Friday, September 5, 2008


Someone once said that silence is deafening. This could not have been any truer than in Masha, especially on an overcast night. Most notably absent in Masha was the sound of automobile traffic. Many nights were silent as were many days. But it was not always quiet.

Most of the sounds of Masha were natural; the sound of various animals and the elements. Birds and cattle were the most dominant. The bird noises frankly were annoying as they announced the wake up call (I slept deeply in Africa). The rain on the tin roof could only be matched by Stewart Copeland's drumming. Cows really won my heart, especially the one who was parked outside my classroom grazing and lowing to be milked. On two occasions the silence of the night was broken by the sound of howling dogs (and not just a couple, but pretty much the entire community's). We were certain something was being eaten that night. I'm sure it was music to someone's ears.

Three kinds of music were ever present. There was the really intolerable sound of bellies filled with lentils. But for the sake of my readers, I won't go to into that right now. The Orthodox Church broadcast almost daily its chants and sermons. This would go on for hours and, frankly, became offensive, especially because it started at 6 a.m. Opposite this grinding chanting was the harmonic, authentic, and iconic sound of the youth choir; the yearning, crying (and unamplified) sound of worship would grace us nearly every day. Even though it was rehearsed its sound was so human, so un-mechanical. This is very different from the usual, technical sound of American worship, which tends to remind me of the last sounds of Masha.

On market days, besides the hum of all the excited buyers and sellers, the constant chug-chug of the mill could be heard through the entire town. There was the occasional land cruiser, and the honking of the buses headed for Tepi or Jimma. Every now and then we would hear a 747, but I'm not sure that it was one. I was spending too much time looking down at the ground, trying not to trip over the many rocks which made up the road. Can you hear their laughter?

1 comment:

valerie said...

hey mr. nevin!! this is valerie. good to see that you made it back in one peice. you have to tell me ALL about EVERYTHING. and i'll fill you in on some stuff like how i ended up going to sac state. SUPRISE!! it's really cool here, i live on campus too so it's really fun! i'll try and call you or something at school. c ya!!