Living in Ethiopia over the past 9 months has completely opened my eyes and heart to a culture I never knew existed having grown up in suburban Louisiana. I’ve had the opportunity to write for an organization called CURE international that provides free operations for children with disabilities.
I’ve met families from all different walks of life, some who’ve grown up on the streets of the bustling city of Addis Ababa, others from small farm villages, and even a few from southern tribes where their traditions are unlike anything we’ve ever experienced in the “western world”.
For the most part, though, I’ve spent my time in the big city. You’d think that would mean a diminished sense of culture, but that is not the case. Any time there is a public holiday, you see the transformation from daily life to an overwhelming sense of community and celebration. They roll out the red carpets in the middle of busy highways and parade down in full traditional dress and bedazzled umbrellas. On a smaller scale, it’s not totally uncommon to be walking down the street and randomly be invited into someone’s home for a special coffee ceremony.
I typically decline opportunities to hang out in strangers’ homes, but one particular day I decided to branch out a bit and go for the experience. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The family treated me like a queen. They walked over with a basin full of water and washed my hands for me then they stuffed me with delicious food, and finally poured me three cups of the richest coffee I’ve ever tasted. Once the ceremony part was over, we just talked and laughed at our language barrier and how trivial it seemed in the face of such an amazing moment. I think the most beautiful thing that was said, was spoken by the mother. “Love is blind. I don’t see our difference. I just love you.”
If I could give any insight to a family looking to adopt from this particular culture, I’d advise instilling a sense of pride or growing their sense of pride in the country itself. I cannot count how many times I’ve been asked by a “Habesha” person, how I feel about Ethiopia. It’s a question I get asked daily on the street and even by friends that I see often. “How do you like our country?” “Is the weather nice?” “Are you learning Amharic?”
And just to set the record straight, the weather is awful. They have fly season in May, followed by three months of rain. It literally has rained every day for the past three months. It’s miserable, yet the country’s slogan is “13 months of sunshine”. Another beautiful thing about this culture is the concept of sharing. Every day at lunch someone offers me the food off of their tray. That’s just how it works here. If you don’t have your food yet, eat mine until yours comes.
Of course I would suggest any parents looking to adopt from Ethiopia to come experience these things first hand. All you have to do is go on a walk. I will say in the most bias way possible, though, that I’ve met some of the most amazing kids in the world during my time here.
Brianna DiGiacomo currently works for CURE International, a Christian organization that provides free operations for children with disabilities in impoverished countries. She has been working in Ethiopia over the past year, writing the children’s stories and sharing their pictures with viewers online. Brianna has a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and hopes to use her abilities as a writer to share the stories of those who would typically never be heard.
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