Life in the Patriarchy, or How Coring Carrots Subjugates Women

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the lives of women in Ethiopia. My seretegna has been teaching me to cook some Ethiopian dishes. Food prep is time consuming and laborious here. For the most part, food must be prepared fresh daily from scratch.  Microwaves, dishwashers and refrigerators are completely out of reach for most Ethiopians. Small stones and other debris must be picked out of lentils and other pulses prior to cooking. Most people use a small clay stove filled with charcoal for cooking on. As we were prepping the vegetables, she showed me how a carrot should be properly sliced. Traditionally the core of the carrot is removed and only the outer layers cooked in the dish. This seemed slightly over-the-top to me. Does including the slightly less-flavorful, at-times-woody core of a carrot really ruin a dish? But, evidently, not coring the carrot would be a sign of laziness or plain not a good cook and therefore not optional. Social pressure is pretty big here and the whole “well, she doesn’t core her carrots!” kind of talk (or perhaps fear of that talk) is illustrative of this fact.


perfectly chopped carrots

Obviously, being pressured to marry at 14 and having children shortly thereafter (Ethiopia’s birth rate is 4.64 children per woman) isn’t exactly helping promote women’s rights either. There’s a saying about the social status of women in Ethiopia. It goes something like… A man and a woman were coming home from collecting firewood with their donkey.  The man rides the donkey while the woman carries the heavy load of sticks on her back. While the lives of Ethiopian women are changing, especially in the cities, it is an illustration of some of the gender inequality that goes on here.   Ethiopia ranked 118 out of 136 countries on the global gender gap scale

So, while not the worst place to be, it certainly has a way to go. I remember when I visited here in 2005, there were Unicef posters in all the major towns promoting education for girls. This time around I have heard there is an all-girl, Spice Girls-esque Ethiopian pop group that preaches gender equality.  No Pussy Riot but its a start.  Condom/birth control advertisements are everywhere.   On a personal note, I would say the level of street harassment has been about the same compared to 9 years ago. Although Dan said he was recently propositioned while buying, what else? Carrots.   So that goes both ways it seems.

IMG_1695               IMG_1660

Me? I’m still probably not going to core my carrots. You can talk about me all you like.


Global Climate Change is Real and Its kind of Ruining my Life


What’s up with the weather? OK, I realize dedicating a blog post to the weather is kind of lame. But I normally live in Oklahoma and considering that if you don’t pay attention the weather might actually kill you there.  Totally valid topic. Its been non-stop raining here. This is supposed to still be the dry season. Normally the rainy season doesn’t begin until May or June. I don’t pretend to be an expert on local weather patterns but everyone here agrees that this is a highly unusual year. We’ve also been having rather severe thunderstorms seemingly often. One this week had such high winds that trees and power lines were down and I would estimate 3-4 inches (not kidding) of rain fell in a period of about 30 minutes. We had water blowing in through all the cracks in our windows and our yard became a lake. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen it rain so hard before in my life. There’s been lots of news regarding global climate change recently…

Which include intense weather events like these sorts of extreme storms. Here, pretty much every time it rains the power goes out. Often the water will too, or if we have water its full of sediment. Living here in the “3rd world” (kind of hate that terms, sounds like it’s a beauty pageant or something. And Miss Ethiopia is…. 3rd runner up) you look around and realize that when food shortages begin to worsen and energy crises intensify and global conflicts over these resources heat up, it’s the world’s poorest who are going to suffer most. Especially depressing considering they had the least to do with creating the problem in the first place.

From the December 2013 Harper’s Index:

Kilowatt-hours of energy used each year by the average Ethiopian citizen: 52

By the average U.S. refrigerator: 454

So why is global climate change ruining my life? Its hard to take the kids swimming at the luxury resort when it starts pouring rain every afternoon at 4. First world problems.  Cue tiny violins, I know.

Check out this organization and read Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” for more fun global climate change facts!


Yard-lake after the storm