19 December 2013

delightful moments

Had a few delightful exchanges today while out and about town... fluid moments in time, where you share laughter, companionship, and joy on this fine line that is the "present", second by second converting the future into the past.

Buying a pair of rubber house slippers at the roundabout in our sub-city, at a corner stall we walk by regularly... we are greeted by a smiling young man with a depth in his eyes that exceeds his age. With my broken Amharic phrases (since I can't form a sentence yet), and his grasp of English... he searches through the mound of shoes to find my size selasa-smint (38) -- his eyes sparkle "Oh... 8," he says. The middle-aged man inside the stall is the one who answers my question of how much they cost (senta-new?)... "hulet meto amsa" (250) he says. We smile, I tilt my head back, switching to English "Last price?" His eyes flash with an understanding that I know the correct bargaining questions... and he answers me in English, "230... 20 birr discount" and he turns to another customer. I look back to the younger lad... he sees my hesitation. I know I'm not getting a deal, but I really want the shoes. He coaxes me in English, "It's a good price." I wink at him and then, as playfully as possible, shoot back: "Yes, it is good. But hulet meto (200) is better." He breaks out into laughter and the other customers (2 young women) also chuckle as they watch. Bemused, the middle-aged shop owner casts me a sideways look and trying to act a bit annoyed, says, "Go. Take them." Still chuckling, the young women say delightedly: "very good... he accepts!" The young lad quickly bags them, still beaming, hands them to me and gives a hearty handshake goodbye. I tell them we will come again... especially if they break. ;-)

Further down the way, we interact with some vegetable (atkilt) selling ladies. We are learning the words for tomatoes (timatim), potatoes (denitch), onions (shuncourt), carrots (karot), and other vegetables. There are several kinds of greens, which you cook differently. One I recognize as gomen or what we know as collard greens. The other one is more like a mix between spinach and bok choy, and I suddenly realize I don't know the English word for it either. (Now, in the States, I can clearly differentiate between my mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, bok choy, kale, and lettuces. But here, I want to relinquish my English labels and anchor what I'm seeing, tasting, touching with the local label/word. That's part of the language learning process.) I point to the spinach looking green and ask what it is, "mindinao?" I regret to say, I do not remember the answer... it takes many times hearing it. Then I review the things I've learned, pointing and repeating the name. I point to the collard greens, "gomen" but I am corrected, "No! habesha gomen!" (meaning "Ethiopian goman") I point to the cabbage, "mindinao? .... " Then suddenly, before they can answer, I try to be funny and ask, "ferengi gomen?" (white-foreigner gomen?). But AT THE SAME TIME, one of the other older ladies also decides to be funny and shouts out "ferengi gomen". We end up speaking in stereo. Laughter ripples amongst the 3 side-by-side stalls, and smiles all around.

Little moments. Laughter breaking down differences and uniting us in seconds of understanding amidst language and culture barriers. It's a beautiful thing... this really being all the same. :-)

10 December 2013

along the journey to becoming a good Ethiopian

Things I am learning about how to become a good Ethiopian and do things the Ethiopian way... as per my Ethiopian brothers. :-)

1) Do not store up food in your cupboards. Use it up, then buy more. Buy your bread, vegetables, injera, milk, etc. on the day you plan to use it... not several days in advance.

2) Turn your water heater, stove propane, power strips, internet OFF when you are not using it or planning on using it shortly.

3) Do not walk away from milk you are heating on the stove. It WILL boil over.

4) Tea & Coffee are served after the meal. Not before. Not with.

5) When leaving the house, lock everything -- close all window shutters & lock drawers, closets, bedroom doors, house doors, out buildings, and finally... the gate.

6) Put onions, tomatoes, and berebere powder in almost everything you cook. ;-)

7) There are 12 parts/cuts to a chicken.

8) Liquid soap (dish detergent) is ferengi soap. The crumbly blue bar soap at all the little shops is Ethiopian soap. (I'm still trying to learn how to wash out water bottles with bar soap... will let you know when I figure it out... hee hee).

9) Salt. Ethiopian salt is like miniature rock salt... too small for an ice cream maker, but too large to just put directly in food or to fit through a salt shaker. It must be ground with a rolling pin before use. :-) And speaking of salt-shakers... you do not put salt on your food after it's cooked. The flavor doesn't blend well... you should put the right amount of salt in while cooking. :-)

10) It is 10 December. I went looking for Christmas decorations. Was told by shopkeepers that I am too early... come back in 10 days. ;-) Last-minute-Christmas-shoppers... come. This is your haven. (Ethiopian Christmas, or "Genna," is on 7 January).

Learning, learning, learning, learning... and that what life is about. :-) *happy sigh*

03 December 2013

the extraordinary ordinary

After I've been overseas for awhile or to a number of places, I tend to forget to write down the more "unusual" or "extraordinary" things I see, taste, touch, take in... because they become such a normal part of life. Here are some of those things from the last couple weeks.
  • Snacking on cactus fruit at a bus stop in Northern Ethiopia (which is really what dragonfruit is - but these taste waaaay different)
  • Tasting custard apples for the first time in Addis - yummy!! (look them up - these things look funky!)
  • Watching the beautiful landscape disappear under two separate layers of puffy clouds, as our 13-seater plane ascends over Tanzania
  •  Seeing cattle, goats, & sheep hurried across the road in advance of our careening bus, by a little Ethiopian shepherd boy who can't be more than 6 or 7 years old
  • Watching a breathtaking sunset behind the silhouette of a man leading his 3 camels home at dusk, bearing their burdens
  • Squeezing onto a bus that is already packed with 3x the amount of human souls it was designed to carry (because a taxi costs 100-300x the bus fare)
  • Scoffing at the outrageous price tags and walking away from familiar fruits, vegetables, & foods -- and filling our basket instead with local food items which are more reasonably affordable (and would be considered exotic at home). It seems strange to yearn for just one good ol' apple, when you can have your fill of cheap & delicious mangoes & pineapples
  • Making it halfway through the day before I realize that I'm still wearing a loose-fitting skirt which I had thrown over my long pajama shorts this morning in order to be culturally-appropriately-decent when I went into the kitchen to make coffee this morning, in the event the house-helper or guard might see me walk by
  • Unspoken rule #837 of living in Africa - your clothes do not necessarily have to "match"
  • Spending more hours sitting in bus seats in the last month than I have in airplane seats in the last 6 months
  • Not even blinking when the lights go out (again), or the shower is cold (again)
  • Finding myself analyzing, comparing, and ranking water pressure, internet speed, and yogurt quality everywhere I go
  • Realizing I'm probably a bit travel-weary, if nothing else, for the simple fact that I've slept in 14 different cities in the last 25 nights
  • The shocking realization that I am materialistic... a spiritual slap in the face. How do I know this? I take an extra suitcase with me places, or leave room in the one I have, to bring more stuff back home with me. Sure, I can explain it away with all sorts of reasons, but the bare bones truth is... materialism has its clutches on me, too. 
More to come...

24 September 2013

Dependency: the issue in missions

"You, Westerners, you know how to minister from strength, but you don't know how to minister from weakness. So it makes those of us who are weak... it makes it very difficult for us to partner with you."



"I stood a mendicant [beggar] of God, before His royal throne;
And begged Him for a priceless gift that I could call my own.
He gave the gift, but as I would depart,
I cried, "But, Lord, this is a thorn, and it has pierced my heart!
This is a strange and hurtful gift, that Thou has given me."
And He looked at me and said, "Oh, My child, I give good gifts, and gave My best to Thee."
So I took it home and though, at first, the cruel thorn hurt sore.
As long years passed, I learned at last, to love it more and more.
I found He never gives a thorn, without this added grace
He takes the thorn, to pull away the veil which hides His face."
(Martha Snell Nicholson)

21 August 2013

pretty much!

If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all. (D. Livingstone)

don't forget

True ministry is not a competition if we're all playing on the same team... HIS.