I know all of you at home have been waiting for this post. Yes, my mother came to Ethiopia. I was expecting pure hilarity at seeing her exist in the society that I now consider home. While there were entertaining parts, it was a pretty low-key visit. Besides mom’s body rejecting Ethiopia (she got sick in like, every way possible), I’m fairly sure she had a good time.
Yes, she saw the sights – Lake Tana and a 700 year old monastery, the Simien Mountains, and the castles and churches in Gondar. I would have loved to have taken her to other places, like Lalibela and Aksum (and many of my Ethiopian friends were disappointed that I did not take her there), but there was not enough time.
I think what was most interesting were the things that have just become so normal to me that I didn’t even think to explain to my mom. Take the shoulder bump, for example. When Ethiopians greet each other, you not only shake hands but you also bump shoulders. The first time someone tried to shoulder bump my mom, she hugged them. Oops, forgot to explain that one.
We took public transportation from Bahir Dar to Woreta, which was the part of the trip I was most worried about. Mini-buses can be a nightmare here. Hot, smelly, overcrowded, and no one will open a window. We got in a bus pretty easily, and my mom thought we had the entire seat, that would normally fit two people, to ourselves. As more and more people loaded on the bus I had to tell her that no mom, this seat is not for two people, it’s for four.
We went to a friend’s house for lunch. I didn’t really prepare her for the part of Ethiopian hospitality that requires them to stuff their guests full of so much food their stomach literally feels like exploding. I don’t think I’ve ever been so full after a meal as I have been when invited to Ethiopian’s houses. They don’t take no for an answer and will always give you more food. Mom was served injera, shiro, potatoes, cabbage, and bread. After she had been picking at the food that she probably didn’t even like that much for 10 minutes, our host came out with a giant plate of spaghetti for her as well. She looked at me and said “Courtney, I can’t eat this” and I told her it was okay not to. At the end of the meal our host also presented my mom with about 5 kilos of shiro powder (enough shiro to last my entire Peace Corps service).
I also noticed what a hermit I’ve become. I haven’t been around someone that speaks fluent English for nine days straight in 10 months. I’m constantly around people here, but conversation is limited because of my subpar Amharic skills. When I see my site mates its for a few hours a couple days a week. While I loved being able to see my mom and show her my life here, I was also exhausted by simply having to be social for so long.
Overall it was a great nine days and I’m so glad someone from my family could come and understand what my life here is like. She was a champ. For someone who has never travelled to anywhere nearly as exotic as Ethiopia, I think she did great. She tried the food, drank the coffee, took some cold showers, and even used a public shint bet. Gobez mom, you survived Ethiopia.