A few of my Facebook friends are surprised by the presence of guards in our lives here. What are they guarding? And what are they protecting it against?
Guards are standard faranji household staff in Addis (“staff.” This is the first time I’ve lived in a household with “staff.” It’s funny what you can get used to). Guards are employed to keep one eye on your belongings, and the other on the neighborhood for signs of trouble.
There is a huge economic divide in Ethiopia. We count ourselves among the haves in a country where 80% of the people live on less than two dollars a day. Violent crime is rare but theft is common, hence the guards. Since the main purpose is to deter thieves, most ordinary household and school guards are not heavily armed with machine guns like our guards in Syria were; a simple nightstick usually serves the purpose.
Also, the government is relatively new and while people are hopeful about the country’s future, no one knows for certain how stable it is. There is always some concern about civil unrest and guards watch out for anything that might be brewing. (For those of you who followed our Syria adventures, don’t get worried. Everything seems to be quite calm and peaceful here. It just doesn’t hurt to be prepared.)
As apartment residents, the school assigned us a housekeeper of our own but we share the guards with our neighbors (by contrast, the package for teachers with free-standing houses is a housekeeper and two guards). The Varnero complex has a walled perimeter with a guardhouse by the gate that is manned 24/7. Our guards know all the residents by sight so as soon as they see us coming they open the big gate for our cars and taxis, or the little gate for us when we want to walk outside the walls of the compound. There are two additional night guards, ICS employees, whose job it is to watch the stairwell and elevator in the 12-unit ICS Varnero faranji building.
A few weeks ago the Varnero faranji got a message from the school’s head of security asking if we wanted to hire two more guards for our garage now that some of us had purchased cars. Those men would also be responsible for washing our vehicles and sweeping the basement garage. At first we balked at the idea – how many guards do we really need? Now we’re considering it. That’s two more jobs for men who need them.