Drinking… and television

posted in: Ethiopian project | 0

To begin with the most obvious: coffee.  This is what I drink to start my day, usually at the Film School, though the one pictured is at a pleasant local café.  I don’t know why it was accompanied there by a small pot of burning charcoal, which seemed to serve little purpose.  It wasn’t unpleasant, rather aromatic, but still a bit strange.  It is always served in tiny cups, with two or three spoonfuls of sugar, and always right to the brim; it takes a steady hand to take the first sip without spilling any.  It is frequently accompanied by a sprig of some herb, which you dunk in it, to give it a hint of something… herby.

There are other coffees available.  I did have a macchiato somewhere a bit more upmarket (though that too was served in a small glass), and I imagine if I lived in a more cosmopolitan area of the city they would have the more usual range on offer.  (I did spot a Starback’s near here, with a familiar, but subtly different, logo.)

I was, however, surprised to discover that tea is almost as popular. It is served in small glasses, disgustingly sweet, but without milk.  But when I ran out of the teabags I had brought from home, and bought a packet here, I was pleased to discover that it was as good as at home (or even a little better) so I am not suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

To move on to alcoholic beverages, on a night out with Biruk, he introduced me to a popular Ethiopian beverage, made from honey.  I had the sweet version, not unlike a sweet sherry, though he told me there is also a drier, stronger version… which I declined.  Its most striking feature is that it is always served in a distinctive bottle, closer to something you might find in a chemistry lab, with a round bowl and a long straight neck, around which you hook your fingers.

My usual drink, however, remains beer.  I tend to ask for Habesha, because I like the Ethiopian-style cartoon face on the label, but I have tried several others (when the mini-market ran out of Habesha) and they all seem pretty much the same: standard 5% lager.  But then, I reckon they all taste the same in England too.  No connoisseur me.

The other drink here, and most ubiquitous of all, is bottled water, contributing to the empty plastic bottles you see everywhere.  They do provide some sort of pittance for the young boys (and one very old lady) seen collecting them in enormous plastic sacks, but that is scant compensation.

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If I hadn’t resigned myself to accepting whatever happens with the rehearsal schedule, I might have found today very frustrating.  In my head, today was supposed to be dress rehearsal day, in preparation for two performances.  But we are now down to one performance, and as yet no set, no music, costumes for the whole cast a work in progress…  But we did manage another run-through – with some small improvement.  Probably the most interesting thing about today was the arrival of a TV film crew.  They shot some film of me conducting a warm-up, playing zip zap boing, doing some character work, and then shooting a couple of scenes from the play, which actually went quite well.  And then Alazar, Binyam and I were interviewed… though in my case I delivered a speech, there being no-one there with good enough English to ask me questions.  I suppose I have to hope, since I am here on a tourist visa, that some sharp-eyed immigration official doesn’t happen to catch me on whatever obscure channel it might or might not appear.

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