Nov. 12, 2008 – Ethiopian Style

Countryside outside Addis.

The Ethiopians have their own way of doing things: some things are traditional, some intuative, and other things are just plain inefficient.

Ethiopia is a very old country with history dating back to 1000 B.C.. In fact, historians claim that Addis Ababa is the area in which the origins of humanity started and from which humans began to migrate around the world. Thus, with this deep rooted history, many of their systems, such as time and date, were established long ago.

If you ask an Ethiopian to meet you at 6:00pm, they will come at noon because their clock works on a 12 hour system that is dictated by sunrise and sunset. For example, 7:00 am to westerners is 1:00 to Ethiopians.

Sunset from top of Entoto (3100m) at about 6:15pm.There is no daylight savings.

The Ethiopian calendar is also different from the western world in that they have 13 months, 12 months with 30 days and the 13th month with 5 or 6 days, depending on the year. In fact, they just celebrated their millenium last year, so they are 8 years behind us. Perhaps this is why some Ethiopian athletes’ ages seem to be a bit mixed up!

As for the intuative matters, the Ethiopians have a great sense for health and wellness. I assume this is because they’ve grown up without modern medicine and have to take sicknesses and allements more seriously than we might. Therefore, they seemed to have a very good sense of natural remedies. For example, if I had sinus congestion, I would take sudafed or something along these lines. Here, they either stick garlic up their noise or use Ecalyptus oil on sinus pressure points. It actually works!

Local club athletes getting ready for training.

Aside from the natural remedies, the Ethiopians also seem to have a true inituation about what type of training they need and when to push and when to back off. If they are spent and their body isn’t right, they don’t fret about taking a day off. On the other hand, they know what it takes to be a great runner so they understand how hard you must work and what type of training you need. They realize that after a hard session, they need to go in the forest to run on the soft ground, and they also say it’s better for more oxygen…who knows! But when they run in the forest it’s like playing tag, there are no trails, just grass and Eculiptis trees and they basically weave in and out of them, taking sharp turns and maneuvering uneven terrain. Western coaches will tell you that proprioceptive traininig like this is really important for adapting to things like pace change in a race or cross country season.

Man herding cattle down main street at 6:45 in the morning.

But, like I said, there are some inefficiencies I can do without. Their driving methods is top on my list. With a population of over 78 million, It’s basically a free-for-all because most traffic lights don’t work so you can imagine what it’s like to make a left-hand turn (they drive on the right side…sometimes) on a busy street is like: picture being at the start of the NYC marathon and deciding you want to get to the porta-potty on the side of the road – complete chaos! And besides the immense traffic at all hours, there are also the thousands of people walking down the highway to get to work, plus their donkies, cows and sheep in herds. At 7am (or 1:00 Ethiopian time) it’s a complete circus act. Luckily, we have a very good driver, although he has had his license taken away twice since I’ve been here…but only for a few minutes until he forks over some cash that goes swiftly into the pockets of the traffic police. Especially when they see he is driving foreigners, they ask for more cash in exchange for no ticket and his license. Again, this system still needs work.



















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