There are moments when I think about my journey to Ethiopia and muse about how I came to be in Bahir Dar.
But I know I’m not the only person or thing from the States that has made the voyage to this country, as I’m daily reminded by the t-shirts that adorn the chests of Ethiopian men and women in the streets of my city.
“How did that shirt get here?”
I ask myself this question almost as much as I ask myself how the hell I got here.
And I can’t help but marvel at the variety. Below, a smattering:
College t-shirts. They come from every corner of the US. A selection of those I’ve seen: Kentucky, Kansas, Kansas St., Creighton, Ball St., Tulane, Maryland, Ohio St., Stanford, Notre Dame, UCLA. The South Carolina Gamecocks. Duke Blue Devils and Michigan Wolverines. Nothing from UWM, though.
Wisconsin sports teams are well represented. I’ve seen a Marquette Soccer shirt, Bucky Badger, and the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee Brewers, too, if you count my Ganj-Box Section t-shirt (but I don’t). I’ve seen quite a few Packers Tees, including a 2007 NFC Champions shirt. Yup.
I’ve seen bezu military shirts. Desert Storm, check. Iraq Part II, check. I’ve seen a Vietnam shirt. You know, the one with the military ribbons on it. There are all sorts of shirts for myriad “warrior” athletic competitions. I’ve also seen a shirt for aafes.com. Really? AAFES made T-shirts?
My personal favorites are the hilariously random shirts. In one day, I saw two shirts with the phrase “s—faced.” Another said, “Hey, you’re a crazy b—-“ I’ve seen a shirt for Bloomington Parks and Recreation. One man’s shirt declared, “I’m a keeper.” Another, “Yes, I look this good all the time.” One that would normally receive a massive eye roll in another life made me a tad nostalgic: “Don’t Mess With Texas.”
If I didn’t know better, the shirts around town would have me convinced that Ethiopians are the most philanthropic people around. (Are they?) Charity run/walk shirts – what I call Michael Scott shirts – are everywhere. Pick any combo of distance and cause and I’ve probably seen it.
Then there are the always-enjoyable brand knockoffs. (I know these aren’t necessarily American exports, but they’re in English so just go with it.) Galvin Klein. Or Calvin Kline. Dolce & Gabana. Addidas. And, of course, that iconic Nike slogan, “Just Doing It.”
As I see more random shirts, I’ll be sure to share them. And, as always, I’ll ask myself, “How did that get here?”