There is war here. War here means people speak louder, but they don’t talk as much. The kids, the dirty ones, who roam through streets with their “cars,” sticks attached by string to a round, rolling object, stop exploring. Local flag ceremonies at schools and public places are longer and more intricate.
The Muslims keep a distance, a more noticeable distance than they already do. The country folk rarely ride their decorated horses into town. The Orthodox church starts its music earlier, louder.
Market is empty. There are the same vendors, the same old ladies squatted on tarps, but their potato piles are smaller, less abundant. The chaos, there, is gone.
The television is always on. The names of different countries on this continent, and others, become bad words.
Are people dying? Are people starving—who knows?
There is foreign occupation in every town. White soldiers, identifiable by their footprints in the dirt and the clinky sounds of their keys/canteens/guns, hand out candy and pencils and give regular presentations at the primary schools.
People are donating their money, all their money to the cause. We will show the world our spirit. We will show the world our pride. Even when it means, after all of these years of fighting—fighting communists, fighting modernity, fighting their neighbor to the North— they retreat into the crumbling promise of nationhood, whatever that means.
It is impossible to leave. It is impossible to question. It is impossible to know.
People start to worship water, praying at the rivers and the lakes. The faithful, their white scarves wrapped around their shoulders, bring big clay vessels to carry the streams home: holiness. Our water. Our power. Our Ethiopia.