This past Sunday turned out to be quite an interesting day. I found out there was a big wedding going on when it took me almost an hour to catch a taxi into Mizan to have lunch with some fellow PCVs. Upon my return to Aman I had a little time left before I was supposed to go play cards and hangout with Diana the VSO in my site and the lovely Indian couple she lives with Uday and Munju along with their friend Raphael who works at the Bebeka Coffee Plantation I’ve posted about before. Anyways, I headed down to Diana’s house around 6pm. I could hear honking and people celebrating because of the big wedding I had found out about earlier on in the afternoon.
When I arrived at Diana’s house they had seemed to have forgotten about me coming down so my arrival shocked them a little but they are all very kind people and didn’t tell me to leave. haha. Diana is leaving for sure on Friday to head back home to Bristol, England after being here for a year and Uday and Munju are set leave sometime soon as well but are working on getting approved to leave by the Mizan-Tepi University.
So as the evening progressed, Uday and Munju with the help of Raphael graded exams while Diana and I sit in the living room area of their home talking about life and plans for post-Ethiopia life. For me, the conversation went something like oh my God I really need to honker down and study for the GRE I’m going to take while I’m in the states for vacation in August as well as work on my essays for my Fulbright Mexico application. For Diana, we discussed her plans to visit family and friends back home in England and future vacations. I may have talked her into a trip this fall to one of my favorite places in the world – Chile. We shall see.
Our conversation was interrupted at one point when Diana and I heard what we knew was a gunshot. It was just one so after conferring with our Indian friends in the next room we decided all was fine and one gunshot is nothing to worry about considering the house we were in was right next to the police station.
After some time the Indians were able to finish grading exams and we finally sit down for dinner. That’s when things got weird and a little scary. Bang bang bang, a flurry of gunshots went off outside as we were all finishing dinner. We all looked up at each other and although we didn’t verbalize it, one could tell that by the look in all of our eyes we all knew something was wrong. We rushed to the front door to peak out but couldn’t see much from inside the compound.
We went ahead and finished dinner and cleaned up and then went out on the front porch area to get a view of police cars and ambulances rushing around. At some point we decided it best to just stay inside. Diana and I continued to talk and Uday decided things seemed calm enough so he went out to ask the compound guard what was going on. Diana and I were in the living room area when he went out and shortly after he had left we heard something hitting the side of the house. Diana and I ducked and rushed to take cover in her room.
Once the noise had stopped we joined Raphael and Munju in the living room to figure out where Uday was. He was still outside. We all gasped simultaneously and then Raphael and Munju dashed out into the darkness yelling for Uday. Diana and I went around closing all the windows and doors making sure they were latched tightly. We went out on the front porch looking down the side of the house to see if we could see anything strange. That’s when all three of the Indians including Uday rushed back into the compound yelling for us to get back in the house.
Uday informed us that as he went out to ask the guard about what had happened someone started throwing big stones at him and that their neighbor had pulled him into their house for safety. He told us that something happened at the wedding and police officers were attacked and now police were searching for people hiding in the forest across the creak behind the house. We locked ourselves inside as we heard random gunshots and people yelling out on the main road. Ambulance and police sirens could be heard in the distance.
Later, we heard someone enter the compound outside so Uday opened the door slowly to ask who it was and if “they came in peace.” It ended up being Worku their compound guard. He told us that their were ethnic clashes following an attack on a police officer when they tried to stop wedding goers from celebrating on the Aman airstrip.
After talking with Worku we all decided it was not safe for me to walk back up the hill to my house so they prepared me a makeshift bed on the floor in the living room and after chatting and trying to calm down we all decided it was time for bed and we would see what the situation was in the morning.
During the early morning sometime around 4:30am Raphael and I were awaken by more gunshots and people yelling outside. Come to find out later yesterday morning it was an attack on the police station. I ended up heading back to my house around 7:30am and noticed an increased police presence. I noticed the network was back so I immediately got on the phone with the Peace Corps office in Addis to make them aware of the situation. It didn’t prove very helpful though because all they could find out is whatever was going on was sparked by a wedding gone bad.
I ended up going into school to see if I could ask any of the teachers what had happened but they said nothing. I left after seeing nobody was working because they were all waiting for exams to start. I decided I would head into Mizan to escape from Aman for a bit and settle my nerves.
I came back to Aman later in the afternoon to find things the same as when I had left. Things were quiet and not many people were out. Then an hour or so later my landlady came back towards my part of the compound yelling “Is Anthony here?” This was right before I received an urgent phone call (and a late text msg) from my program manager in Addis. He told me that Solomon his brother-in-law who is actually one of my math teachers at my school had called to tell him to make sure I stay inside because there were more issues. I realized I had little money left on my phone and that it would be smart to get a recharge card before things went crazy. I ended up asking if I went down the road towards Mizan if I would be alright and my landlord’s family said it was fine. That’s when I went outside to the main road in front of my compound to find tons of others staring down the hill towards the main part of Aman. I could see a traffic jam and a crowd of people on the airstrip across from the police station with another group coming up the road. I sent a kid to get me a phone card because I didn’t want to go far from my house.
Turns out this was a more peaceful gathering but I’m still not sure of it’s purpose. The only time I got worried is when an ambulance heading up the hill to go to Mizan was apparently attacked by a group of guys and then when I saw what I thought to be flying stones. I don’t know if it was or not but after chanting and dancing up and down the hill in front of my house people all started going home. Things have been normal since and peace seems to have been restored. I hope it stays that way. As for going to weddings here I’m not sure this helped trying to convince myself to accept any future invitations to local weddings to help my ongoing efforts of integrating into the community. For now – Hakuna matata! Swahili for ‘no worries.’ The Amharic equivalent would be something along the lines of ‘chigger yelam’ meaning there is no problem. Happy June 11th from Aman! Less than two months to go before vacation home to the states. The lord knows I’m ready for a vacation.