I promise, this is the last article of this series. 😛 😀
On the first day of the project I did with CGCOC, Sep. 1st, there would be a ceremony according to Chinese tradition to mark the start of the construction. It looked terribly hilarious to me to see them practicing it in Africa…… 😀 😀 We tied a piece of red cloth on the first steel column to be installed for the project. At a chosen time the firecrackers would be lit and meanwhile the very first column will be laid in place and be installed. The time point was crucial. First they chose 9:18 because the sound of 918 in Chinese resembles “jiuyaofa”, which meant “going to make a fortune soon”. However, because of traffic jam, the managers who would attend the ceremony were stuck somewhere on the way …… so they changed the time to another one, which was also supposed to bring good luck. After the firecrackers and the installation of the first column, two roosters were cut at their throats and two of our Ethiopian workers, both 18 years old, were asked to hold either of them and run along the circumference so the blood would drip along the foundation of the factory, one running clockwise and the other counterclockwise, which was supposed to bring good luck also. After the run they were rewarded with some money. 🙂 In China these tasks were also mainly performed by kids and there would be a reward afterwards.
Those Chinese working in Africa were almost all MEN! Yes, 10 000 of them in Ethiopia and 99.9% were men! Most of them went back home only about once a year. That was a big “market”. Therefore, imaginably, in some Chinese hotels, there were some prostitutes from China working there. According to what I had heard, they earned about 3 times as much as in China. There were also many Chinese having Ethiopian mistresses. In our camp, there was a Chinese man who was a bit more than 50 years old. In China he had a family and his son was already more than 20 years old. He lived in Ethiopia already for 3 years and spoke Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia) already. Like us, he lived in the camp, together with his mistress, a young pretty Ethiopian girl. He was far from the only one. Near the industrial zone, there was a glass factory. There was a Chinese man who had a baby with an Ethiopian girl, yes, a mixture of Chinese and Ethiopian blood, a very pretty baby as I have heard. Once the CGCOC people wanted to recruit a translator who could speak Amharic and Chinese. There was this young Ethiopian girl applying for it. She spoke fluent Chinese and cooked Chinese food well, because she was the mistress of some Chinese man before. Eventually she was fired because she was too much arrogant and told lies to get leaves.
When I was in Motta with the previous project, it was cold there because it was in the countryside, on a plateau and it was winter in Ethiopia. However, in Dukem it was quite hot and mosquitoes became a serious problem. Besides them, another big issue was fleas. Yes, fleas! During most time of my stay in Dukem, I lived in a simple room which was mainly meant for storage of construction tools and material components. Since I did not have a mosquito net, I set up my tent in the room and slept there for like 10 days, among all the bolts and nails, gravels and nylon bags. It’s a funny experience. 😛 😀 This time we had running water and stable power supply! Well, except for one night when the power for the our camp was down while the other parts of the industrial zone was ok. We went out with torches into the mud and puddles to check the problem and finally fixed it around midnight. The chef was from Sichuan province of China and many workers too. In China, this province is famous for their spicy food…… and so was the food there! I ate a lot like usual, twice as much as anybody else, sometimes thrice as much. 🙂 😀 Visitors were always shocked to see carrying a “basin” to get rice while others only used small bowls. WOWO! The stomach of a nomad! 😛 😛 😀 Since I was also a slow eater, I was always the last one to finish, long after everybody else. 🙂
As you might know, my family name was Xiao. On the camp, among the workers of CGCOC, there was also a man with the same family name. Therefore, we were from the same ancestors. He used to work in Nigeria for CGCOC. I heard of quite some adventurous stories about Nigeria. 😀 They were working on a project and the camp was protected by the navy. The navy squad there had firearms and ammunition in store of course. Guess what?! There were thieves and robbers coming to steal and rob the ammunition from the navy squad! WOWO! That’s very daring! The project was just beside a motorway. Once there was a fierce fight between the robbers and the police on the motorway. It was a WAR, bullets flying everywhere and this Mr. Xiao was hiding behind an unfinished wall of the project and did not dare to move a bit, because if he did, his head would probably be hit by the bullet rain.
When I was abroad, especially while I was travelling, I had always tried to avoid Chinese people, not that I held anything against this country. Come on, I grew up in China and am always a Chinese citizen, but when I am abroad, I always think that I should experience the local culture as much as possible instead of sticking together with my fellow countrymen. Obviously not every Chinese thinks like that. Yes, there is a division. For the younger generation Chinese, let’s say for those under 30, they are more adventurous and open-minded. When I tell them of my journeys and nomadic life, their responses are like “WOWO!” “That’s so cool!” or even “Oh man, I really envy you!” However, for Chinese people who are older than 35, I am committing a crime by traveling in such a way. “So irresponsible!” “This is outrageous! What the hell are you thinking?” or even “Ok, so you want to die, then why not just kill yourself!” People of their generation, who experienced much more bitterness to obtain a stable and comfortable life, seem never to be able to understand me. In this project there was but one man, the chief engineer who was under 30 while all the others were above 40. Oh my God of Traveling, it was hard to talk about my travels with them. “You did a PhD in Europe?!” “You graduated from Tsinghua University?! (according to international ranking, this university is the best in China, although our neighbor and rival, Peking University claims otherwise)” “Are you crazy?! Why not hurry up and find a job?!” “Earn some money as soon as possible! That’s the real thing!” “Get married as soon as possible and have babies so your parents will be happy!” …… There is a big difference between Chinese culture and Western culture — In China the boundaries between individuals are more vague and those boundaries are not so much respected. Many concerned people like to interfere in other people’s private matters.
At the end of my stay there, I was about to set off for Sudan and my boss paid me. It was 4500 RMB (about 700 USD) and in Ethiopian Bir it was 14000. He gave me a stack of 5 Bir notes, another stack of 10 Bir notes and some 100 Bir notes. All together, they looked like three bricks…… I went to the manager of the 4-star hotel and exchanged some USD and RMB there. Then I set out for Sudan! 😀
So long, Ethiopia!
I promise, this is the last article of this series. 😛 😀