This past week I received my first “gursha”, or force-feeding. Basically, in this culture, if someone really likes you, they will feed you with their hand (the right one) to show their love/respect. This happened to me not only in one setting this week, but two. The first was during a luncheon at my health center. One of the lady staff members got me twice! With injera and meat broth (she skipped the meat because they all know I don’t eat it)…so that threw me off guard. And then after picking small rocks out of a huge bag of wheat with my landlords’ house girl, she snuck me into the kitchen for a snack of shiro wat and injera, where she proceeded to practically feed me my entire snack, while thanking me relentlessly for helping her.
A few weeks ago Ethiopians celebrated “Timket”, better known as Epiphany to you English speakers out there. My neighbor invited me to join him at the huge celebration in Mekele, which consisted of literally thousands of people gathering in a huge field, while wearing their finest Habesha kidan (Ethiopian clothing). Some people (mainly the religious big wigs) carried fancy umbrellas. Alas it was a very colorful celebration! As usual, I had no clue as to what was going on around me, but at the end of the ceremony, holy water was dispersed into the crowd and everyone went wild…There are a lot of holidays in this country…Tomorrow marks the start of a 55 day meat/dairy-free fasting period for the locals.
My “community discovery” continues to go well. I feel as though I am integrating nicely into Quiha. I have learned how to bathe a cat, and I have also had my feet washed/lotioned by a nice lady in my town. (Dirt shows up more on white skin – go figure!) While attending the local Youth Association meeting recently, I was invited to cut the special bread (woo hoo!). On special occasions there is sometimes a huge circular loaf of bread (this one was about 2 feet in diameter) that is served during the coffee ceremony, and a VIP of sorts is the one who gets to cut the bread in front of everyone. After the bread cutting, we danced to traditional music (everyone small-stepping in a circle, shaking their shoulders and tapping their feet) – I was told I looked like a natural. However, these dance moves aren’t reserved for the elite.
We have IST (In-Service Training) coming up in about a month in a “resort town” called Sodere. It’s kind of close to where we lived during PST (Pre-Service Training!)…And I’ve heard there are lots of monkeys, which I’m very excited about. At IST we will present our CNAs to the other people in our group of volunteers, and have trainings on various topics. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone again and catching up, etc. Plus, it will be nice to have a little greenery in my life. My area is rather desert-like, with a lot of dirt, rocks/stones, cacti, and camels (very little grass or trees). I’ve heard life gets a bit greener during the rainy season, so, in a nutshell (preferably almond or cashew), I’m looking forward to the rainy season! It should start in the coming months.
Happy Valentine’s Day – can’t say it’s a widely celebrated holiday here…well, maybe in Addis, but I live about 800km from there.