I've been planning this special evening with friends for quite a while now. What's so special about it you may ask? Well, nothing, aside from preparing massoor, cabbage and carrots, gomen besicah, injera, tej (home brewed by Timyay, but not completely done) and roasting my own beans for a coffee ceremony. Then, I invited the most amazing guests that all happen to be Ethiopian. Amharic was spoken about 75% of the evening, and once in a while Tim, Woineshet, and I got the jist of what was being said :) The ladies helped me tweak my recipes, and we all gathered around our large mesob (Ethiopian food basket) to enjoy a meal together. There was laughter and intense discussion about the next generation in Addis Ababa.
These friends are our newest family members! Our friend Anagaw helped us to meet Winnie's living birth relative in Ethiopia. He dropped his plans in Addis to show us around, eat loads of kitfo, and assist us in everything from buying a dress at the mercado to Teddy Afro music. He met Winnie on our first night together in the hotel, translating things for us. Tiru was our babysitter when Winnie first came home. We go to her and Admasu's house nearly every other week for Ethiopian food, coffee, hair braiding, and the warmest of conversations. The other friends who came for dinner have come into our lives more recently, but we feel the warmth with them as well. Like any family, it's important to show appreciation and come together to celebrate traditions. I wanted to do both of those things with this dinner. I wanted them to feel welcomed and as comfortable in my home as I have felt with them.
With that said, there are a lot of traditions and cultural pieces that I need to work on.
1. Stand when a senior enters the room
2. pour coffee to the senior most male in the room and go from there. A slight bow of the head and hand shake are appropriate.
3. burning incense on coals is a sign of welcome and honor when guests come to your home
4. Tej takes two months to mature (weak tej is called birz, which is what we actually served)
5. three cheek kisses upon arrival are appropriate
6. once green coffee beans are rinsed, they must be roasted that night (I rinsed the whole bag, and my kind guest helped me roast it!!)
...the list could go on and on. I am really looking forward to returning to Ethiopia. I have a much better understanding of the culture and traditions. I appreciate all the little details that take such time and effort. My initial interest may have been for Winnie's sake, but now I am drawn to this for myself. I am forever grateful for the friendships with my Ethiopian family. Caio, Abigail