My husband has been a lot of places in the world with the military. He has experienced a number of different cultures and been immersed with the people. His first few days in Ethiopia, he was getting a little frustrated because not only was everyone staring at him, but he thought they looked judgmental or confused about the obvious strangers in their country. It didn’t take him long to get annoyed enough to start taking the initiative to say hello. “Selam,” he said as we’d walk past. He was surprised at what happened next.
[caption id="attachment_1545" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="He really wonders why people look at him funny?"][/caption]
His greeting was met with the biggest grin you’ve ever seen, followed with another greeting. What Nick realized is that people were just interested. They were so friendly! This new habit made all of our trips around town longer because we spent time interacting and sharing. Even though our Amharic isn’t polished enough to carry on a long conversation, we were so present with everyone we met. It was a good feeling, like we’re all here for a shared purpose. Is that weird to feel so connected when you only exchange a few verbalizations? It’s just so natural. I think this is why, when the kids point and say “ferengi” (foreigner) as I walk by, I sincerely try to convince them “na, enay habesha!” (no, I’m Ethiopian!). That, my friends, is a great way to hear some giggles :)
[caption id="attachment_1546" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Brothers"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1547" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Enay Habesha! ...although that hurts!"][/caption]
Here’s the real question, though: is that acceptance cultural, or is that just kindness?