January 20, Sunday, 7:54PM Ethiopian Time
Today was a day full of Ethiopian culture. The Ethiopians are celebrating the Christian Orthodox holiday called Timket. It’s a huge celebration all throughout the city which commemorates the baptism of Jesus.
The streets were absolutely packed with people with all kinds of chanting and dancing and stuff going on. A helpful Ethiopian man I was standing next to explained a little bit of what was happening for me. The churches march in from different locations in the city. In this particular square, two large churches had met and were performing the celebration which includes prayer, dancing, drum beats, and song. After the ceremony the church members then form long processions as they walk back to their respective church buildings. This happens all over the city and it’s quite impressive. As I said, the streets are packed and so there’s police with sticks applying love taps to the legs of people who push in too close to the parade. That may sound bad, but it was nothing even remotely violent. Anyway, Mimi was with us and persuaded one of the peace keepers to let us into the street ahead of the parade to take pictures. It’s incredibly flattering how nice the Ethiopians have treated us.
After the ceremony we went to Mimi’s house to meet her family for lunch and a coffee ceremony. I have to say this family was one of the most gracious families I have ever met. We were greeted warmly by the man of the house and then the rest of the family when we arrived. The house itself would not be considered modern by American standards, but it was kept up nicely and decorated with pride. Still, they had no running water and their bathroom was a cinder block closet with a hole in the ground. I only explain this in order to point out that the lack of wealth has little to do with the decency, and generosity of people here in Ethiopia.
Despite their humble means, we were treated first class. The family seated us (leaving no seats for themselves) and then one of the daughters came around with a pitcher of water and a bowl so we could wash our hands. After washing up, dinner was served and we were served first. Engera was served, but they had also made substitutions to the normal Habesha menu, obviously trying to accommodate us. Bread was served as well as rice, green beans and lentils. It was quite good.
After lunch we went out into the courtyard for the traditional coffee ceremony. This time though, Mimi brought out a traditional dress and Alicia was chosen to perform the ceremony. She did a dynamite job and we all enjoyed the coffee very much while chatting with Mimi’s family. Frank spent quite a while talking to Mimi’s father and was surprised at how much he knew about American politics. They have a great respect for Bush and Condoleezza Rice over there. Take that, liberals!
On the drive back home we had a little adventure. Frank was in the front seat with the window down and the streets were packed with people celebrating Timket. We were stopped in traffic and there were a few guys close to the car. Frank looks over, and one guy pronounces “This is my culture!”, and then another dude proceeds to stick a banana in Franks face, hitting him in the cheek! At the same time, there was a cop close by and he promptly runs over and smacks the banana wielding mad man down! Crazy!
Well, later we find out that the guy wasn’t trying to kill frank with a piece of fruit. He was actually trying to feed him. Yeah, it’s called “gorsha” and Ethiopians do that to show friendship… although usually not so forcefully. Yes, this is a very different culture.
We’re going to make shirts when we get back that have a picture of Frank with a banana in his face and the caption: “Don’t Gorsha Me Bro!”.