ETHIOPIA 3: the Siren Scam

September 7, 2004

All night there was singing through a loudspeaker at a church by the hotel; it’s the end of a fasting period (during which they don’t actually fast, but abstain from meat other than fish, as well as dairy). So tinny, ululating melodies unspool as I lay there trying to sleep. I get out of bed and turn on Ethiopian national television, which is broadcasting the Brendan Fraser vehicle, Blast From The Past. It cuts inexplicably to Olympic footage, and then cuts back to the Brendan Fraser movie as if nothing happened.
The next day, the religious loudspeaker singing is still going. And there’s different rhythmic chants going on in the hotel’s gardens. I go out to my balcony. There are no less than five wedding parties in the gardens; a bride in a Western style white dress, bridesmaids in matching pastel prom dresses, and well dressed relatives singing and chanting, stepping in circles. In the parking lot, one wedding party is circling a white limosine, clapping and singing.


I go out to watch. It’s raining.
A guy sidles up to me. “You like this?” Yeah. Isn’t it a bad omen to have rain on your wedding day. “No, no. It’s very lucky. That’s why so many weddings in rainy season, like today.” Oh.
His name is Abraham. Nice guy. He invites me for a cup of coffee in the garden’s caf