Sunday, October 18, 2009

“And now, I am make coffee.” (10.12.2009/2002)

As you probably know, Ethiopia has some darn good coffee. It is said to be the birthplace of humans and coffee (trivia!). There is a ceremony revolving around bunna (Amharic for coffee), that takes place on the floor. First, the beans are roasted, then ground with a mortar and pestle before being boiled on a charcoal stove. It is served in tiny cups with a lot of sugar and sometimes milk…it’s pretty delicious and puts American coffee to shame (sorry Starbucks). Before we moved in with our host families, we all had lunch together, and took part in our first coffee ceremony.

That being said, we are now living with our host families. I am living in a small rural town outside of Assela, which is the closest big city. We live in a compound a few blocks off the main paved road (all the other roads are made of dirt but they’ve been pretty muddy since it’s been raining a lot). My host family is incredibly nice and hospitable and there are 13 of them living here, plus a few goats, a pregnant cow, a couple dogs, and a cat and kitten. Fortunately, one of our group LCF’s (Language/Cross-cultural Facilitator) lives right next door to me, so she was a huge help in having things not be incredibly awkward when I first moved in, seeing as how I only knew about 10-15 Amharic words/phrases, aka “survival language” (ex: Where’s the toilet? Thank you. I need sleep. I don’t want food. It’s good! get the point). In case you’re wondering, I have my own room (it’s spacious) with green walls and a very comfortable bed, so I’ve been sleeping relatively well (thank goodness for earplugs – there are many boisterous animals at night). My family has a shower with running water (it’s ice cold, but I’ll have rock solid abs after 10 weeks here), and our toilet (aka šint bet in Amharic) is located outside in the compound and it’s a room made of mud and hay with a cement hole in the ground for to do your business. If anything, I’ll build some nice quad muscles as well!

We started language training (Amharic for now), and it is going to be quite challenging, but ultimately rewarding. Fortunately, we were broken down into even smaller groups (3 people/group) for language training. As you know, English has 26 letters. The Amharic syllabary (or fidel) contains 34 base characters (if you include the letter v) and each character has 7 variations, or orders. So that’s 238 characters we’ll be learning to read/write. Whoa. Day one went well – we learned how to pronounce everything, then for our “practical application” took our knowledge to the streets. We walked to the post office (I sent 2 letters – one to my parents and one to my sister – let me know if/when they arrive – sent on 10.12.09) and were to greet people along the way. People are really surprised when Amharic comes out of the färenjis’ (foreigners) mouths. I laugh a lot, some kids laugh and run away, but ultimately everyone stares and most reply back. But after the standard greeting, I’m at a loss for words. With time…

We are known to draw quite a crowd – Americans don’t often come to these parts. I had a girl say to me today “Hey China girl, how are you?” Not Chinese…but I don’t know how to say that in Amharic [yet]. People seem to be out and about all the time here, as are animals roaming the streets. Cows, chickens, goats, dogs, horses, donkeys…all are really cute. I had to dodge a few donkeys earlier and yesterday I got splashed by dirty water from a passing donkey cart taxi. L

The food is pretty awesome here. I don’t think I’ve had anything processed besides the candy I bought at the airport en route (aka junk food isn’t found in abundance here, so feel free to send me snack foods and candy!). Injera is a country staple and is made from something called tef, which is a superfood/grain. Injera is kind of like a thin sourdough pancake that also doubles as a utensil (you rip off pieces and pick up the other food with your right hand and eat it!). Since moving in with my HF, we’ve had injera at almost every meal, along with deliciously prepared vegetables (spicy lentils, potatoes, cabbage, corn, greens). So I’ve been eating well and fortunately, haven’t had any GI difficulties yet (I just knocked on my bed frame – it’s made of wood).

My HF bros and the younger kids in the house have all been teaching me Amharic words and tonight they busted out a deck of cards to help me with learning numbers. It’s kind of overwhelming, but also fun. One of them wrote down everyone’s first name and I had to write it in the script – it took me a small eternity, but I enjoyed it. We’ve also been watching a lot of “country music videos” – not the twangy stuff you’re thinking of, but Ethiopian country music (mainly from the Oroma region). There’s lots of shoulder shaking in their dancing – it’s amazing how they move and I hope to learn some of their moves – see if you can google Ethiopian dancing – you’ll be amazed.

I apologize in advance for not posting very often – there’s no internet in my town and these next 10 weeks of training are going to be incredibly busy. Check back periodically for updates, but I can guarantee they won’t be daily! I know that I’ve been out of touch, but know that I am healthy and happy and I hope all of you are the same J Käs Bäkäs Ïnk’Ulal Bäïgrwa Tïhedeläč (Little by little the egg goes by foot).


  1. Wow that truly sounds like an experience!

    I like how the donkey cart splashed you!

    So, Whats your favorite thing about being there so far?

  2. have you had to eat much meat yet for dinner then? Sounds like the fam does lots of veg cooking.