My childhood memory of my home village where I grew up, received elementary education, herded cows and worked on the farm of agricultural research center found nearby, is so fresh.. MY village is located in Eastern Wollega, Ethiopia, on the main asphalt road from Nekemte to Addis just few kilometers from River Gibe that borders West Shoa Zone and East Wollega Zone. The village is known by many as “Irshamirmir” (agricultural research) because of the agricultural research center located nearby.
As a child I had a wonderful memory of this village. When I was a primary school student I used to help my grandma collecting firewood, fetching water, cleaning the house and herding cows after school. On weekends, I went with my friends to the forest in our area to collect fire woods. As we collected firewood, we chased monkeys, threw stones at them and made them run away to save their lives. The monkeys hid in the dense forest and when we got closer to them, they came to us in large number and chased us in turn. We ran as far as we could to escape the angry monkeys and when we realized that the monkeys were not chasing us any more, we stopped and laughed at each other.
After taking a deep breath, we started our main task i.e. collecting fire woods. My friends climbed big trees to collect woods and get as much as they wanted. But I could not climb big trees as my friends did, but climbed very small ones that I thought I could manage. I usually collected woods that I found lying on the ground. Eventually, when we went home my friends carried a huge bundle of fire woods whereas I carried very small one for which I was always punished by grandma who was not happy with the firewood I came home with. She always compared the woods that I brought home with that of my friends.
Moreover, we helped our parents by fetching water every day. In our village, there was no tap water and we had to travel about half kilometer from our home to get water for drinking, cooking and washing. We collected water with jerry cans (we had jerry cans that carry five, ten and sometimes fifteen liters). I went to fetch water early in the morning sometimes alone and sometimes with children from the neighborhood. I usually went to the spring with two jerry cans that carry five liters each. I handle one jerry can with my right hand and the other with my left. Of course, this is what all the children in the village did.
The women in the village fetched water by Okkotee (a clay pot) that they usually carry on their back with the help of a rope. The rope passes through the handles on the pot and the woman ties it around their chest. At times, the rope gets loose and the pot full of water breaks when the women are going home. The water spills and the women/girls went home saddened, empty handed
We used spring water that served hundreds of people in the village. Parents in the village either send their children or come by themselves to collect water. Some children were not obedient and as a result their mothers had to collect water by themselves. It was uncommon to see fathers fetching water by that time. The water was from the spring and there was a tube that was fixed into it enabling the water pour down as it were from a tap. Around the spring, it was so muddy making it difficult collecting water by children.
Early in the morning and late in the afternoon many people arrived at the spring. After arriving, one had to make a queue and wait for his/her turn. Some children tried to collect water before their turn and as a result they got into fight with those who came before them. It was usual to see children fighting over water. The mothers also fought with each other on who is first and who is next. The fight disturbs the queue and the spring area becomes place of chaos. Sometimes boys and girls heavily hurt each other, leaving parents to quarrel.
One day I picked up a fight with a woman from the neighborhood. This woman came after me, but she tried to collect water before me. I told her that it was my turn, but she did not listen to me. I angrily pushed her away and put my jerry can under the water. She came back and tried to push me away. She slapped me on the face and I also slapped her on the face in return. I became very angry; I picked up my jerry can that was full of water and poured it on her leaving her soaked. A man who was waiting for his turn intervened
and pulled away the woman from me. Then I quickly fetched the water and went home. I thought that this woman would tell her husband about what happened between us; I went her home to see her husband. Fortunately, I found him at home and told how we got into fight. She had already told him that I attacked her. That day I found her husband understanding. He listened to both of us and finally settled the dispute between us
Most of the people in the village washed their clothes at the spring on weekends. They spread the washed clothes on green grass around the spring. Some young people washed their bodies after they finished washing their clothes. The boys stood naked except the pants that covered their genitals. They pour water on to their body with a jug. The girls who came to collect water shamelessly stared at the boys who are washing. There were some girls who even dared to wash their bodies in open space, interestingly, boys watching them. Some said these girls are boorish and reprehensible. The old people when they saw these girls, they cursed them. They said, “Ijoolee qaanii hin beekne, rabbi isin hin guddisiin” which means “you girls do not know shame; let rabbi (God) denies you growth”.
During summer, we get water from every direction. This time Laga Abbabaa (Abbabaa’s river, Abbabaa was the man who found the spring water) that is very close to village starts flowing. The people in the village this time prefer to use Laga Abbabaa particularly for washing clothes. Laga Abbabaa lasts until autumn. When winter (dry season) starts, it dries out.
The five days (Qaammee) before the New Year (Inkutatash) people washed their body with water because they want to remove their sins before they begin the New Year (this is the belief of the Orthodox Christians). In Qaammee, the water is believed to be holy. I and my friends went to Laga Abbabaa early every morning for five consecutive days to wash our body with the holy water. It was really a wonderful experience and I will never forget it.
We also herded cows when school was off. We took our cows to a place where we could get green pasture and water. We did all that we could to make sure that our cows are fed very well and drank enough water so that they could give a lot of milk. When we herded cows, we had no lunch and most of the time our stomach was empty. Thus, we had to eat wild fruits that are edible. As our cows grazed, we slept under the shed of a tree, but when we woke up, we could see no cows around. Then, we quickly got on to our feet, run around and search for them. After a very tiresome search, we would decide to go home to tell parents about it only to find the cows safely at home. Our parents would warn us not to be careless next time and they would invite us to a dinner served with yoghurt and milk. What a dinner it was!
The residents of this village are workers at Backo Agricultural research center, an institution established in 1964 with the support received from the government of West Germany. Most of the people in this village worked at the research center; some are drivers, some are day laborers, still some are foremen and others are guards and gardeners.
This research center located nearby the village helped us a lot to pursue our education. When school was closed during Kiremt (summer), we were employed at the research center where we worked as daily laborers on the vast mechanized farm. By that time, the payment was very small, only 105 birr per month. We used the wage we got from the center for buying school uniform and educational materials. Our parents were not worried about sending us to school as we were capable of acquiring all that were needed for school. In some situation, we gave the remaining money to our family so that they would use it for covering household expenses.
Recently, I went back to my village to visit my family there. The village has changed a lot. It wasn’t like before. Now, people are drinking tap water, thanks to the woreda administration. The agricultural center has lost its beauty. The village is like an abandoned place. I could see mostly old men and women in the village as their children have left the village for work and study in the other parts of the country. In the last ten years, this small village of merely 500hundred people have produced more than two hundred degree holders who are now in different professions-accounting, agriculture, journalism, English teaching, law, engineering, pharmacy, nursing, management, medicine, computer science, economics and so on. Interestingly, during childhood, most of these graduates, , collected fire woods, fetched water, herded cows, worked on government mechanized farms and traveled long distances on foot to get to school.
This is the childhood memory of my village that was full of fun and full of challenges and I will never forget till I die. This village has helped many of us to reach where we are now. It is a village that lives in the mind of those who lived it and lived in it.