Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Alive and Well

This is just a quick update to let you all know that I'm alive! I made it safely from Chad to Ethiopia, and I'm currently enjoying the beautiful mountains, cold weather (85 degrees), and good Ethiopian cuisine.


I'll have to write more later because I'm rather short on time, but I have lots of stories from the end of my time in Chad, and I'm already collecting stories from my time here in Ethiopia.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Arab Maffie

Yesterday I went to the market to run some last minute errands. I'm leaving Bere on Friday, so I had a few more things to drop off at the tailor's, and I wanted to get some bread and things for lunch. Unfortunately, market trips are terribly unpredictable. Some trips are more successful than I could have hoped for, and others are just plain disappointing. Yesterday's trip was one of the disappointing ones, but it is redeemed by one thing: I had a funny experience that I will remember forever.

When I arrived at the market, I went first to the tailor's shop because I wanted to drop off the cloth to make room for vegetables and bread in my bag. The door was wide open, cloth was laying on the machine, and there were half-finished and finished products strewn about-- all signs that the tailor was in. Alas, despite these signs of life at the shop, there was no tailor to be found. All the women selling little things near the tailor shop looked at me, and I realized that they were all Arabic, so I couldn't even ask where he'd gone or when he'd be back. So I left to buy some vegetables, and came back to find the shop still empty.

The Arab woman across from the tailor shop motioned for me to sit on the bench and wait. So I did. I decided I would wait for 15 minutes, and if he didn't come, I'd finish all my market shopping, come back one last time, and leave if I couldn't find him. As I waited, the Arab women stared at me with unrelenting eyes. I looked everywhere but at them because it kind of made me nervous to be stared at. Finally, I looked at the Arab woman across from the shop.

She was making hand motions trying to communicate with me, but I couldn't understand. She would point to me, then point upward.

Somehow I don't imagine she's trying to say that she'll see me in heaven. What on earth could she mean?

In confusion, I said, "Arab maffie," and made a motion indicating that I didn't understand Arabic.

"Arab maffie?" she questioned.

I repeated, "Arab maffie."

"Ah, fie," she said triumphantly.

I laughed at the fact that she was implying that by my being able to say that I don't speak Arabic was a sign that I could indeed speak Arabic. She motioned for me to come over to her little hangar, and I complied wondering what she wanted me to come for. When I was right next to her, she motioned to her half-packaged bag of salt, and then motioned to me. She wanted me to help her bag the salt.

Her surprise when I actually sat down on her mat and motioned for her to give the bag to me made me laugh again. But she gave me the bag of salt, and I twisted it tight, and motioned for her to give me something to tie it. She did, and when I had finished I could tell that she had thought I didn't know how to do this simple task that she has done from the time of her childhood. She then motioned to the pile of natrone and handed me another little bag. I eyed how much natrone was in her already finished bags to sell, and filled the sac accordingly, twisted it, and tied it off.

She laughed as she said, "Kalass!" (it's finished, or no more) and then she shook my hand and thanked me. I smiled at her and the crowd of women who had gathered around, picked up my bag and headed home. I'm actually kind of glad that the tailor wasn't there. God worked out a different tailor for me, and if my tailor had been around, I would never have gotten to work for a moment with the Arab woman.