George B. Breznay (Ethiopia 1966–68)
Monday, November 21
At the Bank today a woman in native dress (black with a white shemma [shawl]) came in, bowed to the teller, treaded lightly over to the counter where the desk men are, bowed deeply again, and proceeded to transact some business.
Saw a ritual of men kissing today – a cycle is 4 kisses: A kisses B’s right, then left cheek; then B does the same to A: this cycle was repeated twice, all the time shaking hands – then a stand-off – both stepped back, each rubbing the back of his neck as if in embarrassment. It seemed that neither then knew what to say!
The other day Lemma saw me sitting quietly in the middle of the bus as he walked near the Trinity Press. I thought “how observant he is!” -but then on reflecting I discovered that there was something that distinguished me from all the others on the bus . . .
Last night the PC team played basketball against the YMCA team, all Ethiopian. They were fast and rough, and the game was close. Someone spit in the 3rd quarter and Ray ___ jumped him. Shortly the fans were on the court and soon were kicking and may have used stones had it not shortly been called off at that point, 16-16. Herm was level-headed but many others, Joe ___ in particular, was ready to throw caution to the winds. I think the fans were mainly at fault. I would have enjoyed beating them, which we would have, I’m sure. We should have bent over backwards to keep our heads, and played straight and solid basketball, leaving the roughhousing to those who can’t play the game properly. Now the future of the PC basketball is in some doubt.
Mr. Chatterjee tells me that the vagrancy draft statute I’ve been working on has been around for a long time here in Ethiopia, and has been shelved and deshelved often for personal reasons. It seems that the Board originally established had little money and trouble getting started; then the Council of Ministers decided to bring it under MNCD [MY MINISTRY] . . . . But the woman who headed it (wife of Assefa Lemma, a Minister) left her offices and moved to Haile Selassie I Foundation, where she has kept quiet. The Emperor gave $500,000 to the project – they’ll need much more. So, Mr. Chatterjee says, we must use the old drafts and work from them. Silly to begin all over, for the old draft was approved by the Minister, translated into Amharic, etc.
America is a blinking neon light (above a bar) . . ..
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