No Lipstick in Lebanon

By Paul Timblick with Fasika Sorssa

High-rise hell: an Ethiopian maid’s frantic scramble for life in the Middle East

Thursday, 23 October 2014

From Lense to Lines - Part 1 Ethiopia

Here is a modest collection of my Ethiopian photos that inspired particular moments in 'No Lipstick in Lebanon', included with relevant lines from the book.

"Tadelle has been plucked from The Bible and placed two millenia hence... he is an Old Testament natural, most at ease on Moses' shoulder, forging across the Sinai Desert with a heavy stone tablet tucked under each arm. The Old Testament is for him a statement of fact and a guide to life, while the coming of Jesus was an unnecessay appendix; a total anti-climax no less."

"Madame thnks Ethiopia is nothing but sand, holes and people; the people living in holes in the sand; sub-Saharan, sub-human, a wasteland of wasters, a country of scrub, the people fit only for scrubbing, and whatever Shafeek has on his mind."

"The Easter Sunday's celebratory meals of 'doro wat' (richly spiced chicken) and 'tire siga' (raw beef fresh from the carcass), plus Monday morning's gastric agonies, slip by all too easily. That's another Easter gone and I can picture only the woman with something I want."

"For Mum and fellow Orthodox Christians, Jesus Christ was the new draw in town and word was just beginning to spread today."

"This bitter-tasting, teff-based pancake (injera) that we all gobble so frantically everyday is undoubtedly a national addiction."

"There were usually at least three coffee ceremonies in our house every day. Mum reminded us that life came from God, but without nature's caffeine coursing through our capillaries we couldn't possibly do all He expected of us in our exquisitely short appearances on His planet. Mum thus neatly married the demands of The Bible with the rituals of coffee consumption."

"A gang of middle-aged women, plus me, in white netelas were squashed into our snug living room like white feathers packed into a pillow. Their faces were kindly and benign but sometimes their words could be too jagged for a pillow's padding..."

"Abush (pictured in blue top) a stunted nine-year-old street kid who serves no useful purpose looks me up and down, licks his lips and makes an utterance: 'Hey Lemma, you're almost Beyonce...'"

"I hardly noticed the slack trains. They moved too infrequently and sluggishly to offer any inherent danger to a scampering six-year-old who knew La Gare like a second home. Some days, the trains didn't move at all, or only very imperceptibly from one siding to another... the silent carriages providing shade for resident goats munching on official 'Chemin de Fer' grass."

"I shall return to Addis and become a professional runner, probably an international track star.... like Haile Gebreselassie, I will have a major thoroughfare named after me, preferably one where nobody ever dies in road acidents."

"The long march of the Lebanese luncheon service is nothing but work for a beast of burden, back and forth, back and forth, like the worn-out women of Addis carrying back-breaking bundles of fuelwood from the top of the Entoto Mountains to their tumbledown homes below, all day, every day, up and down, just to sell on and scrape a living... what kind of living is this?"

In next week's Shed.... From Lense to Lines: Part 2 Beirut.

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