With Terese still in the States adoring her new little grandson, I am here in Addis having to fend for myself. The past few weeks have been off and on with stress and it tends to add up, especially recently. The other night, I didn’t feel like cooking anything and certainly did not want to get in the car and idle through the traffic to a restaurant, so I headed up the hill on foot to the Family Restaurant to get something that resembles a hamburger. Just as I walked up to the place, I made a quick left turn on instinct and went to the place next door instead, the “Italian” food place where Hywät works.
I went there the other day and she was not there, which kinda disappointed me. But that night she was. I realized, the only reason I went there was to have a good conversation with her, as it’s not the pizza. I guess my psyche knew I needed a good dose of humor.
Her first reaction did not seem too happy, like she was upset because we have not been in to eat lately, because usually she chews our butts out right away for not showing up. But I clambered up on a bar stool and ordered a pizza and beer. Within a minute, she was back to old herself.
Again, on these conversations, I catch only bits and pieces of them, just enough to catch the gist. And sometimes, I have no idea what she says, but because of her laughter I know it’s got to be funny, so I end up laughing anyway.
She has a slight nasal tone to her voice, which seems to fit with her thin frame. Also, as with all locals, when they say Ethiopian, the “th” becomes simply “t”. As in E’tiopian.
After some light talking, I asked her, “How old are you? 23?”
“Yes, I’m 23.”
“When’s your birthday?”
“I have a sister whose birthday is March 15th.”
She smiles and states, “That’s only one day away!”
“Yeah, and my mother’s birthday is March 18th! She is very old. When she goes outside, buzzards sit down beside her.”
“That’s two days away!” (the buzzard comment went over her head)
She asked, “When is your birthday?”
I told her the month I was born and said, “I am very old. Buzzards follow me around, too.”
She spoke something to the little girl helping her behind the bar and said, “Her birthday is in September.” (The buzzard comment still didn’t work)
I replied, “September is a good month to be born in. Terese’s birthday is in September and so is her new little Grandbaby and one of her daughters!”
And she confirmed, “Yes, September is a good month!”
Then returning to March, “E’tiopian football player is same birthday as mine!”
“You two the same age?”
“Yes, born on same day.”
“Is he very thin like you?” I used my hands and pressed in my sides to get a thinner waist. (it didn’t work)
She laughed and said, “No”. Then running her hands along the outside of her face, she said, “But he’s pretty like me!” and laughed more. Then added, “My new year’s plan is to get fat.”
Ethiopia just had their new year, so I asked her if she had a nice dinner. She told me she spent it with her mother and grandfather, and started explaining to me about baking some “E’tiopian culture” bread that you place something on it, (I think she was saying some kind of chicken) and you break it apart with your hands. Sounds nice. And they put red pepper on it.
I asked, “Is the pepper hot?”
“Not hot for E’tiopians, hot for you.”
I asked her if she is a good cook.
She pointed to the back area of the restaurant and chuckled, “When the cook leaves outside (goes home) at 3 o’clock E’tiopian time, I go back there and make pizza and spaghetti.”
“What time is 3 o’clock Ethiopian in my time?”
“Hmmm, 9 o’clock at night, and E’tiopian year is 2005.”
“So which calendar is right?”
Somewhere in the conversation, I called her by name, because having to look it up the other day, I remembered it and I wanted to use it.
“I think for a long time you forgot my name!”
“Nah, I remembered it,” I proudly stated. “I told my mother about you, how you make me laugh. Next time I come, I will bring a camera with me so I can take your picture for her.”
“Okay”, she chuckled.
I think I slept better that night.