Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In the Public Eye

One of the big differences I’ve found between the developing and developed world are public versus private acts. One could say that definitions of what should be private, or indoors, are slightly more liberal here. For example, in Ethiopia, funerals take place in the middle of the street, with a tent stretching from kerb to kerb. Peeing, sleeping and praying are also things that it is completely acceptable to do in the public eye, most often on the side of busy roads. On the other hand though, I have yet to see someone eating or reading while on public transit, and upon questioning local friends, these acts are apparently not suitable for Ethiopians. My public-private logic gets confused: it’s not okay to eat in public, but it is okay to urinate?

My favourite open-air moments in Addis are by far the times when industry can’t afford a factory, and sets up shop on a street corner. The other day I stumbled (literally) upon a tin factory in between shoe shine boys. Located on a slope, the assembly line of tin funnels still managed to function at a break-neck pace. The youngest hammered tin scrap straight, dodging pedestrians by moving to the edge of the sidewalk and facing unimaginable risks from opening car doors. After finishing a sheet, the boy would cut out circles of tin, ready to be put together by three men with soldering guns held between their toes. The marvel of the scene was how these men managed to produce funnel after funnel without distraction or suffering from burns, despite the busy street where their outdoor factory was located. They did have time to notice there was a foreigner walking by, though, and sent out the normal grins and catcalls, without breaking pace for a second.

1 comment:

zim said...

pictures, kate, more pictures!!