Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Do as the Ethiopians Do.

We Held Hands
Our bus stopped and dropped us off in the middle of a busy marketplace. Bruce insisted that this was a market that we had to see. Reemberto jumped off of the bus exclaiming that Megan Moriarty, owner and operator of the Fenton Street Market would be overjoyed at the sight that was before us.

The tour guide led us off of the bus and began to point out the different areas of the market. As you might expect, we all went off in different directions, beholding what the market had to offer; looking for the perfect gift we could take back for a friend or loved one. Somehow I ended up with our tour guide, walking down the main thoroughfare. I don’t even remember what we were talking about, but as we were walking and talking he put his hand on my shoulder. After about 7 or 8 steps, his hand slid down my arm—and somehow, someway, his hand and mine were joined—just barely at the “pinky” and ring finger. In other words, we were holding hands (fingers to be more accurate—but you know what I mean).

He never stopped talking, and as a matter of fact he did so without changing his cadence or the tone of his voice. Meanwhile, bells and sirens were going off in my head, as I very intentionally resisted the urge to retreat, flee even. After about another 7-8 steps our hands separated—and we continued to talk and walk.

Unlike America, men in Ethiopia and (I’m told) other East African Countries are more openly affectionate toward each other. They often hold hands and embrace as a sign of friendship and genuine concern for each other. I knew this before entering the marketplace this day, but because of my own westernized, patriarchal, individualistic, homophobic programming I had to resist the urge to revolt in this moment. Nobody saw it (so I don’t have a picture of it here), but I left that moment challenged (for the better), and with a deeper understanding of what has been called “Filial”—brotherly or sisterly love. For that I am grateful.

Feeding Each Other
I was sitting there eating my lunch, and Enkutatash gestured for me to come across the room to come and join her at the seat between her and Ayanaw from the Mayor’s Office. I sat down and Enkutatash, without saying a word, broke off a piece of injera bread, scooped up a piece of meat off of the plate at the middle of the table, rolled it up in her hand, and lifted the morsel up right before my face. Doing the social math quickly, I opened my lips and she slipped the food into my mouth. She smiled, and then turned to her neighbor and continued the conversation she was having before I sat down next to her. At that moment, I figured-- when in Ethiopia, do as the Ethiopians do! I turned to my right and did the same that Enkutatash had done for me—I placed some food into the mouth of Ayanaw from the Mayor’s Office. He smiled. When I turned back toward Enkutatash she was smiling too. I was smiling too—not just with my mouth, but in my soul too. There we were, the three of us with injera eating grins plastered on our faces. While the others from the delegation watched (some in horror) we continued to feed each other until we were stuffed and could eat no more.

How about this? When in Montgomery County, do as the Ethiopians do? Hmmmm. . . Where would that take us?

Subversive, sub-terranean movements (sly smile added for emphasis).

NOTE: There are no pictures on this particular blogpost to highlight what I experienced here. Nevertheless, the picture has been indelibly imprinted on my own mind. I’m curious about what you are seeing in your own mind, and feeling in your spirit about this above recounting? I welcome your open and honest comments below (you can register as anonymous if you’d like). More pictures and reflections on our trip to Ethiopia can be found at montgomerygondar.webs.com (Currently under construction. Thanks Daniel Koroma!).