing his attack in the morning. He starts at about 5 a.m. and has eventually knocked off enough of the stones at about 6 a.m. The assault is accompanied by growling and howls of frustration. It's a bit hard to discipline him now he has been allowed to do it for so long. That's not my job though. I disavowed all responsibility for him before he was bought.

His master-piece? Besides trying to roger all the boy dogs in the neighbourhood (he's definitely a homo-hound), Scooby has taken to death defying acts of stupidity. His master-peice was jumping from the roof of the main building to the roof of the out-buildings. Hans was on the top having a quiet cigar and the dog took his chance. We're not exactly sure what happened. Tesfakiros the night guard saw it, but we can only imagine the what it looked like to see a dog flying eight metres above you. Tesfakiros did try to explain to us in a mixture of Tigrinian and charades. Unfortunately we did not understand the Tigrinian and his acting always looks like a dancing frog. Scooby jumped down from the out-building roof leaving bloody marks on the ground. Upon inspection we could see that he was missing a few claws but I couldn't feel any broken bones. It took him about two weeks of recovery time before he could walk again without too much whining. We all wonder whether he has learnt anything from it. We all know internally that he probably hasn't.

On a much sadder note. Our previous day guard, Abo Asrat, has died. He had been unwell for some time. Hans had been very involved in checking on him. He took him to the hospital and made sure that Bruk, his younger son, could get to the hospital to see him. We certainly learnt more about the nature of Ethiopian families and marriage. The idea of divorce and re-marriage is quite common even if it is not done officially. We are often told about how it happens in some regions but never in the region from where the speaker comes from.

The hospital questioned whether it was a good idea to bring Asrat to them. Despite the fact that we were willing to buy drugs, they did not think that it would be worth the effort. They were correct. Although the drugs might have bought a couple more days, they did not seem to allow a recovery. I'm not sure that the cause of death was determined. He was an old man so it could just be old age, or it could have been more sinister. We will never know.

We knew that Asrat had died early one morning. A horn started to play at about 6 a.m. This is the sign of a death. The dead are buried quickly. Hence as soon as the death is known, people are called forward. Because the horn was close by, we knew it was someone in our area. Looking out the window we could see people heading to Asrat's small house. Hans went straight round to the house and returned upset later.

Asrat's ex-wife lived some way on the other side of our house. With her lived some of their children. With Asrat lived Bruk. We were very worried about Bruk although he seems to be doing okay now. Unlike myself, Hans has immersed himself in this side of things and is actively keeping in contact with Bruk.

We attended the funeral gathering at Asrat's ex-wife's house. We met Awet, the electrical technician, there because he lives in the same area. Many people drift in and out of the funeral gatherings. They are held in the house of the deceased or a relative. There is a set period of mourning and then days at a fixed spacing where other rituals have to be observed. We attended on the second day which is when the gathering should be coming lighter and people are supposed to tell jokes and enjoy the person. Hence, the card playing that I had seen at a previous funeral doesn't seem so out of place. It was a sombre setting when we arrived. The men sat on benches and the women sat huddled together on the floor. The wind flapped and lifted the canvas covering that had been erected by the Kebelle (local council) for the funeral. By the time we left, the mood had lightened considerably. All that was needed was an ice-breaker. Four ferenji dressed smartly did the trick. Our bad (or quite good in Hans's case) Tigrinian and Amharic provided the catalyst for people to loosen up a bit.

At the house was another of Asrat's sons, Getachew. He his now our daytime guard. I have only one real complaint and that is he's quite young. He's about sixteen or seventeen. This might mean that he doesn't have the authority or standing to be a guard. However, he is inventive, intelligent, and takes on other tasks. The garden is looking good, the grounds are clean, he's dug trenches around some trees to help them retain water. He has even made a random number spinner out of an old cassetter player. I am hoping that Ali's sister will bring out a science kit for him. I think it would a really good thing.

On the other hand Tesfakiros has been a bit crap (until a couple of nights ago but that requires a separate diary entry). One night he had been drinking. He had drunk so much that we could bang as hard as we liked on the door of the room he was asleep in. Eventually he was woken and he came out. Hans and I sent him home. He went with tears in his eyes. He is still our night time guard though. We are aware that we do not know what problems he may have. He was a soldier in the war with Eritrea and his wife has recently given birth to another child. Both of these things could have contributed to a few glasses of tella. All in the house agreed that we couldn't accept him being drunk though. And, in reality, what we could do to help was to make that clear. He was at work early the next day. And although Hans and I arrived at separate times, we both did the same thing. Got close enough to smell his breath and make it obvious. We haven't had another night like that since. He seems to sleep more than he should for a night guard. However, I think that he has enough standing in the local community that people would think twice about breaking in just because he is there.