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My Life as a Faranji…Post #1 From Ethiopia!

September 24, 2009
Weeeeell as most of you have figured out, my work has taken me halfway around the world to the incredibly hospitable nation of Ethiopia. This country is AMAZING, not only because of the food (which yes, we will discuss later) but because the people are so friendly and kind to foreigners.

Faranji, the Amharic (Ethiopian national language) word for “white,” refers, obviously, to the color of my skin. In a country as ethnically diverse as Ethiopia (their tribes vary significantly in skin tone and physical build), my white face still shines like a beacon most places we go. Unlike in India, however, when people would stop to take pictures, the attention given is minimal. I.e., Oh. A faranji. How nice. 

The more attention-grabbing aspect of my personage? My monster mitten-like faranji paw, courtesy of a bad  burn off an evil pot of boiling pasta water in my kitchen in Virginia, pre-trip:

See my giant hand?? (what I looked like leaving my apartment in the States)

See my giant hand?? (what I looked like leaving my apartment in the States)

At this point I’m pretty tired, so I’ll do the rest of the post in photomontage with captions, and upsate more fully this weekend.

First off, the reason I’m here: we’re doing a survey tracking migrants from a bunch of rural households to other rural areas and to urban areas. I’m staying in the large capital city, Addis Ababa, where I basically have most (if not all) the comforts of home (with the exception, of course, of safe to drink tap water and the ability to eat sliced fruit and veggies). Today was my first day in the field, and it was so cool. Weather in Addis starts cool in the morning to warm at lunchtime, and then back down again. It hovers around 70, basically, so it’s gorgeous. The site of our first survey, Debre Zeyit, was HOT though, so things got a little sweaty today. Evidently it rained in Addis, but we missed it.

En route to Debre Zeyit

En route to Debre Zeyit

Kiddies in Ude Kebele

Kiddies in Ude Kebele

These kids LOVED the camera. Every time I took a shot, I would show them the picture on the screen, and they would crack up laughing.

The following picture is of an item present in all rural villages here: the Yes We Sell Local Beer Here sign.

Beer Here!

Beer Here!

This beer is brewed in the home, and has around 2.5% alcohol. No, it’s not safe for the faranji to drink. St. George, at $0.60 a pop, however, is safe, and delicious.

Vista in the village.

Vista in the village.

This cow moos in Oromifa (tribal language of the area)

This cow moos in Oromifa (tribal language of the area)

This is a fence, with a gate. This is a fence, with a gate.
Surveyers, speaking to a household head (gentleman in the fedora)

Surveyers, speaking to a household head (gentleman in the fedora)

 

Me, hot, tired, and EXHILARATED.

Me, hot, tired, and EXHILARATED.

 

I can make kids laugh in any language!

I can make kids laugh in any language!

 It was really funny – the kids kept calling me something in their native launguage, and when I asked the survey leaders what they were saying, they told me the kiddies were saying “Flour face! Flour face!” They had seen foreigners before, but it’s still rare enough to be a spectacle. It was hilarious.

Tiny fruit. Inedible, unfortunately, and I've got no clue what it's called, but I thought it looked like a tiny watermelon. Cute! Oh, and it hangs from a tree.

Tiny fruit. Inedible, unfortunately, and I've got no clue what it's called, but I thought it looked like a tiny watermelon. Cute! Oh, and it hangs from a tree.

Grain storage.

Grain storage.

Adorable.

Adorable.

Can you guess how old he is? Well, I mustered up the courage to ask him (in Amharic, no less) and he replied with a shy “zetegn” (pronounced “zay-tanyeh”). Nine. He’s in the third grade and speaks Oromifa and Amharic.

After a full day of interviews and traveling, we retired to Addis for dinner. Ahhh the dinner. The main cuisine here is obviously Ethiopian, but there are actually a wide variety of foreign options too. Tonight’s choices, at what is fast becoming our fave restaurant (the waiters recognize us and we have our own table) was a combo of Ethiopian shiro (essentially a chickpea-based meatless chili which has been whizzed up so it’s smooth), injera (bread made from teff, a grain that comes with the yeast built), and…fish and chips!

Shiro, on injera. Yes, you eat it with your hands, using the injera to pick up the sauce.

Shiro, on injera. Yes, you eat it with your hands, using the injera to pick up the sauce.

Fish and chips, the Ethiopian way (i.e. WAY better)

Fish and chips, the Ethiopian way (i.e. WAY better)

I’ve had a ton of different foods now, and a TON of injera. It’s all fantastic, and I can’t wait to try more!

Well, that’s all I got today. I’ll have more this weekend, after the celebration of Meskel (big holiday in the Ethiopian Orthodox church where they have a bonfire and street parties throughout the city and a few more field visits. For now, I shall give you a list of the words I know in Amharic, as my Tip of the Day!

ameseghinalehu (pronounced “ahmasaygahnahloo” – thank you

buna – coffee (it. is. DELISH.)

and – one

hulet  – two

sost – three

arat – four

amist – five

sidist – six

sabat – seven

sement – eight

zetegn – nine

asir – ten

So I can order two coffees (hulet buna) and thank the waiter when I get them (ameseghinalehu)! I know a few more, but I’m sleepy, so more lessons later. Chau! (like Ciao, but Amharic…Ethiopia was once an Italian colony)

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Rob permalink
    September 24, 2009 5:30 pm

    Beautiful pictures! And thanks for the language lesson. I might try those in ESL class tonight.

    Gosh, imagine if American kids got around to using “flour face” on the playground. Ouch. Apparently kids are mean *everywhere.* At least they didn’t tease you for your misshapen claw.

    Also, what’s with the pictures of the white bread? I’m looking for African delicacies and I see Wonder bread in the background?

    Sleep well. Keep healing. Stay cool.

    • lisam permalink
      September 24, 2009 11:47 pm

      Hahaha – yes, kida have the same tendencies everywhere! I don’t think they were intending to insult me though – flour’s just the most recognizable thing they have that’s my color!

      And as for the white bread, it’s EVERYWHERE here – the place I’m staying gets a lot of European researchers, so the restaurants and supermakets have learned to accomodate these foteign tastes. For example: in the supermarket near the compound, they actually sell imported french butter!

      I’m here for quite a long time, so it will be nice to have some options other than pureky injera. 🙂

      Thanks for posting!!

  2. Geoff permalink
    September 24, 2009 6:05 pm

    Ahhh! I was going to ask you to tell me if you see an Ethiopean Orthodox or Catholic Church! Tell us all about it if you observe any of these festivities you mentioned! I’m an Eastern Christianity buff, you might not know. Also, I’m curious: what do they do to improve on fish and chips? And how does that grain have yeast built in? This sounds like a really, really cool trip!

    • lisam permalink
      September 25, 2009 4:23 pm

      It’s sortof like sourdough – they let the grain ferment and activate for a few days.

      I’ll have to respond to the rest later – it’s too much to put in one reply. I’ll prob. have an entire post on religion though, so stay tuned.

  3. September 24, 2009 8:01 pm

    Sabat = Sabado = Saturday. Seventh day of the week!

    P.S. You look so beautiful in that picture with the maroon shirt. Africa looks good on you!

    • lisam permalink
      September 25, 2009 4:21 pm

      Thanks, Vic. That’s sweet of you to say. 🙂

  4. Rob permalink
    September 25, 2009 8:48 am

    My best guess at the melon is that it is a Dudaim melon, also known as a pocket melon, apple melon, Queen Anne’s Melon, or pomegranate melon. If so, it will turn orange and extremely fragrant when ripe and keep a house smelling nice for weeks. Apparently Victorian women carried these small melons, which grow to about the size of a large lemon, in their pockets for the perfume-like qualities, hence the name “pocket melon”

    Like its cousin, the watermelon (and just about every other member of the melon family), it is native to Ethiopia.

    Of course, I could be totally wrong.

    • lisam permalink
      September 25, 2009 4:24 pm

      Sounds 110% believable. Rob = melon expert.

  5. September 25, 2009 12:18 pm

    OMG, Lisa – what a great post! I love it! It looks beautiful there, you look and sound super happy, interested and thrilled and I’m just so happy for you and this trip! And I’m super impressed by your language ability. You’ve been there for what, 5 days and already know more than most people who are there for months. Have fun and know we are all missing you here!

  6. September 25, 2009 1:56 pm

    Glad to see you made it safely and that you are enjoying the trip. Be safe!!

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