Posts tagged new year
Posts tagged new year
Happy 2005! Today was the first day of the new Ethiopian year. While I was doing my typical holiday routine (coka, dabo, doro wat, buna; rinse and repeat), my friend Leah was keeping me updated on her own progress halfway across the country. Here’s how her day went:
10:05 am: I just got buna’ed
10:15 am: Nothing like cake for breakfast.
10:36 am: I think my landlady is drunk. Awesome.
10:59 am: I just had to kiss a cross.
11:33 am: They want me to watch the slaughter. I don’t think I can.
12:21 pm: I’m sitting in a room with a priest who’s passed out on the couch. Just the two of us.
12:33 pm: Have you ever eaten raw liver before?
1:30 pm: I’m dry heaving eating these tibs.
2:08 pm: Just prayed for the third time, this one lasting for FIFTEEN minutes. And throughout priests were wailing on the TV in the background.
2:11 pm: Also, the dude sitting next to me just asked me for the ninth time (in a row) how I find Ethiopian cultural ceremony. Must be the only English he knows.
2:21 pm: I just saw Fergie at an Aster [an Ethiopian singer] concert on ETV. WTF?
2:25 pm: And there’s Wyclef Jean. Or is it Will.I.Am? Couldn’t tell.
2:35 pm: Ah, I see now. [The rest of the Black Eyed Peas were with Fergie. I was watching the same thing.] This is really random. And awful.
2:36 pm: Why don’t they ever show the Asian dude?
2:37 pm: He’s Asian, right?
2:43 pm: Now my landlady is feeding poor people who are disabled. Sometimes I really love this country.
2:50 pm: Time for rest!
Happy New Year!
Baga Geesan! Happy New Year, everyone, and welcome to 2004. Yesterday, I celebrated in classic Ethiopian style — did a little buna crawl, ate some delicious food, sat around and made small talk with my neighbors, and when there was a lull in the conversation, was urged to play.
I spent the morning making preparations to do my own coffee ceremony, cleaning, roasting, and then manually grinding the beans, and boiling the water; just as everything was almost ready, my neighbor Garama came to my door. “Joanna, come drink a coffee!” So I did, joining the rest of the neighbors on my compound. Two coffees, actually — poor decision, but it was so delicious. I returned to my room, got the water going again, and summoned everyone. Mukreet showed up first, and since the coffee was ready, I poured us each a cup. Weak sauce. With a little coaching from her, I added some more grounds and put the jabana back on the fire, which had died down a bit, so I spent some time fanning the flames and trying not to get ashes all over my nice, clean house.
In the meantime, everyone showed up and was chatting away, waiting patiently for the promised buna to materialize. Sudden, my landlord said, “We have a new name for you. A local name.” Uh-oh. “Iyanu.” Sounds nice, but Ethiopian names all have meaning* — what does Iyanu mean? Bumbling idiot? Clumsy? Girl can’t boil buna to save her life? Apparently, it’s a name given to a girl born on New Year’s Day, and it means “lucky.” I was being born into my habesha self, I guess, by boiling buna for my neighbors. We’ll see if it catches on, but it felt really good to be named by my compound.
Despite my little habesha christening, the ultimate buna product was pretty mediocre. Luckily, there’s another holiday coming up: Sept. 28 is Meskel, the finding of the true cross. I’ll have the chance to redeem myself in the cultural integration department then — I’d better get some practice in in the meantime. (I have to say, I boiled up the leftover grounds in my espresso pot this morning, and the simplicity was incredible but vaguely unsatisfying.) Also on the to-do list: pick up some incense to burn, popcorn to pop, and grass to scatter on the floor — key components of a complete coffee ceremony.
The rest of the day was bunalicious; we continued the buna crawl at the houses of two couples who live in my compound. I have trouble saying no to that second cup, so I ended up drinking seven cups of the stuff yesterday — thank goodness they’re small. The day ended where it began: with Garama poking his head in and summoning me, this time for some delicious kai wot (spicy, meaty, red stew). Ethiopia sure knows how to celebrate a new year.
*To elaborate on the name thing: it’s very common for folks in Ethiopia to ask what your name means. Name meanings here can be related to the person’s birthday or their place in the family; for example, I know a guy named Fassika (Easter), and another named Wandim (brother). Bigger concepts or things in nature are also common: Meheret (mercy) and Sahai (sun) are two women’s names. Oh, and Biblical names are all the rage: Dawit (David), Bethlehem, Eden, Solomon, Aster (Esther), Samuel, Yakob (Jacob)…you get the picture.
I didn’t often think about my name’s meaning back in the States, but “Joanna” means “God is gracious,” which is hard to explain when you aren’t great at the language and folks aren’t necessarily great at English. So when discussing the meaning with my host family, we settled on “gift of God,” which happens to be the name of my oldest host sister. So now when people ask what my name means, I tell them it’s Bereket, sacrificing a little bit of accuracy for the recollection of that moment with my Ethiopian family when I felt like I belonged.