As a thirty seven year old man I’m no stranger to the sunburn, in fact I’ve had more than my fair share. I know and have known the dangers of not using sunscreen my entire life.
I will say in defence of my stupidity however, that the ingredients in sunscreen scare me more than whatever radioactive wave the earths poorly respected and thusly inefficient ozone can protect me from. Simply put, if I’m going to get cancer I’d rather it be from sunlight than the paste promising me protection from it.
The sun here is intense, it carries with it a focus that seems to scream. Something between a Cicadas call and asphalt popping. It’s officially the fastest the sun has painted me red and yet, it’s common for locals to wear, what I would call, winter coats.
In a way the sunburn compliments my already mystical nativity here. The fact that I only know and use two words, that I use large grand hand gestures to express direction and meaning, then watch as groups of people argue over interpretation.
I usually pay whatever outlandish price I’m told, sometimes prompting the seller to respond “really??”
My days are spent with children, teaching them basic basement English in exchange for more of the Tigray vocabulary.
Once they start pulling my leg hairs however, I decide to make new friends.
(This has happened on three occasions so far, so worth mentioning)
I order the same thing from every restaurant. Ful with 2 bread, Ful with 3 bread or my favourite, Ful with 4 bread.
Yesterday I rented a bicycle and rode through town all day, from the giant Fig Tree all the way to the church on the mountain, where I payed a confused priest 100 Birr to cut a piece of wood from a felled tree. (To satisfy my wood carving craving)
As I said, I’m not ignored, not in the least. Rather, I’m treated like a child. A supremely wealthy sunburnt child.
On the other hand, a baby is normally far from wealthy (unless air to title or trust) where as I’m ordered frequently throughout the day for money, by children as young as three.
I usually respond “give ME money” a position that deepens the wealthy baby myth to ironic fathoms.
Like the sunburn, I expected this attitude. It’s just that, I hear it all daaaaay! “give me money” give me money give me money givememoney …Damn. It makes these otherwise beautiful encounters, taxing. Pun intended.
I will admit, I have given money to a few of the kids who walk with me for long periods, or seem especially in need.
I only hope that I haven’t strengthened their expectation that demanding money works.
Because for a few, it has.