A fortnight ago I had to visit a renowned medical doctor for a checkup. Something was wrong within me after long years of life on this planet.
The hospital which was located in the eastern part of Addis Ababa was so famous that I had to wait for a couple of hours before I was called to move in to the examination room. It is common to see many people lined up in similar hospitals in need of better medical services. Many people, young and old were waiting for their turn with different moods. Some were watching TV, some were reading, some were fondling their cell phones, and some seemed to be listening to the suffering pain of their ailments… After two hours, I was called and given primary checkups for blood pressure, diabetes and body weight…
The doctor, a gentle man wearing a broad smile in his face greeted me looking in to my face. He took a close look at the yellow card with my name jotted down in bold. Then he threw a glance back at me.
“What’s wrong? Is there any problem, young man?” he asked, calling by my name.
“I don’t know, doctor. But I don’t feel healthy around here. Probably my heart is not good.” I said indicating part of my body where I was feeling the sickness.
“You don’t know? … Do you drink alcohol? Do you chew Kat?”
“No doctor, I only drink four to five bottles of beer a day… not more than that. I don’t chew Kat. Of course, I started drinking strong coffee days back… Can that probably be the cause?”
The doctor smiled and grabbed my right hand. He pressed his thumb on my wrist to check my pulse. “Hhh… No, coffee is not that much problematic for young ones like you… Of course, you don’t need to take too much. Besides, five bottles of beer a day is too much. …By the way, do you exercise?”
“I regularly walk.”
The doctor laughed and said, “have you seen the old lady who had left before you came in?”
“Yes, sir!” The lady he referred was so fat and old that she could hardly move her limbs.
“Yes, she is the one who has to do regular walking. You… you are not older than she is… What is that?” he asked pointing at my bulged-out belly. “Why don’t you remove that fatty mass off your body? Exercise keeps your body to be healthy. You will have better body shape and breathing system… I think there is no need to talk to you about the advantages of doing exercise. You have better do exercise. Did you hear that?”
I was ashamed of my ugly overhung belly and tried to suck it in. “Ok, doctor. I will start doing exercise. I will start running as of tomorrow…” I felt ashamed of myself.
“Yeah, you must do that if you really want to stay alive!” He prescribed me some drugs and sent me off.
I was alarmed. I thought I would die on the dot. A few days after, I joined my village friends in their week-end sport and exercise at Janmeda; the famous wide arena where public and religious events are conducted.
Many people, young and grownups including professional athletes are doing exercises in that large field. It is so grateful to be among the gatherings. I felt remorse for failing to come here long ago. Most of the time our gathering from my village takes hold of a small field with the grass faded out in the center. We do various exercises like rope skipping, running, sit-ups, push-ups… Then we split ourselves in to three teams to play football. At a time two teams join for the match. The defeated team is replaced by the third team for another match against the winner. The team which lost the match will stay out and act as a referee. This continues for about two or three hours. It is very interesting but tiresome and many of us are drenched in sweat. The football play is a good exercise. It gives us tough body movements. Of course, it is inevitable that a beginner will be tied up by cramp the next day. After the match, we all drop to the ground feeling very tired.
Then after, we all get together to move out of the field. This time we all are very thirsty and hungry. We walk listlessly towards the gate, which is located to the northern side of Janmeda. The surprising thing is that across the fence of that big field there is a new butcher shop. Fresh beef shining by big bulbs and flashes is hung up in an appetizing manner. People are going in and out of the butcher shop. After the exercise, it looks my friends feel like walking towards that butcher shop. I have observed that they don’t do it deliberately. Yes… it is very tempting and hard for us all not to drop in to the shop… We all are sucked in. Immediately after, some take hold of glass jugs of draught beer and some walk in to the back yard looking for hand washing basin.
Then comes Kurt (raw meat) piled up in a tray with several small knives, injera, loaves of bread, lemon and Awazie (liquid red pepper) in the middle. (the lemon’s juice is squeezed on the Awazie.) All of us sit around the table each holding a knife to cut and devour pieces of raw meat. I remember a note I read on the internet…
“Ethiopia is a nation who gradually live on raw meat, and it cannot be supposed that they have made great advancement in their cuisine,’ the Briton wrote in Narrative of Journey to Shoa, an 1868 account of his odyssey through Ethiopia, where he went with a British army mission to free some captive foreigners from the clutches of Tewodros, the increasingly erratic Ethiopian emperor.”
The surprising thing is that no one among us is heard saying a word against the gobbling up of Kurt (raw meat) after doing exercise or after burning a good amount of calorie. Rather, some were heard saying that they prefer the roasted one to the raw. Actually, this group is better than those of us who consume the Kurt (raw meat). Had it not been boring, I could have listed out many things regarding the disadvantages of eating this raw meat… Even worse is that we all grab the big frozen glass jugs of draught beer while consuming the raw beef.
After burning some calories in the sport field, we happened to spoil ourselves by stuffing our bellies with raw meat. How horrible this is! We burn calories in an effort to lose weight and keep ourselves healthy… But surprisingly we run to the butcher shop to gobble up raw meat. We are taking the risk of developing diseases like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure… By the way, this has become a common trend almost everywhere in this country. There are many of us who line up in front of butcher’s shop after attending the famous Great Run. It looks we have become the slave of this harmful way of consumption.
By Haile-Gebriel Endeshaw
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org