Dear Family and Friends,
Life can be frustrating sometimes in Adigrat. I spent all last week attending a workshop with Abba W/Selassie Tesfay regarding his OMCA (Orthodox-Muslim-Catholic-Association) and their “Unity of Life” program in prevention of HIV and the program they developed to help those who are dying from AIDS. After attending the workshop, I sat down for several hours with Father and interviewed him regarding his program and the work that has been done since last year. I came back to the convent and typed up 6 pages worth of documentation. Then I lost power!!!! When the power came back I rebooted my computer to find that I had lost the entire document. Wow, wow!!!! Was I mad!!!!! Now I have to go back again and redo the entire process. So frustrating, now I make sure everything is saved and that I will not loose my work ever again.
I went to see the doctor because I was not recovering from my virus. I had pneumonia and was put on a heavy antibiotic. The medicine helped me but the sister’s house lost their water (I think parts of Adigrat were without water too.) I had to live out of a bucket of water everyday. Every morning I wake, I am sick, I don’t want to get out of bed but I have to. I proceed to the washroom, kneel on the cold stone floor, take a big deep breath and pour the icy cold water over my head. I can’t tell you much fun this was. Not!!!! I would say to myself “wake up, wake up.” The cold water and with my sickness was unbearable to pour over my head. I hated it so much. Then I had to wash my body with the water and use this water to flush the toilet. It was not fun. One day I’m sitting with Sr. Lette and she is very worried about me because I am sick and I am bathing in this cold water. I said, “Don’t worry; this is when we tell God how much we appreciate things when we have them. When we get water again, I will be so thankful. “That is exactly what I did. We got water on Sunday morning. I stood underneath my warm shower and thanked God over and over again as I enjoyed the hot water and could wash my hair, flush my toilet, and finally get laundry done. It felt good to have a clean body and put on clean clothing again. Not to mention to flush the toilet more than once a day.
It’s these little things in life that we don’t experience in America. In Ethiopia it is so common to live several days without power, or our case several weeks without water. It is common to see the women hauling water from the rivers; they spend all day doing this. In the village of Zalambaasa these women walk 7 miles to get to the well for their daily water. That’s 14 miles a day. We truly don’t know what it is like to live without. Often the water we do have in Adigrat is contaminated and people get very sick from it. The people of this village say, a good day is when we don’t get sick from the water.
This last weekend the sisters invited me to a wedding. I missed the ceremony in the church but I attended the wedding celebration on Saturday afternoon. Weddings here in Tigrai go on for about a week. First they celebrate the marriage with a high mass ceremony at the cathedral. Then the bride goes back to her parent’s house and waits for her husband to come for her. There are two parties that go on all afternoon for this: one at the groom’s family and the bride’s family’s homes.
We first attended the groom’s family. Outside of the home was a very large tent. As you entered the tent there were benches placed in squares and in each square seats about 20 people. The tent was filled with people. They were all drinking mez (homemade honey wine) and souwa (homemade beer). As soon as we found a square area to sit we were immediately given glasses and they poured us at least 20 oz. of souwa right away. I turned it down because souwa goes right to my head and I didn’t want to get drunk around the sisters and the priests (which we joined when we sat down.) The kettles of souwa were being poured into cups as if there was an endless bound of beer for the party. I was then given a bottle of mez (this is considered an honor) from one of the family members of the wedding party. I drank some of it out of respect but did it carefully because it was very strong. We all visited with the happy family and enjoyed having conversation with everyone. Next we were brought in a large injerra basket that was filled with injerra and a large bowl of tholo. First they placed a circle dining table in the middle of the square where we could place our glasses of souwa and bottles of mez underneath. On top of the table they placed the platter of injerra and tholo. A girl accompanied the dish holding a large ball of soft barley. She sat down she rolled the soft barley into small balls. The tholo was topped with a creamy cheese, looks like sour cream but it isn’t. Then it is topped spices that look similar to ground pepper. As the girl places the balls of barley onto the injerra we use small sticks to poke the balls and dip them into the tholo mix.
Tholo is a mixture of red pepper, onion, garlic, and other spices with sheep meat. It looks a lot like a stew. It is very delicious to enjoy. As we poke the balls and dip them into the cream and tholo type stew we then feed each other. I really enjoy this part of their culture. It is such a loving way to attend to each other. After a while the bowl of tholo is dumped out onto the injerra, more cream is topped to it and then we all take pieces of the injerra bread and use it to scoop up the stew and eat it. The dish goes incredibly well with the mez and souwa drink.
After we finished our meal, the music began. I looked up and saw two of St. Lucy’s 7th and 8th grade student boys indicating that they wanted to dance with me. I laughed and responded back with dance movements that shared with them a thank you but not now. This did not stop these boys; they followed me all over the tent. It was pretty funny.
The 5th – 8th grade boys are very funny at St. Lucy’s. I teach their classes and I often see them giving me the eye. I ignore them but sometimes they really want me to know that they like me. I get pictures and holy cards from them all the time. I laugh and graciously accept them. One day I was teaching the 6th grade class and I became very warm. I removed my netsala (shawl like wrap) and I had a sleeveless shirt on. I didn’t think that this was a problem until all the boys gave me cat calls. I looked at the teacher and laughed and I immediately put my netsala back on. I thought to myself “These boys, they start so young.” One day some of the 5th and 6th grade boys found it ok to slap my bottom. I turned around and glared at them with an angry face and told them no. But this didn’t stop them until teacher Solomon saw them do it and he took his teaching stick and slapped each one on the hand. I looked at him and thanked him and told him they weren’t listening to me. He really scolded them and now I don’t have anyone touching me. So when I’m at this wedding and I saw these boys following me I have to become aggressive and let them know that they needed to leave me alone. Young hormones!!!!!! It does make me laugh inside myself though. It is both funny and cute.
After we visited the groom’s family for a while we walked across Adigrat to the bride’s family. Again we were given the beer and wine to drink and tholo to eat. I accepted my second glass but didn’t drink it and only nibbled a little bit on the tholo. It was too much. I went with the sisters to meet the bride. What a beauty she was. She wasn’t in a traditional Ethiopian wedding dress, she wore what we would wear but still she was so beautiful. I congratulated her and wished her all the happiness in the world for her and her husband.
I stepped outside to call some of my friends for the evening program we had arranged. As I tried to talk to some of them but I was blasted out with honking horns, cars filled with members of the groom’s family. I went back in and sat down to watch the entrance. It was a procession, first with the family members dressed in cloaks that are in the colors of the Ethiopian flag and a large regal lions on the back symbolizing the strength of Ethiopia from the lion. They danced in while beating the drums. First they danced in a circle dancing, singing, and beating the drums. Then the wedding party joins them and they dance around. The happiness and joy of this procession was wonderful to watch, I loved it.
Next they proceeded forward and the last person of the procession was the groom. They all proceeded forward to the front of the bride’s tent. At the front of the tent was a raised floor with a sofa and chairs for the wedding party to sit and enjoy the feast and celebration. As the groom walked forward I noticed two large suitcases that were being carried with him. When they got to the raised floor the groom sits down and has the suitcases opened for him. The suitcases are filled with gifts for the bride. It was filled with clothing, jewelry, and other things he had bought for her to bring her into a beautiful life with him. It was precious to see his love and I looked with admiration to see such a loving way to treat his bride. The groom had a dowry set aside for him and in his preparation for the marriage he spends this money these gifts to prepare for their new life and home.
Then the bride enters. She is gorgeous, decked out in her beautiful wedding dress, gorgeous jewelry, and her face made up so beautiful. She was brought in and seated by the groom. The groom presented gifts to her as he offered her his love and she accepted them so sweetly. In Ethiopian weddings, the bride and groom do not receive gifts like we do; instead the family and friends give money to help them start their lives. I liked this culture and tradition much more than how we do our weddings. Not to include the party goes on for days. That is so cool.
We spent most of Saturday afternoon dancing, singing, and enjoying the celebration of this marriage. Many family members sang songs in honor of the mother-in-law for her preparations of the wedding and other songs of love for the bride and groom. As I sat and visited so many wonderful people I was then asked to dance. So I did. I got up and started to dance with the groom’s mother. Oh how did I attract everyone? First they all were stunned to see me dance traditional Tigrai dancing so well. Then they loved the fact that I was in traditional clothing. Soon I had the video camera on me and a spot light so everyone could see. People were standing on the benches clapping and singing to me. The bride was smiling ear to ear as she watched me dance with her mother in law. I was then adorned with the lion cloaks from the wedding party and several of the guests joined me. Everyone was happy, clapping their hands, and the drums were pounding. I danced and danced with them. I smiled so big they all could see how much I loved this. I had such a good time. After we finished we all clapped and clapped. The bride and groom stood up and clapped for me. I turned to them and gave them a bow of thank you. They both were smiling so big. I was honored by so many people after that. It really makes the Ethiopians very happy to see a white person engage in their culture. I evidently am extremely different from other foreigners. I guess the other foreigners don’t do what I do. For me, I love these people. How could I not join them? They are the most wonderful people I have ever met. I am so lucky to know them.
After several hours we returned to the groom’s tent. Several of the family members were still there. Now several were drunk. It was funny. The two boys were still there. They again tried to get me to dance with them but I was starting to feel tired and I had been out in the hot sun all day long. When it got to be after 8pm I asked Sr. Desta if I could go home. I called my friends, canceled our program and I went home. I changed, cleaned myself from all the dirt, smoke from the fires, and cleaned my hands from eating the tholo.
I did not see the return of the bride and groom but I understood that they came back to the groom’s family’s home around 9pm on Saturday. They spent their first night together as husband and wife and the celebration of the two families will continued into the early hours of the morning. From what I understood this celebration continued until Tuesday of this week.
After I cleaned up and changed I called one of my friends. He was supposed to come and join me but he was helping his brother to catch a bus to Axum. His brother was going to Axum to attend the university. The bus was supposed to come at 2pm. Gebremedhin and his brother got to the bus station at 1:30 that afternoon. I called him around 8:30 that evening. He said the bus had not come yet. I asked when it was supposed to come. Gebremedhin answered at 10:00pm tonight. I asked why you went to the bus station at 1:30 then. He responded “because I was told that the bus was suppose to come at 2pm.” I felt so bad for him. I asked, “How are you?” He responded, “I am very cold, but I will not leave my brother alone. I will wait with him and make sure he gets on the bus safely.” Later on Monday when I saw him at school I asked him if his brother got safely to Axum. He said that he did. He said the bus finally came at 11:30pm that night. He said when he got home he was so cold that it took him all day on Sunday to warm back up. I felt so bad for him. I love people like this. It is people like this that demonstrate such kindness and love toward their family. In Ethiopia family is most important next to God. The next day the poor guy was very sick. He could barely teach his class. So I went to the pharmacy and bought him medicine to help him feel better.
The flute school is doing very well. I have several classes I teach everyday. My first class is at 1pm. It is the advanced flute class B. At 1:15pm I work with the teachers while Seyoum teaches class B. At 3pm I have the students from the child-headed households caring project. I am currently teaching this class but when I return to the USA I will have Gebremedhin help me with these classes. At 4:30pm I have the beginners flute class where Medhanie, Seyoum, and I rotate in taking turns teaching it. At the same time Seyoum and I also rotate teaching the advanced flute class A. After these classes I then give private lessons. My day begins at 7am and ends at 7pm. It is a long day. My voice is exhausted from teaching and singing to the children.
I have mentioned that I have over 50 students and at least 50 students on a wait list. It’s insane. Everyday I am approached with the request from many students that they want to start flute classes. I don’t have enough flutes or teachers to accommodate this need. I need flutes and teachers so badly. My three teachers: Seyoum, Medhanie, and Gebremedhin all work so hard to help me. They all are very dedicated to the school, very serious about their study of the flute, and they assist me as much as they can. But these are teachers who already spend their day teaching their classes from 8am – 4:30pm everyday. They are tired but still they give their time to me and the students. This helps me but isn’t enough to help the demand of want for flute classes. I really hope I can get more teachers to come and help me. I hate that I will have to leave all these wonderful teachers and students in about 5 weeks. It makes me very sad that no one else can come and take over the classes.
Seyoum and I will go to the University of Mekele music school to work with the flute program at the college. I am going to give a masterclass and discuss with the flute teacher and their Dean the need for more teachers and see if I can get the help from there. I will keep all of you posted on that.
It’s another retreat for the sisters this weekend. I am going to make myself scarce so I don’t disturb them like I did the last time. Today is Friday 11-13-09. It is the feastday of St. Lucy so I will attend adoration with the sisters and the teachers after I’m done with my flute classes. After that I have an appointment with the teachers to have dinner and watch the program of my documentary of my flute school. It is aired tonight at 7pm Ethiopian time out of Addis Ababa with ETV. If you have satellite you probably can catch it within this next week. If not, I plan to post it on my blog and Utube when I return. Of course I will send all of you the link when I have done so. After dinner we plan to go out dancing. This should be lots of fun.
That’s it for now. I will write more very soon. Things have been crazy busy for me and my time slips away so quickly. Often times I don’t have power or I can’t get onto the internet either and that’s another reason why you don’t hear from me. So please be patient with me when you do not hear from me in over a week. It is not because I’m not sending anything it is because I usually can’t send something. I love everyone and hope everyone is doing well. Please drop me a line through email or give me a call. I would love more than anything to hear from all of you.
God Bless You and with all my love,