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.

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