ROOM WITH A VIEW

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I don’t chastise myself too much for travel downtime but there’s always a guilty twinge. I look out over the mountains surrounding Addis and think we should have taken a day trip up into them but photos from my window must suffice. When I had the bronchial attack in Brisbane, Australia the saving grace was the wall of windows looking out over the ocean. But that was serious; today is a four-hour morning sleep when these last few days without any sleep to speak of caught up. And I have this wall of windows which offer rain clouds, dark forested mountains, a shabby city of weather-beaten, half-finished buildings and a rather pretty neighborhood around us.

CONSTRUCTION MOVES SLOWLY.

CONSTRUCTION MOVES SLOWLY.

SHOT A BIT OFF BUT SHOWS THE FRAYED EDGES OF THINGS.

SHOT A BIT OFF BUT SHOWS THE FRAYED EDGES OF THINGS.

CLOSER TO HOME.

CLOSER TO HOME.

I have read two books about Ethiopia in recent history. I recommend both. Descriptions below courtesy Wikipedia. Sorry about the Wiki format which is rather annoying but the book is really good so maybe you want to know about it.

Cutting for Stone (2009) is a novel written by Ethiopian-born medical doctor and author Abraham Verghese. It is a saga of twin brothers, orphaned by their mother’s death at their births and forsaken by their father.

The story is told by the protagonist, Marion Stone. He and his conjoined twin Shiva are born at Mission Hospital (called “Missing” in accordance with the local pronunciation), Addis Ababa, in September 1954. Their mother, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, an Indian Carmelite nun, dies during childbirth. Their father, Thomas Stone, the English surgeon of Missing, abandons them and disappears. Orphaned at birth, the pair grow up in the household of two physicians of Missing, both from Madras, the obstetrician Kalpana Hemlatha (Hema) and Abhi Ghosh. Hema names them Marion (after J. Marion Sims) and Shiva (after the Hindu deity). Ghosh teaches himself surgery to replace Stone. The tissue link between the twins has been separated at birth and the two grow up together being very close initially. Both are exposed to the changing political environment in Ethiopia. There is an unsuccessful rebellion by Haile Selassie’s bodyguard, General Mebratu. Ghosh knows he will be imprisoned in the aftermath of the coup. Through their parents, both boys are exposed to medicine and taught at the hospital. Over time, though, individual differences begin to become pronounced. When entering puberty their relationship to Genet, the daughter of Rosina, a domestic help, finally tears them apart. Marion is in love with Genet and intends to marry her, but it is Shiva who, interested in sexual pursuits, deflowers her. Marion feels betrayed. Rosina forces Genet to submit to female genital mutilation and commits suicide shortly thereafter. Genet will later join the Eritrean liberation movement. While Marion goes to medical school, his brother stays at Missing. Focused on the repair of birth-related fistulas, he takes up his surgical training with Hema eschewing a formal medical education. On his death bed, Ghosh has three wishes for Marion – to get the best medical education, to find Stone, and to forgive his brother.

When Genet and her comrades hijack an Ethiopian Airlines airplane in 1979, Marion is on a list of her connections. To avoid arrest he flees the country overnight. He goes to New York where he finds a position at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, a hospital in the Bronx. There, he enters a surgical residency. One day, assisting his senior in a complicated trauma operation, an unknown surgeon enters looking them over the shoulder. It is Thomas Stone, by now a well-renowned liver surgeon from Boston. Marion’s encounter with his biological father redirects his life leading to a painful reconciliation and reunion with his estranged brother.

 The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat, published in 1978, is Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński‘s analysis of the decline and fall of Haile Selassie’s regime in Ethiopia.

In 1974, while the Ethiopian Army was still busy consolidating power, Kapuściński “traveled to Ethiopia to seek out and interview Selassie’s servants and closest associates on how the Emperor had ruled and why he fell.”[1] In large part, the book is a study of the workings of a royal court. It is said that this book is intended to be allegorical of the government of Poland, especially Edward Gierek.

I do not wholeheartedly recommend the latter after all. When I checked it out again online, it seems that a major book fairly recently written about Kapuscinski declares that some of what he wrote over his lifetime is not absolutely accurate although no one apparently disputes the general truth of it all. And the book was not as compelling as the original hype about it. All that considered it would still be worthwhile if you were on your way here where it appears Selassie is generally worshipped.

It’s about 7pm now, chilly and cloudy. We’re all in for the evening, kids only out long enough for a big lunch today and me dozing or sleeping or reading all day. We are justifying it by saying it’s our sixth day of travel and we’ve been busy with little sleep until now. Steven and Teresa’s lunch was at one of Addis’ best restaurants but included raw meat and honey wine so Steven’s stomach may be objecting. Travel is not for sissies.

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One Comment on “ROOM WITH A VIEW

  1. Ok…the first rule of travel is “eat no raw meat”. The view is nice and I knew this sleep thing would catch up with you eventually, it always does. Ken Burns “The Roosevelt’s ” is in episode 3 and it is very good. Learning a lot, some of it slightly changes my feelings toward both of them…the truth or what is presented as truth can change the imagines in your mind. So, what is Ethiopia up to these days?

    Like

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