My children sat in crisp, freshly laundered cultural attire. I wore the gauzy scarf around my head, sticking out like a sore thumb but trying to find a balance of respect and humility in the sacred assembly. As I sat amongst the sea of gauzy white cotton clad worshipers, frankincense enveloped me. I quickly became entranced, listening to what seemed like lightening fast Amharic to the slow, English speaking ear. Occasionally, I teased a few words I knew to the surface..."small, don't worry, I'm sorry." It was not enough to understand the service, these few fragments I understood. The smile that lingered on my face was not understanding of the words spoken, but recognition of the people group represented here... The culture that produces kindness and gestures of hospitality where there are no means to do so, friendly handshake and kisses on the cheeks, bestowing greetings as a close friend, the large hunk of raw beef hurled at me and offered to my husband who could not attend the celebration. I smiled because I had come to know and love these people as my own. I could not convey the appreciation I felt in my heart for allowing me to be a part of the celebration.
As I sat in the church, I drifted back to this date one year ago. The same sights, smells, and people who had led me to my son. The high pitched music that drifted from the small shopping stalls, the friendly greeting and proud use of a few American phrases with big white toothed grins, the thick diesel fumes in the city replaced by fine red dust in the country, but mostly the welcoming strangers who became my distant relatives. I recounted my first time swinging Mesay in the court yard, holding his hand, hastily trying to find activities that we could all understand and enjoy. Life had led us through so much over this last year, but in this moment, I was remembering our time there. New friends had been quick to translate for us, happy to travel hundreds of miles to find long lost family with us, and had welcomed us into their homes.
What an honor to be among my family yesterday at the Saint Michael festival, showing my children how I admire and enjoy our Ethiopian culture. To greet friends, new and old, with my shabby Amharic skills, eat some raw beef, and kiss cheeks with those I find precious.
I long for Ethiopia. I celebrate my short time there. I hope to return soon. I am so grateful for my family rooted in this culture.
(Mesay was a little tired and sweaty, but we were all glad to have gone)