It Ate One Hundred
By Bill Sugrue (Ethiopia 1969-73)
My first night in Wajifo, a snake killed my next-door neighbor. Four years later, when I left Wajifo, a village in Ethiopia, I’d had some close calls with snakes myself. Also with lions, baboons, hippos and a very possessive leopard. But my most meaningful interactions were with the people of Wajifo, farmers for the most part. From them I’d learned a lot about poverty, bravery, honor, loyalty and humor in the face of profound adversity. Lessons I’ve carried with me ever since. Many believed that cars were powered by Satan, that reading was a trick, that the Emperor ruled the world, and that rabies could be cured by drinking tea made from powdered bat. I saw these deeply held beliefs challenged by the advent of cars, mirrors, matches and other technologies that were making their way into the countryside. One memorable night, I cheered alongside my neighbors as three American astronauts flew the spacecraft Skylab far above our heads.This book is not about me though, unavoidably, I’m in it. Rather, it’s about a community of people I was fortunate to know who lived the way most people have lived throughout human history, at least since the invention of agriculture. A life built around hard work, resilience, fragility of fortune with small margins for error. And yet, there was also optimism, confidence, trust and loyalty to shared values and traditions. Set against a wild, untamed backdrop of forests, rivers, a large lake and abundant wildlife, this story is about connection despite cultural divides. Above all, it’s about friendship.