Ethiopian Easter in Kurier Szczecinski

The Szczecin Newspaper ‘Kurier Szczecinski’ featured an interview with me as an Easter Special on Great Friday 6 April 2012.
The interview describes my experiences in Ethiopia during Easter time, including a Palm Sunday on Entoto Mountain and eating chicken stew after Resurrection mass at 3 in the morning. IMG_0152c

Sishu.

While going through my pictures from Ethiopia I ran across a couple of folders I forgot about. There are still a few places I’d like to show you, cause they were a great part of my social life in Addis Ababa.
In the close distance of Immigration Department, there is a truly wonderful restaurant situated. Unfortunately, soon it’s location will be changed. The area has a new height regulations and protests and petitions didn’t manage to safe this G+1 oasis from future demolition. As all stories have two sides of a medal there is also a positive site of this situation as well. In a few months the restaurant will be opened in a redesigned storage of the MULU Plaza- the building we have designed. Honestly, I can not imagine a better “magnet” for the area.
A name of the restaurant- SISHU comes from the owner’s name, a super friendly lady who always takes care of international, cozy atmosphere. The former residential house was redesigned and now consists of a few differentiated, spacious rooms, which can easily hold different types of meetings. The kitchen, OH! The kitchen is fantastic! It was relocated outside, as the old one could not manage the amount of guests. I’m not sure if the way it’s organized or possibility to look inside or the smells that come from it make me fall in love with it. I want it BACK!

My favourite: mouth-watering vegetable antipasti sandwich with home made sauce. Mmmmmniam.

Leather World.

Just like tourists in Tunesia buy carpets, in Jerusalem- gold, in Panama- hats and Cuba- cigars, in Ethiopia they usually purchase coffee and leather products. How often, however, is a carpet or a hat custom made? Definitely not as often and easily as Jackets in Abyssinia! I know it sounds like a commercial but I know what I’m talking about :)
TSEGA is a tiny leather workshop behind an even smaller shop, packed with hundreds of jackets and bags. Maybe designing ordering 5 jackets and 6 bags doesn’t make me an expert but out of 4 workshops I had the most positive experience there. Jamal- the head designer, as well as Tsion and Meron- two lovely selling ladies, understood my ideas and suggestions easily and were always willing to bargain (I could not deal without a small price fight;). All in all I really suggest doing a custom made products in Adds Ababa.

With Jamal.

  

Meron caught red- handed;)

With Shuse, Meron and Tsion.

With morning coffee. / Co ja pacze? Oni piszo!

Weird. That’s how I felt when my former pupil brought a magazine to me with the words: “Niezły lans!” (slang; Nice promotion!) ;). I was invited for an interview on Monday being sure that weeks will pass till sth. will be published. How surprise I was to have it in my hands only 3 days later.

The online version:
http://www.mmszczecin.pl/406947/2012/3/24/spokojnie-to-tylko-czarny-lad?category=news


Coffee time!

Where was Venus born? Who produces the best chocolate in the world? Where does Colubus come from? And WHERE was COFFEE discovered? This are a few of many questions different nations argue about. As I consider Ethiopia to be my second home, I am eager to give a credit of inventing coffee to this African country.

The Ethiopian legend surrounding the discovery of the coffee bean revolves around
a goatherd called Kaldi, who noticed one day that his goats behave different. They were much more active- running, jumping almost dancing after nibbling red berries from a certain bush. He tried them as well and felt more energetic himself. Surprised, he went to an Islamic holy man in a nearby monastery to share his discovery. The priest didn’t like the idea of magic berries and threw them into the fire, only to realize that the enticing aroma makes him more awake. Soon the roasted beans, ground up, and dissolved in hot water is believed to be the first cup of coffee. The monks committed to drinking the brew every night to help them stay awake during night prayers.

The similarity of Kaldi’s Coffee and Starbucks is not accidental. The owner, an Ethiopian lady is one of the Diaspora members- people who used to live abroad for many years. Starbucks is the quickest developing company in the world, which buys Ethiopian coffee for many years. The lady, used to American Starbucks, started a process to bring the chain to Ethiopia. When her efforts failed she opened Kaldi’s Cafe, with some Ethiopian accents … and really good breakfast :) Right now there are over 10 Kaldi’s coffee shops in Addis Ababa.

      

Heile Gebrselassie

Every country has a face everyone recognizes- Great Britain has Queen Elizabeth II, Poland- John Paul II, Tibet- Dalai Lama, Jamaica- Bob Marley, the USA- Justin Bieber ;) Ethiopia’s undeniable symbol of the country is Heile Gebrselassie. Smiling from huge advertisements of major Ethiopian and International companies (Ambo, Adidas, Johnnie Walker, Ethiopian Airlines) this little and extremely famous athlete is a true pride and a role model in Abyssinia. For a long- distance champion, Olimpic gold and record holder Heile is an incredible easy- going, open- minded, friendly guy. He is also a successful entrepreneur who grew up in a rural, poor area and walked a long way to his status. He actually fits perfectly a profile of the Ethiopians I’ve been interviewing lately for a publication I am working on. Therefore I had a pleasure to meet Heile personally and spend a couple of hours with this fascinating personality. If you want to try your luck and meet him- check Bole Parisienne, where he gets macchiato almost every day :)


 

Another Wedding?

A few days after the wedding, another big event takes place. Officially parents of the bride invite the neighbors to celebrate with the newlyweds. There are some rumors, though, which come form a tradition of checking if the husband treats the bride well. In some cases the family is not allowed to contact the pair before this day, so parents have finally a chance to check on their daughter.
This incredible celebration has a lot of very strong Ethiopian accents and leaves not much place for international influences. It starts with a photo session of the couple in traditional matching outfits and continues with a procession to the bride’s parents house.
In order to enter the household a groom has to slaughter a sheep, which blood marks a threshold and brings luck. As a symbol of entering a new chapter of life, the coupe jumps over the animal, which later becomes a final dish of a day. Maybe after one year of living in Ethiopia a view of slaughtered animal should not have such a strong effect on me but it does. Take (groom) actually promised me not to kill the sheep, so I eagerly watched how they pose with the knife next to the animal’s throat… until I noticed that it’s already someone else… cutting the sheep’s neck. What a laugh all the neighbors and kids had when I screamed and run away. I like meet, I do, but this time the closest I got to eating was my help in preparing tips (fried pieces of meet). For this one evening, after almost making friends with sheep ‘Lucy’, I was a vegetarian ;)
As not all families have enough space for the party, they can rent a special wedding tent and set it on a street. Every local community has a wide offer of items to let- furniture, silverware, plates and many more. There are also different colour and arrangement options depending on an occasion.
The feast was of course properly blesses by a priest and then calories effectively burned while dancing Eskesta.
Once again- Take and Meron, thank you for an invitiation :)

  

This bottles for chemical experiments are actually traditional alcoholic drink (Tej) glasses.

     

Another Wedding?

Part 2/8 (just kidding ;)
This 2 hour long photo session has a strong American influence. It’s much more than just posing. The newlyweds play short scenes where ‘a groom surprises the bride with a flower’ or ‘tries to steal a kiss from his young wife’ ;) Like always, wherever they go, professional musicians follow and engage the guests in dancing and singing. The wedding singer makes jokes about guests and becomes more ‘aggressive’ till the insulted person pays himself off by sticking a banknote to the singer’s forehead.
When the garden program is over the procession moves to a wedding hall where hundreds of other guests are waiting for the heroes of the day.     

Our best friends: Ramiah and Helawi.

  

Fountains are irreplaceable in scorching sun!

I’ve already written about an evening program of a wedding- procession to the stage, blessing the food, first dance, cutting the cake, throwing presents into the crowd, dancing Eskesta etc.
This time, however, menu was different. What a surprise it was to find a butcher stand installed within a sophisticated buffet!! This was actually the most important occupied place in the whole building! Traditionally the young couple as the first ones blessed the meat by cutting a cross on it. Then in front of the camera both were ‘wondering’ which part to choose ;) Of course the meat was eaten in the raw version. Even though it looked really fresh and I’ve eaten raw meat a few times in Ethiopia, I restricted myself to a few photos.

  

Quite an original background for a wedding picture, don’t you think?

Eskesta!

Did you know that…. I had fun on this wedding?!

 

 

Another Wedding?

Most of you, seeing another wedding post, probably wonder what do I really do in Ethiopia. No, I don’t crush weddings every weekend :) They just tend to last a few days up to a month! Here are some pictures of a second one- Takele + Meron.

The wedding traditions are very strict and everyone follows the “procedure”, whether they like it or not. As bride and groom don’t live together before the wedding they spend the last night in their family houses. The bride is additionally protected by her 3-4 maids ;) , who keep her company till the end of the wedding day. The truth is that girls have to wake up really early in the morning ( around 3!) to go to the hairdresser. At 8:00 the official day program starts and continues very intensively till the late evening hours.
I have to admit that it was quite odd to get ready for such a ceremony at 7 in the morning. By 8:00 am we were at groom’s parents’ house for a wonderful breakfast and a looooong photo session. 2 hours of posing with and without tie, sitting, standing, leaning against the wall… with and without the best men, family, friends… ‘smiling’, ‘dreaming’, ‘acting surprised’- never ending story. Moreover, everything was recorded by ‘professionals’, who generally don’t know how to cut the material and end up having a 10- hour long wedding movie. Can’t wait :)

Traditional clothes play a very important role in all Ethiopia celebrations. The outfits are usually custom made, which allows the families to have dresses in different style but with a similar pattern. This way it is more clear who belongs to which group.

After the photos, a vast procession from groom’s site, accompanied by a professional singer, heads to the bride’s house to “steal” her from her family. It’s a real fight with loud singing, dancing and pushing the other ‘team’ away. At some point, however, the groom manages to make his way through and then…. a new photo session starts:) In the mean time two families continue the singing/dancing competition and build up a fantastic festive mood. YAHOOO!

  

The blessings from the elders end another part of the program and the pair leaves to tick out the next point in the schedule… the photo session :) this time in the garden scenery. YAHOO!

  

 

Time to relax.

As some of you know I have only three weeks left in Ethiopia. Such a short time influences the intensity of life :)  I wish I could keep you updated a bit better with all the events we are occupied with. Unfortunately our beloved Ethiopian internet doesn’t allow a regular on- line work. Whenever I find both time and good connection I’ll try to upload all the posts that wait in the line ;)
Last weekend we went to another wedding. Such a grand event usually requires extra care of good mood, relaxed attitude and proper looks…. doesn’t it? Therefore, I decided to go to a beautician, even though I do that rarely. The shop called Clique Beauty is owned by a good friend of mine- Mecdi. Both a hair dresser and beauticians took good care of Shuse and me in this violet/ pink world (aren’t pastel colors ‘must have’ this season ;) ?)
     

TIA

This post is going to be a bit bitter. As I was writing last time, there are some irritating disturbances we are dealing with lately. Preparations for the building permit take not only time, patience but also A LOT OF PAPER, hehe. Before Ethiopia I have seen blueprints only in the movies. The production process itself is quite simple- first of all, drawings have to be printed on the transparent paper, then a special scanner changes the black lines into navy blue and the rest into violet. It’s important to find a printing company that doesn’t safe the chemicals, otherwise the prints are illegible and can be thrown away. In case the files are too big or there is a half- day- long lunch break, the shop runs out of electricity/ paper/ time/ will to continue working (all and much more happened to us!) then it’s time to find another shop, and then another and another…. If the shops didn’t have to habit of disappearing regularly we could gladly make a print shops map of Addis :)
Blueprints can not be copied and that’s the goal of all this hassle…. I wish! It is a common practice to steal the projects and resell them later. Knowing that our files were divided and printed in a few places. We were still surprised when after unsuccessful printing on the 5th floor we went to another shop on the 7th floor to found pieces of our drawings lying all over the place! Neither owner was able to explain how that happen ;)

In the meantime, one of my pictures I took in Lalibela was being printed as a wedding present. Two days of waiting turned into a week. Every time we appeared in the print shop the amharic discussions between the workers had something to do with 2, not 1 prints. Just in case we made sure to be there for the delivery… and BINGO! They also ordered one for themselves- because ‘it’s so pretty’ and they want to have a souvenir ;) So in case you see a postcard like that you know what to think ;) By the way- do you like it?

 

Kids.

Do you sometimes have this day when nothing works, everyone is irritating and you are just about to scream or run someone over ;)… or at least sit down and cry? Well, we were somewhere there yesterday. Things are much better now and soon I will even be able to tell you the whole story :)
In stressful situations it’s good to have a way to escape. Majority reaches for a cigaret, some use a relaxing mantra or buy a favorite chocolate bar (not available in Ethiopia, though). What do I do? Good question. Not much, except for drinking water to avoid a headache. Yesterday, however, the kids of Addis made me smile a few times and simply helped me with my day.

     

 

Timkat.

Ethiopia is a truly religious country and every Catholic holiday is celebrated with a dedication and involvement.
Having just celebrated Ethiopian Christmas I was surprised when another big event came up only 12 days later. Ethiopian Timkat, known also as Epiphany, reminds the Christians of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. The major celebrations take place in Gondor and Lalibela, and are known for its splendor and colourful processions. Thanks to Schuse’s beautiful pictures you can taste the atmosphere of Lalibela:)
Timkat starts with the services in the Orthodox Churches. As usual this incredibly mysterious prayers are heard in the whole city. After hours of singing a long procession  leaves the churches to join all the other processions in the direction of Jan Meda- the biggest opened space in Addis. Each sanctuary owns the Tabot- a copy of the Arc of the Covenant and is a symbolic heart of the temple. The normal people rarely have a chance to take a glimpse of this holy book. During the procession the Tabot is wrapped carefully in reach fabrics and ‘installed’ on the priest’s head- in such form it leaves the church to ‘meet’ the believers and bless them on its way. The path of the procession is decorated with the Ethiopian clolurs, groups of the youngsters run with the brooms and cleans the way for the Tabots, people sing and jump with the sticks to show the union and devotion to God. At Jan Meda, each church has a place under the tent, were the long prayers till the morning hours begin. Surrounding the holy ceremonials, a real party activities start, with eating, singing, dancing and… flirting. It is a real IT- place, something like an Ethiopian Oktoberfest, where people wear their best (lets face it- sexy) clothes and socialize with the crowds. Don’t be surprise to get hit lightly with a….lime. Oh yes- it’s a signal that someone is attracted to you and wants to have a dance. Well, for sure it is a good day for the grocery shops ;)

Lalibela by Schuse:

Addis by Marta:

 

Lets dance!

Lets start with the fact that not everyone likes weddings. I have friends who get upset when getting an invitation, because they have to face all the dilemmas what to buy, what to wear, how to get there and where to stay for the night. The difficulties usually melt away when the party starts and everyone can show the social and dancing skills. The wedding dance floor (and a bit of % ;)) has an incredible magnetic ability that works even on the usual non- dancers.
Surprisingly I haven’t met anyone in Ethiopia who doesn’t like or care about weddings. Actually one of my best friends, H. is a real wedding crasher and he never misses a chance to show his dancing abilities. About the traditional Ethiopian dance I wrote already
and could do that again as it always amazes me. You can check it out for yourself here:

Neither the impossibly fast head and shoulders movements nor the difficult music interpretation is able to discourage me to try. My attempts meet with a very positive reactions so I guess I don’t have to feel bad about it ;)

The weddings are also a great opportunity to meet people, talk to the work colleagues on more relaxed basis, observe the behavior, outfits of the others and how everyone simply HAVE FUN!
  

Left: Suse alias “Shuze” and me with our food loot.
Right: An extraordinary moment- not only am I not taller than the Ethiopian but also much much shorter! Zelalem sweared that he’s never stood next to such a tall girl, though :)

  

 

Ethiopian Wedding part 2- motion picture.

I wish I could write a post on ‘How to make good, unprofessional videos at the wedding’. But I am not an expert :( We, girls know that it’s a tough job to stand still in high hill shoes, pushed by the crowds of people. Here in ET I have the advantage of the high, which only annoys people behind me (Ups). Moreover, I am quite an aggressive photographer ;)- to take a good shot I squeeze in, climb, jump and even risk being arrested! (Oh yes). Unfortunately, the pictures often turn out to be not as good as I was hoping anyway.
However, as a picture is worth a thousand words and a movie even more I hope you can find out a bit more about the Ethiopian Wedding. Enjoy!