Excited as I was about their visit, as soon as my family booked the trip over, I began to dread their return home again. So when the time came for the first of them to leave it was just as I and my self-fulfilling prophecy had planned, I was very upset and cried into the night like a person quarter of my age. On reflection, I seemed to have convinced myself that they would stay here, deranged as that may seem to anyone reading this. How or why I did this to myself is anyone’s guess. I think it felt so natural for them to be here, I wondered why they would have considered going home at all and I felt aggrieved at their decision to go back. (Slowly, I got over this crazy, crazy idea although the brain from whence it came remains largely intact.)
Others may suggest that it was not their departure at all rather the fact that I was left only with these two as the booby prize for the next two weeks which proved the more devastating prospect 😛
Return to Woldia
The next move I made was the single biggest mistake of the family “holiday”. Bowing under pressure to return to work, I took the three of us back to Woldia, an uncomfortable 11 hour road journey which we had already made once before. As if to reaffirm this error in judgement over the course of the next week, anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
Resigning my sisters to virtual incarceration in the compound by day, I went into work where I had been assured that the earth would cease to spin on its axle if I didn’t show up. As it happened, there was no class that week as it was Ethiopian Christmas Day and there were few teachers on campus. Fantastic.
I came home in the evenings to find the lads in mixed spirits depending on the level of interference in routine tasks they had experienced that day. Niamh or “Nuff” as she was affectiontaely dubbed, was a particular favourite and was harranged into new laptop duty, as they had no idea how to use it and neither did we – damn Windows 8!
At night we slept together as best we could in the confines of my house. Unfortunately, Shelleys’ back went out although it wasn’t exactly a case of “Princess and the Pea” when you consider we were sleeping, neigh suspended, on a non-spring 3 inch foam mattress on these uneven lats of wood. She opted to sleep on the floor for better comfort.
2014: Year of the Rat/ A Night at the Zoo
One such evening we went to bed, Shelley relegated to the cold hard lino. In the middle of the night when we should have all been sleeping, a loud noise came out of the kitchen.
Niamh: “Did you hear that?”
Shelley: “No…But I did feel something run across my back.”
This was just enough to get my attention although I was still lazy enough to remain noncommittal. A tiny search light came on and there was a sharp intake of breath from the voice on the floor.
Me: “What is it?
Shelley: “A rat”
Me: “DID YOU FIND IT?!”
Shelley: “No…But I did find something else.”
Shelley, at this stage displaying a hitherto fore unknown talent for chilling one-liners which hung on the air like the stench from my toilet.
There was a rat dropping on the blanket beside her head.
It was saddening (if inevitable) to see my eldest sister, self-confessed lover of all things small and rodent-like, forced to admit defeat in the face of close proximity to rat defecation.
After MUCH ado and squeamishness, I went into the kitchen to see if I could find it. No sign of the rat but when I turned on the light I was treated to the sickening sight of a veritable nocturnal blooming of other creatures- cockroaches. The sound of their premature deaths against the back of my flip-flop was enough to send the other two Healys in the bedroom into histrionics.
A sleepless night followed and like prisoners of war enduring self- inflicted sleep deprivation- we turned on all the lights, three in the bed, 6 episdodes of BBC Pride and Prejudice on a loop. Now finely attuned to every noise that a house can produce in the middle of the night it wasn’t long before we heard something else. Some type of hopping creature rapidly approaching the bedroom from the hallway which caused much concern. Was the rat “back” for more so to speak? At some other point on that same night, I found one of these bad boys underneath the pillow.
Well, it was an unhappy alignment of evil!
In the morning, when the rat was asleep we got out of the bed and I broke the news to the neighbours. I should have predicted their response as they sought to reassure us there was, “No problem!”, “No problem whatsoever!”, “There are rats all over the compound!”, “In the house!”, “On the roof!”, “Everywhere!”. These reassurances seemed somewhat hollow.
Escape from Woldia
Sleep-deprived by a rat and generally tiring of washing one body part at a time in a basin of luke-warm water in my shower cum latrine, we all looked forward to our escape at the end of the week with just one more hurdle to overcome- Mohammed the Tyrannts 2nd birthday party/coffee ceremony.
There was no electricity on the evening in question which seemed to add to the overall sense of drama. The main man Mohammed was in absolute rare form and went around the room in a frenzy leaving a trail of devastation in his wake. “Nuff” was tasked with getting a good photograph of him as they had him dressed up in an adorable tiny suit for the occasion. This task proved more difficult than it looked not aided by the fact that during all the commotion he spilled a cup of coffee on Niamh’s leg. There were immediate shouts of “Chigaryellem!” from the women. Niamh’s face seemed to say a lot of things but “No problem” was not one of them.
I think it was safe to say that the charm had almost entirely rubbed off compound life by this stage in the week although for me it was still lovely to have my two sisters there in the evening when I came home from work.
At the end of the week, we headed off to the lake-side city of Hawassa in Southern Ethiopia for some much needed r ‘n’ r, particularly after another journey of 16 hours by road to get there.
Some holiday, I hear you say!