Thanks Mr. Rodgers!
Also – the internet is back on! I’m typing this from my house. Cheers!!!
(Above: a few of my students leaning against the flagpole at school)
The idiomatic phrase is “sharing a cup of sugar”. Here, neighbors do that and more. If my door is open, anyone who knows me is likely to poke their head in, say hi, ask to borrow a cup of anything, ask what I’m up to, and/or invite me over for coffee. The other day when my landlady heard me making popcorn the other day (my default is still American style – with salt; not Ethiopian style – called “fandisha”- with sugar), she popped her head in and asked for some. Other days requests will range from borrowing my colander, a stapler, or a broom. This easy sharing of things and foods goes both ways. If she just bought some bananas, she’ll give me some. Or if i need to borrow a hammer to nail my bug net up for the tenth time… it’s an expected yes with an offer of help if I need it.
(We found a small man-made lake in a park near Metu University. Super peaceful.)
Now that I’m 10 months in, I’m officially not a newbie anymore – the g18s arrived Jan 21st, and go to site in a week or so. I have a backlog of 6 half-finished posts, so hopefully I’ll be able to post at least two in the next three weeks. This post however is going to be about a central point of Ethiopian culture – their sense of communal living.
Ethiopians are incredibly generous; especially with food and their time. If you’re sick, they’ll bring you food and walk with you to the clinic if you need to go; or if you happen to walk by a friend’s house you haven’t seen in awhile, they’ll invite you in for coffee and a “snack”. (Said “snack” bring a similar amount of food my Italian-American mother offers to all guests walking into her house when they tell her they’re not hungry. It’s a lot.) This is one of the reasons cheating in school on tests is so prevalent – they see it as helping a friend. Why wouldn’t you help your friend if you know and they don’t?
(The current Illu Babour crew (minus David and Johannah – with the 3 COSing g14s – they’re done! Congrats guys!)
Any time that the power goes out (and I haven’t started my charcoal stove), or I just got back into my village… or I’ve run out of food, I’m invited to eat dinner with my landlord and landlady – Tagel and Takaye. They understand when I have days I want to eat alone, but are genuinely happy to have me join their dinner. For holidays, it’s expected I’m going to eat with them – even/especially if they go to Tagel’s mothers house (who I truly love. She’s funny).
Ethiopians can be nosy, and upfront about personal appearance questions. (My host mother – with absolutely no ill intention – called me fat a month into service. It’s a comment that either is a compliment or bears no negative emotion whatsoever.) But one of the primary motivations for being (from the American lens – intrusive) curious is a genuine desire to help, if they can.
Another example of how “what I have is yours and what you have is mine – including your time – was when, during PST came home from work with a migraine, and told me that I could make dinner for the family that night. (!) some of this is translation error – Ethiopian languages don’t have nuanced polite requests. A simple “get in!” is considered an adequate invitation, not an affront. So the influx of emotions that followed her announcement (she trusts me THAT much? Could she have asked? I hope they like my food! …) were all because of the default – how can I help? aspect of Ethiopian culture.
People sit with each other while one person is working, or run the risk of being late so as to walk to school or a meeting with a friend… being with people is a central aspect of Ethiopian culture.
(Bar cat (above) hoping to get some of our kitfo (below))
(The rolls in the white bowl is injera. The green spinach stuff is called gomen, and the chopped raw meat is the kitfo. It’s really delicious. I promise.)
Ethiopians range from bare tolerance to active dislike of dogs; but when the puppy I’d made friends with was hit by a car (super common occurrence – warning to all future volunteers here), Tagel and Takaye were genuinely sad – just because they knew I was. They immediately invited me to coffee and made sure I ate with them that night.
The internet being out (therefore eliminating my ability to talk with friends and family back home outside of major cities) for the past four months has been difficult; but it has encouraged me to go deeper into my local community, which has been the silver lining.
The last time I returned to site, I was genuinely happy and felt at home with the people in my community, not just in my house. So cheers to that too.