Whether you approach through Addis Ababa or take the Gondar route, you will know that you have reached Bahir Dar city when your eyes begin to gaze upon the hypnotic and luring palm trees particular to this area. These trees, coupled with Lake Tana, Abay River, Tissisat Falls, and centuries-old monasteries, add to the beguiling beauty and tranquillity of this metropolis.
Of course, Bahir Dar is renowned for its palm trees, so much so that it is dubbed the ‘Ethiopian Riviera’. As a passer-by, you enjoy their shade; as a driver, they help you order lanes. Sit in hotel terraces, they please your eyes.
But, as the adage goes by, there is more to the story.
Even though these trees are easily within reach, beneath them, you see people who place rectangular plates underneath them. Once you are close, you will know they are weighing machines.
These contraptions are available in most parts of the town. Usually carried by children, these machines are not just apparatuses: they are responsible for the life of the one who carries it, and possibly for far more.
“This person I know bought the machine and I work to earn half of the revenue”, says Mersha.
As I talked more to Mersha, I came to apprehend that he also saves money. “Even though it is not much, I deposit what is left of what I eat”, he uttered.
Flabbergasted by his commitment, I asked him if I could stand on the machine. “As long as you pay,” he chuckled. Later, he offered me his thanks after I paid him ten birrs.
For Enat, however, the sheer number of people weighing is testing her. “It is not decent. Sometimes I just go empty-handed”, she sighs. Certainly, you would be emphatic when you find out they only charge one birr. Because of this, side by side, some of them also do shoeshine.
Tigist is 12 years old. By day, she works in weighing people, by night; she is a fourth-grade student. She said her aunt purchased the machine for her. Helping herself out of the pennies she collects, her aim in life is to become a doctor.
Most of them have no one to support them financially. Their families are in rural areas. Nevertheless, their love for work is observable.
“It is better than begging”, says Aemro, a tenth-grade student aspiring to be a lawyer. “I have this machine only. I don’t have a family who supports me,” Aemro added.
If there is one thing they have in common it is that they are noisily perseverant. Most of them are unwearied; they work throughout the day and, at times, up to 8:00 pm in the evening.
Like Sir Isaac Newton, these people can go out and say, “If I am anything, which I highly doubt, I have made myself so by hard work”. Because they are living examples. And, in Ethiopia, we say “only the man who is not hungry says the coconut has a hard shell”.
So, if you are having a bad day in office, in case you are worried about profits, just remember that these humble people collect one Birr working by weighing people.
Lastly, when you ever visit the stunning city in northwest Ethiopia, I challenge you to stopover by these walkways. You will be served fine.