Dear Family and friends,
Today I spent most of my day with Medhanie. After I gave him a long flute lesson we went out and visited over Mango drinks. These are delicious. It is fresh mango blended like a fruit smoothie. They are served with lime and usually take about 30 minutes to drink because they are very rich.
While visiting with Medhanie, I discovered the painting of the world that is behind the flute students in the picture that is posted on my blog is his work. He hand designed it and made a map of our earth for the students to learn from. Take a look at it when you look at the blog. It looks like a real map.
Later on that day Medhanie helped me with the house girls with their flute lessons. The girls are doing well but still struggle with their rhythm. Rhythm is also difficult for Medhanie to understand too. So his translation was not the best and the lesson ended with the girls a little frustrated. Seyoum is in Mekele right now getting his diploma and will not be back until tomorrow. I will talk with him and have him help with some of my broken Tigrinya to get the girls to understand. I told the girls not to worry; rhythm is often difficult a lot of students to understand.
Medhanie invited me to his house for coffee ceremony. We walked across town to his home. It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The sun was blazing hot. Medhanie and I were finding it difficult to walk in such hot heat. He hailed a cab for us to take to his home. A cab in Adigrat, Ethiopia is a horse drawn buggy. We got on the buggy and the driver sailed through the center of town at record speed. I couldn’t figure out what the hell the hurry was all about. He hit that poor skinny horse so many times. I wanted to take his whip and hit him a few times. The driver was making me angry and I have forgotten the lack of animal rights in this country. The poor horse whinnied in pain as he hit it. The buggy one-wheeled itself several times as we leaped over rocks. I thought for certain he was going to flip us upside down. I hung onto Medhanie for dear life.
We arrived at Medhanie’s home and I quickly got off the buggy. Medhanie laughed at me as I jumped off so quickly. We walked through his gate into a compound that has several homes that enclose a center square. In the square were several lines of laundry drying in the sun and several gardens. His mother, whose name is Lemlem, heard our voices and ran out to meet us. I met his mother once before when Safia, Seyoum, and I all went to Medhanie’s for dinner one night. She embraced me tightly and I embraced her back tightly. She said several very sweet sounding words in Tigrinya and escorted me into their little home.
Lemlem was busy making the coffee. Coffee ceremony in Ethiopia is a big deal. I am not sure if the ceremony has been explained or not in some of our previous blogs so I will reiterate the process of the coffee ceremony for you to understand.
In Ethiopia, men say, if women want to have a good talk they have a coffee ceremony. That is because the coffee ceremony takes a long time and gives the women an afternoon to visit. In our case, the ceremony is for me as a guest and it is something to do in honor of the guest. First the room has to be prepared. Palm leaves and assorted flowers are gathered. The palm leaves are laid on the floor and flowers are scattered all over the palm leaves. This natural carpet covers a space of about 4-6ft in width and about 2-3ft in length. Next a fire is started with a chimney type BBQ. It’s small, 12-14 inches high and 12 inches wide. Fire is started underneath and coals are placed on top of the BBQ area. When the coals are ready (similar to when a BBQ is ready) the person performing the coffee ceremony puts the green coffee beans in a small round pan and proceeds to roast the beans over the fire. Smoke fills the room with the heavenly scent from the BBQ and the roasting beans. The smell is delightful and can put any Starbucks to shame. After the roasting is completed, the beans are hand ground into the consistency of espresso. Several heaps of the ground beans are put into the Jebena. A jebena is a hand held ceramic coffee carafe. Water is added to the jebena and the coffee maker begins the brewing process.
To brew the coffee, the water boils. The maker transfers the hot boiling ground coffee into another cup and turns and swirls the grounds around, then returns it to the jebena. The coffee boils again and again and the turning process is done several times. When the coffee is ready several small espressos size cups are put on a tray. Large heaps of course ground cane sugar is put into each small cup. The jebena is plugged with a scouring type of clothe to filter the ground beans. The coffee begins to be poured. The maker fills all cups without stopping. This means that she will go from cup to another pouring the coffee. Often the coffee spills onto the saucers. The small cups are filled to the brim and then served to the guest with a small spoon.
Incense accompanies the making of the coffee by putting one of the hot coals into a bowl of incense. Then popcorn is hand popped over the fire and sugar is added to the popping corn. The popcorn is poured out onto a large platter and is put with several pieces of hard candy and a large loaf of round bread on top. Sometimes fruit is also served, such as banana or mangos.
The guest is asked to break the bread into fourths and take a piece of bread, popcorn, and candy. The head of the household will begin the ceremony with prayer and then we eat the bread, popcorn, and candy with our coffee as we visit. Visiting and talking is done through this entire time.
The coffee is made in 3 rounds. The first cup is the strongest, the second is weaker and the third is the weakest. I was told the names of each round but I didn’t write them down. That will have to come in another blog. It is a lot of fun and a great way to visit with each other.
Next Lemlem, got up and began to chop onions, garlic, and potatoes. I asked Medhanie what is she doing and he said, “She is cooking.” Well duh, I thought. I figured she must be starting their dinner. Next she sautéed the garlic, onion, and potatoes in butter and cooked them over the fire of the small BBQ. She cracked 3 eggs, whisked them and added them to the mixture. I started to feel that maybe Medhanie should take me home so he could be back in time for his dinner. Lemlem got a large plate, added several biscuits to the plate and scraped the eggs onto the plate. Medhanie stood up and thanked his mother and she left. Then Medhanie sat down and said grace. I was surprised. Lemlem made US dinner.
In Ethiopia, this is custom. The mother will not allow her guest to leave her home hungry. At first I wasn’t sure what to think of this but Medhanie explained to me. I thought that was very generous of her.
M y visit with his family continued. I felt very special sitting their spending a Saturday afternoon in an Ethiopian home. I enjoyed watching some funny Ethiopian movies with his family too. The afternoon was delightful. I was surprised at how well I could understand the Tigrinya in the movies.
It was getting late and I wanted to make it back to the convent before dark. I told Medhanie I need to go.
As we walked back to the convent the evening air was much cooler and the walk was a nice distance. I ran into several of my students from my general music classes. I love it when I see them. They ran to me, we hugged and kissed and then they began to speak to me in English. I was very pleased with them. They are practicing my assignments I gave them last week. It is my hope that by the time I leave Adigrat I will have all the children able to hold a conversation with me. That way when some of you come to Adigrat the language barrier will not be such an issue.
I have to say Ethiopian customs are so eloquent. Their gestures are of kindness that is true and simple. It makes the Ethiopian happiest to give and make things comfortable. I always feel so special to be around these people. I cannot help myself; I fall in love with them every time. They are truly beautiful. I am very blessed indeed to be here.