How I Purchased Batteries in Adaba

My headlamp, which I use at night when the moon is too dim to serve as a guide (a rare occasion lately), requires three AAA batteries.  Unfortunately I didn’t think to bring rechargeable AAAs when I packed for Ethiopia. I had no exposure to headlamps before joining the Peace Corps and, as such, was unfamiliar with their battery usage.  Nor did I expect Ethiopians, namely my landlord, to want to borrow my headlamp so frequently.  No matter–I don’t usually need to strap a light to my forehead for normal evening tasks.


But when I turned the button on my headlamp two weeks ago only to watch the light beam in front of me sputter and die, I became in need of new batteries.  Thinking initially that I could acquire rechargeable AAAs from my sitemate’s father when he visited Ethiopia, I was forced to construct a new plan when Bridget’s dad became reacquainted with a former knee injury.  I was forced to find batteries in Adaba.


Estimating the difficulty of a task like searching for batteries in these areas is hit-or-miss.  I had to go undercover with my counterpart down a side street to ask around for, and discover, butter, but I was able to get rocking chairs custom made by the carpenter in town with ease.


Eventually I decided purchasing the batteries now was better than later.  I do appreciate the ease and ingenuity of my headlamp; why not make use of it while I’m here?


So yesterday I set out on my battery search.


Here’s how the conversation went at the souk:


Me: Battery jira? (Do you have batteries?)

–Abbansouki hands me a flash light.

Me: Torch mitti.  Battery jira?  (Not a flashlight.  Do you have batteries?)

Abbansouki hands over AA batteries.

Me: Gobez.  Tikko battery jira?  Sadi-A battery jira?  (Brilliant.  Now do you have small batteries?  AAA batteries?)

–Abbansouki stares at me like I’m crazy.

Me: Eeshi.  Chigger yellum.  Chow!  (Ok.  No problem.  Bye)


After peeking through a few different souks in Adaba I actually found the AAA batteries.  I returned to the original souk to show Abbansouki my purchase.  He then reached over to the third shelf and pulled down AAA batteries.


“You should have said remote,” he told me in Afan Oromo.


Now I know that when I want to purchase a flashlight, I should say I want batteries; when I want to purchase batteries, I should say remote.


The logic of East Africa.


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