Monday, July 10, 2006

getting stoned

well, i've done it. i've become a proper evil tourist.

i'm hanging my head in shame.

the other weekend, we were returning to addis from Nazareth, where we went to escape from the cold and rain, and check out the nearby hotsprings. on our way back, i was taking photos like a deranged woman, just trying to capture images of the ethiopian countryside, of the people, of the rural lifestyle. i tried not to be too intrusive and noticeable, so i was doing all of this from a distance, or from safety of the car. so when we came across a herd of majestic looking cattle, i naturally got all tourist-y and excited (hell, we ain't got no camels in rwanda--it was legitimate excitement!!) and started taking photos. as soon as i took the first one, out of nowhere emerged a crew of nomads. not just a crew, a massive. a posse, if you will. and they all slowly approached the car, shouting, and picking up stones from the road side, while surrounding the vehicle. i had no idea what was up and sat there grinning quizzically like a moron. then they began shouting and approaching the windows, and i started to get slightly worried. no one in the car could understand what they were saying, because they were speaking Oromia and our driver only spoke Amharic. we were so not in control of the situation. we rolled up our windows and they became more hysterical, obviously trying to tell us something and failing to communicate. the more we misunderstood and subsequently didn't react, the more fired up they got. all i could think of was that we should give them money. but i had no idea whether that would be appreciated (i.e, in exchange for the photographs) or whether they would be offended and proceed to kick my foreign ass. or stone it. because at this point, one kid was standing outside my window with a massive stone aimed right at my head, looking at me like with pure contempt. he must've been only 12 years old, but he was all kinds of pissed off and there was nothing but glass between us. after a few minutes, a traffic jam had occurred, due to this suddenj roadblock, and a truck driver came over and offered to translate.

he explained to us, then, that the nomads were angry because they thought i was using the camera to curse the camels, or to poison their milk. they were incensed because the camels are their lives and livelihood, and they were unsure as to the effects of this tool i was pointing at them. the translator (bless him!) explained that i was just a simple foreigner who knows not of their ways and that the camera was harmless and that i was only taking pictures to show people in my home. they were still angry, at this point, and still threatening to stone us, so we asked him to ask them if we can exchange money for the photos. i was expecting further struggle and negotiation, but they accepted the 10 birr instantly, and allowed us to go.
which makes me think that maybe they knew what they were doing all along! hustlas!

seriously, though, after the fear and shock had worn off, i felt awful because i had become one of those insensitive tourists who marches all up into people's space and causes chaos with my inane need to "capture the authenticity" of my surroundings, or some such thing.
since then, i've been careful to ask permission whenever i want to capture an image. it was a rude awakening, i must say. but i have learned my lesson! getting stoned has taken on a whole new meaning, yo.

Currently listening :
Dusty Foot Philosopher

By K'naan