12, 2008 - Ethiopian Style
have their own way of doing things: some things are traditional,
some intuative, and other things are just plain inefficient.
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.
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.
from top of Entoto (3100m) at about 6:15pm.There is no
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
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.
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.