Sunday, April 18, 2010

The thing about dating in the US is...

no matter how awkward it gets, it's unlikely anyone's going to try to feed you. Gursha or feeding someone out of your hand is an Ethiopian custom. And one that I'm still trying to get used to. Injera is filling stuff and when I'm full and stop eating, it's not generally a sign that I want you to try to feed me. And I generally consider myself open to most cultural customs, as long as you can convince me that they're cultural and customs and not overly affectionate African men trying to fatten me up. But this, this is too much. That's not to say I don't find it utterly charming when the little kids at the orphanage I work with come and bring me bites of their food.

Ethiopian greetings and displays of affection are fascinating. A customary greeting is three kisses on alternate cheeks. When shaking someone else's hand or passing them something, it's respectful to hold your arm near the elbow to show the weight of the honor. If you want to shake someone's hand and their hand is dirty you might just grab the wrist. If both of your hands are dirty you just cross each others wrists, laying your forearms on each other. Couples rarely kiss, hug or hold hands in public. In general, the only people who hold hands while they walk down the street are straight men. Yep.

This is all to say that the Ethiopian people I have encountered here are incredibly open and warm and welcoming. The kind of people that would feed you off their plate, or what is the communal plate. This week I was looking for an office and popped my head into a small dimly lit shack. Inside were a group of women sitting around a table eating lunch. Without knowing who I was or what I was doing there, they first invited me to have lunch with them. This is the kind of hospitality I encounter on an hourly basis in Ethiopia. It's hard not to fall in love, even if I want to feed myself.

Friday, April 16, 2010

If photo upload was working right now, I'd put in a picture of the lovely fruit basket, or fruit and avocado basket- depending on your definition of these things, that arrived in my room this afternoon. The freaky thing was that I was in my teeny tiny room for about two hours before I noticed it. It just appeared out of nowhere.

And the stranger thing was that I then had to wrack my brain to figure out which one of my suitors might have sent me a fruit basket--- "George firenge" or "George foreigner" my expat pursuer? The night manager at the hotel who asks whenever I'm not at breakfast or in the bar in the evenings? Maybe the lab manager from work who keeps trying to feed me during lunch? Perhaps the nurse from the local health center who made eyes at me over the support group for HIV positive mothers? Ummm.... this NEVER happens at home. Never, never, never.

This weekend is full of data analysis, orphanage visits, spa appointments, and a coffee date with one of the mysterious African suitors. Me in a nutshell.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

An update!

I'm still here (in Addis), still alive, still well, and still Giardia-free. Work continues to be interesting. Great, even. My Ethiopian social life is picking up steam to the point where I only spent like two nights in the hotel bar this week. The others were spent out on dates with boys I'm not interested in, fancy dinners with the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, and going away parties for people I've met twice (but like a lot). Well, one of each of those things anyway.

Last Sunday was Easter and many a lamb was slaughtered. I grew up in a religious environment and was familiar enough with all those stories in the bible about various holidays and celebrations requiring the slaughtering of an animal. I have to say that I didn't give much thought to it until I came face-to-face with the half million or so sheep and goats brought into Addis to be killed for Easter festivities. That's a lot of sheep. Especially in a city without traffic signals and a city the size of New York. A lot of livestock wandering the streets. And this week? A lot of skulls and limbs left out to rot/be eaten by dogs/who knows. TMI?

Yesterday Ephrem and I hiked to a spot where people go to have their HIV cured with holy water. It turns out that we weren't supposed to be there. And we definitely weren't supposed to be taking pictures. I was pretty sure we were going to get our asses kicked. I'm going to intend on expanding on this experience in the near future- In the meantime, I'm so glad that blogger is working, but really wish that the internets would be spending their energy downloading the statistical software rather than permitting me to illegally post my thoughts. Thoughts like- now that I've finished Season Two of Mad Men, I'm going to have to re-learn how to read in my spare time.

More soon!