Be Like a Stream

I think I have said pretty much everything I am going to write in this following blog post in the four (?) three (?) words in the title. Before I move forward, can we consider the article “a” as a word here?

Well anyways…

I met up with a friend for a serious meeting about how to run a student club and because  certain amount of coffee is adequate to keep your thoughts contained and if you take a little more than is adequate, you will find your imagination and your thought stream are champion long distance jumpers that will put that guy from the 2008 movie Jumper to shame. From the above rant, you can tell that I am writing this still high on that coffee.

So after we discussed and agreed that said campus club is entirely dysfunctional and in need of serious work, our thoughts jumped to what it is like to be a good person and he told me the following idea which he too got from his friend.

Be like a stream.” He said. “Do you know how a stream basically works?” I didn’t know what he wanted me to answer or if it was a rhetorical question so I waited for him to explain. He said, “A stream is clean water that comes up out of rocks in the earth and it somehow filters out its impurities on its way up. You cannot put cleaners directly into the stream and clean it because the water path is upwards and it will spit it out. So what people can do clear a path for that clean stream water to flow and be as it is. Because it gives and doesn’t technically expect anything from them, this stream is a perfect example of what it is to be a good person.”

This wasn’t the only thing our thoughts jumped to. He told me another story about how shameful it is to be a do-gooder today. This next story he told me took place two years ago when student-run do-gooder club Drop of Water invited two of the most renowned comedians to Mekelle University for a fund raising event.

“They were both a couple of my favorite comedians so I was happy to be working with them. I took them to the site to show them the core problem for the lack of clean water in the district. I showed them the dirty pool of water that people and animals drink from equally and then wash in and then drink again. I have never been so amazed by any person’s stupidity. Comedy is one thing but some of the things they said to lessen and even to kind of not accept that lack of clean water was really a problem when there was any type of water at all, was very annoying. These guys didn’t want to go to the site in the first place so I guess their lack of interest and the amount of booth they had the previous night had a role to play in their stupidity.

Later on, when their show was about to happen, I was amazed at how many people came out to see these guys. I have been a part of the voluntary group for a very long time and I had never seen such a turn out. I was very happy because I thought it meant some if not all of these people would now grasp our values in addition to attending the comedy show.

I was very wrong.

At the start of the show, our representative took the stage to say a few things about Drop of Water and to tell the audience of very excited people the amount of damage the lack of clean water is doing in the community. She was booed off the stage with the added force of stuff thrown at her before she could utter two words.

We then asked one of the comedians to say something to calm the audience down and our girl was finally able to make her small speech to people who did not pay even the slightest attention to her. I don’t know how she must have felt. I mean we were out there doing what we thought would help people so unfortunate, they died in masses every day in search for what we, you and I, waste at the end of the multiple number of taps in our homes. People were getting sick and dying and young girls were getting raped and giving up their educations because they had to walk half a day’s road to get water that isn’t even safe enough to drink.

The audience of students, these supposedly educated minds who would tomorrow take over a whole country and were expected to make big decisions and change the world, was not able to comprehend how important a two minute speech was to a poor family who didn’t have the access to clean water over the drunken comedy show that some old man had to perform. When the show was over, the audience was literally climbing onto the stage to grab this celebrity’s shirt as if he were Jesus Christ and the small touch of his shirt was some miracle to cure them. They were celebrating him who would drink himself stupid to make fun of life. We were penalized for a broken window that day and I kind of regretted inviting those guys.

I think we Ethiopians have somehow found a certain common ground, a compromise with our poverty. We make fun of it, we recite it every day as though it was a prayer hymn, we live with it and we nurture it as if it was our child. We have gotten too comfortable with being poor and sad that we cannot summon the strength to fight it.”


I won’t lie. I kind of hated his story because it was true. I was a freshman at the time this happened and I recalled hearing that the comedians were in the area. I even attended the show a little until I realized my very fun height of 5,1 wouldn’t allow me to see over all the people the size of tree trunks and I had to beg my tall friends to leave the hall. I did not, for the life of me have any idea why the comedians were invited or who invited them. I was not a part of the Drop of Water movement then.

I think the team has a few dysfunctions now and even those who once strongly believed in the mission of the movement have sort of gotten restless because helping poor people isn’t cool but knowing a celebrity is.  We lack compassion. I have gone on a couple of site visits and have seen all the unfortunate people living without water and I had been depressed for a whole week and thinking about it now, it still brings a bitter taste to my mouth and certain shame to my mind. If I wanted to explain to you how much problem there is in the rural areas of Mekelle, I’m afraid I’m going to need a book deal and not a sad a little blog.

I’d been to Mekelle a couple of times before my placement to Mekelle University and I guess I knew that this small town they sugarcoat by calling ሰሜናዊት ፀሃይ (the northern sun), was a dry land but upon my placement when I learned just how dry it was and when I saw that water didn’t run in the taps much and when it did, you’d be standing behind a long line of girls and their empty 20 liter jerrycans, I’d wanted to go home where there was running tap water. These people don’t have anywhere to go.

Perhaps we are too sensitive that we’d rather face away and not hear bad news and misfortune or perhaps we are really insensitive that as we throw back our cold sprites because we don’t like the taste of water, we don’t care that there are millions of people out there drinking acid water.


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