An encounter with a lion

This story is about the extraordinary life of an ‘ordinary’ person.

I was sitting in the car next to my driver, Yenu, to go and pick up my kid from school. As always we talked. This time I asked him about his grandfather’s life. Yenu had mentioned him several times before and this had triggered my curiosity. The man seemed to be an impressive character. We are in Addis Abeba, in Ethiopia in the year 2014 and Yenu’s grandfather is 86 years old. Although he suffers from asthma, he still walks to work every day and he and his wife are the ones who raised Yenu.

I asked Yenu if his family is originally from Addis Abeba. Yenu replied that his grandfather was from the countryside. When he was a child the Italians who arrived in Ethiopia in 1936 came to his village and killed both his parents in front of him. Apparently, the Italians held slaves and promised them freedom if they would denounce the ones who were against the Italian regime. The Italians took Yenu’s grandfather and other kids from the village and brought them to the North-East of the country. A desert where lots of the kids died because there wasn’t enough to drink and to eat. A place where the temperature was so high that only the fittest survived.

As a result, the Italians decided to bring the remaining children back to where they came from. Yenu’s grandfather was brought back to his home region and put into a missionary school. He didn’t like it and escaped together with one of his friends. They decided to walk to Addis Abeba and find a better life in the capital.

To arrive in Addis they had to walk for many weeks and encountered many dangerous situations. The one Yenu mentioned is when his grandfather and his friend met a female and a male lion. Apparently an old Ethiopian story says that when one encounters lions, one has to put dry grass on ones head in order to look like a male lion. If you do this, the male lion will defend you against the female lion and she won’t hunt or try to kill you. Yenu’s grandfather and his friend tried it out. And apparently it worked. They both survived.

When they arrived in Addis they went to another missionary school. This time Yenu’s grandfather finished his primary education. After that, he started working as one of the personal guards of emperor Haile Selasse. He was one of the people who escorted the emperor when he came out of his palace. And when the Derg came, Yenu’s grandfather became a captain in the Derg’s army. Yenu didn’t tell me much about that part of his grandfather’s life yet, but who knows? You might read that part of the story in the near future.

This story is just the story of my driver’s grandfather. But it isn’t just a story. Beauty is everywhere and if you listen well the extraordinary will emerge from the ordinary.

%d bloggers like this: