It’s been a It’s been a lot of culture and quite the mixture of religion these past few days. I’m intrigued by it all and wonder how much I’m missing of what’s really going on around me. The streets were flooded with a sea of white nettelas, women with their heads covered and older men with their canes. Old and young alike aren’t working and thus the “tech baits” (bars) are full. We observed each church or saint represented in a different color beating their drums, blowing horns, and dancing along the continuous red carpet that was rolled out before them. The priests with a replica of the Ark of the Covenant followed up the line and behind them still was a crowd of folks joined hand in hand to protect the priests. As they passed the familiar “Ellila, ellila” was called out, some got face down and kissed the ground, and some I saw had tears in their eyes.
I wasn’t sure if the tears were for the priests, for the beauty of it all, for the ritual, or for the actual baptism of Christ. None the less Miah and I made our way through the crowd, observing respectfully, and saying hi to many neighbors and friends we saw along the way.
As we walk into our neighborhood I wonder what our Muslim friends make of it all. One of them at our house yesterday was understandably annoyed at all the closed roads and crowded taxis. Our nanny who is “pente” or a Pentecostal believer is outright disgusted by it all. She’s frustrated at the lack of focus where it should be and she’s confused on how transferring a replica has anything to do with the baptism of Christ.
I love the culture here and wish we came from “more” culture. Of course everyone has a culture that has shaped and influenced them but some just seem more “rich” I guess. I’ve never seen culture and religion so confused and intertwined though and this I don’t envy. I don’t envy the distraction that ritual causes but I sometimes wish we had more reverence for God. I don’t envy the rules that come with ritual nor the judgements that follow but I wish as a body that the things we do out of love for Christ was more uniform.
Invited to a friends after the procession for Doro wat (spicy chicken stew), I knew saying no wasn’t an option. The invite is so kind being that chicken is expensive and the way this particular holiday wat is prepared is very precise. Women pride themselves greatly on their cooking and particularly Doro wat. I sat on Selam’s bed with Miah in a dimly lit room not much bigger than the bed itself and choked down luke warm wat followed by a Miranda (sweet orange pop). Truly I like Doro wat but I’m always scared when it’s not hot and this was exceptionally spicy. In addition, I hate pop and always ask for water but my sweet friends insist on “treating me”. A rat scurries behind us making its creepy little squeaking noises and the bar just on the other side of the thin wall booms and bangs with men chanting and pounding on things. Miah gets gifted a balloon and she’s as happy and comfortable as can be jumping on Selam’s bed to keep the balloon from falling. Selam comes in and places a small cooker with coal and incense in front of me which I know will cling to me for the rest of the day but that’s ok because I know coffee is coming. Selam’s coffee is particularly strong and I know it’s because she serves a lot of men and they prefer it that way. Miah and I chat with others sitting at Selam’s suk also having coffee and head on our way….
It has been a fun few days. I’m reminded how we will always be learning and observing here and I have to wonder if the day ever came when we could no longer be those things, maybe that’s the day we would have to leave