There are days when living in Ethiopia is overwhelming. Some mornings I wake up and try to convince myself that leaving my house is worth the harassment I’ll get. And usually, it is.
It doesn’t take much to put a smile on my face these days – a kid coming up to me for a fist bump instead of money, hearing a pick-up line that involves the word “smart” instead of the usual objectifying ones, buying fresh fruit juice, or just experiencing the generosity that runs rampant in this country.
Take today, for instance. I knew I had to go to a suk to get some general supplies, because they’ll all be closed for the Meskel Holiday tomorrow. I picked out half a kilo of tomatoes and four eggs, but I also wanted an onion and some garlic. The problem is, everything in this country is sold by the kilo…which means the smallest amount you can normally buy is half a kilo. But I rarely cook with onions or fresh garlic, so half a kilo of either would go bad long before I could use it up.
So I asked the suk owner if I could purchase one of each (in Amharic of course) and she was so psyched that I could speak the local language that she agreed. When I went in the store to pay, she charged me 6 birr for the tomatoes and 10 birr for the eggs (standard prices in Hawassa) and said the rest was a gift.
I was touched. Obviously I’m a foreigner, she could have tried charging me whatever she wanted for the food (and some do!), but instead, since she didn’t have a price for single pieces, she gave them to me for free. She doesn’t know this, but she just made a lifelong customer (and by lifelong I mean for the next two years!).
It’s not likely I’ll need onions or garlic any time soon, but I know where to go the next time I need tomatoes, potatoes, or eggs. Although who knows, I’m going to attempt to make mïsïr wät, and if that goes well, maybe I’ll start needing more garlic and onions. My host family made it all the time and it was fantastic…reminded me of an Ethiopian wild rice hotdish with lentils, oil, garlic, onion, and salt. Sounds easy enough…I’ll let you know how it goes! I’m going to try and make it tomorrow for the holiday, seems like a fitting day for me to try and cook my first truly Ethiopian meal : )
September 26, 2012
Update: My mïsïr wät ended up tasting like lentils in a vegetable broth – delicious, but not exactly the planned result! Oh well, I have two years to try and perfect it! But my no-bake cookies turned out phenomenal! I’ve decided to make them for every holiday! Ha ha