Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Village People

How soon has Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stol'n on his wing my three and twentieth year...
~John Milton, Sonnet VII

Well the 18th was my (Sean) twenty-fourth birthday, and a most surprising birthday it was. Nicholas, Ruth and I left at 7:00 a.m. for the village of Awadh's tribe (Awadh is our office assistant). We had been invited out there for a day of eating, shooting, and general cultural exchange. Five minutes down the road we turned off the highway and into the wilderness. Nick dropped his '86 SUV (the new company vehicle) into 4WD and we were in for a treat - two hours down a winding, narrow, dusty track through mountain, oases, and desert.

This is a shot of Awadh being sarcastic about Nick's speed along the way (the sense of humour thing is rare among locals but Awadh was actually raised in Kenya so maybe that explains it:)

We stopped just before the village for some preliminary practice shooting one of the Kalashnikovs. We both did all right and had no trouble whatsoever hitting the mountain that was right in front of us.

And here's a picture of what the village looked like on our approach - it appeared very small from a distance but when we got up close we discovered... it really is that small! Three mud houses and some stick huts for the animals. Home to a surprising number of people, though.

We were welcomed into the biggest house where Ruth was promptly ushered off into the women's living room (muffrage) while Nick and I sat with the men in theirs. For about an hour we had tea and took pictures (which delighted them) while Awadh translated little bits of the lively discussion happening between the elders - it was a debate on the current political situation in and between local tribes. One of the young men brought in an appetizer of bread and soup on a straw mat, while another asked Nick for his keys. Nick and I looked out the window to see his car, packed with the man and eight of his closest friends, disappear around the mountain. The gleeful expressions on thier faces made us a little nervous, but we trusted them... mostly.

When they came back the car was dirtier, they were still very happy, and there was a goat in the back seat! It was a spotless goat, very healthy too; they had chased it down on a mountain side and were slaughtering it in our honour. So it was out to the shed to watch the butchering, tell more stories, and hang out with the children while the meat was being prepared. Here's me with some kids and a shot of one of the elders processing various bits of goat innards. There was a little argument over who got to eat the raw kidneys, but other than that all was peaceful.

So the goat was grilled on rocks over coals and a wonderful feast was had (those are intestines in the lower left... nothing beats Intestines on a Stick;).

With lunch over someone decided it would be hilarious if they dressed up the ayjnabees (foreigners) in traditional Beduoin wedding clothes. So here we are with the children (although I'm wearing my own clothes here); everyone got a kick out of us, and it was great fun entertaining them.

I love this shot (no pun intended). Ruth says it's hard to take aim when your face is veiled, so considering that and the distance of the target, she did pretty good!

The drive back was quite eventful as well - we had to stop the car three times for animals in the road: once for goats (maybe looking for their missing friend), once for camels, and once for baboons! About twenty of them, but they disappeared before we could get our camera out:( A shame, though I'm sure we'll see them again. In the greener parts of Yemen baboons are quite common, and famers often capture them to use as gaurd animals - a post they fill with remarkable effectiveness given their ferocious and territorial nature.

Of all the animals, the baby goats were the most sociable - they didn't mind being held one bit:)

We arrived back in Mukalla at dusk, had a lobster dinner - blue lobsters - in a lovely restaurant, and took a cab back to our village. It was a wonderful way to spend my twenty-fourth birthday.


At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Allison said...

Oh. My. Goodness. I can't believe I know someone who is having adventures like this. Ruthie, your sister said this is why no one should ever mess with you! :)


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