By Sarah Woodrow, MD
Cooper Neurological Institute
This is part six in a series of updates from Dr. Woodrow’s mission to Ethiopia. View additional posts from her on the Inside Cooper blog by clicking here to view all posts tagged “Ethiopia.”
It is wedding season in Addis. I guess this makes sense since the wet season is coming to a close and the weather warming up a bit. Today, one of my oldest friends in Addis – Abdissa is getting married and I am invited to join in the celebration. I met Abdissa on my first trip here. At the time he was the director of a small Christian orphanage; he and his 22 children were my surrogate family. No doubt I will write about the amazing kids in a future entry, today is about Abdissa.
I rush to make it to the church for the 11am start as indicated on the invitation to find out that I am one of the first guests to arrive. I sit next to one of the former orphanage kids and listen to an hour of preaching and gospel singing, all in Ahmarhic, the local dialect. The ceremony itself doesn’t start until after noon. I am not sure whether to blame traditional wedding tardiness or what I have observed as a cultural indifference for punctuality but given that the church really did not start filling up until 11:45 I can’t help but think the latter.
The ceremony itself is not unlike most that I have attended back home. It is an evangelical church so the reverend reminds me of one the personalities I have seen while channel surfing Sunday mornings except that other than “Jesus” and the congregation responding with enthusiastic “Amen”, I can’t understand a word. After the bride and groom are escorted out of the church, it is a quick exit to the Ghion hotel banquet halls for the reception.
Again, there is a distinct similarity to the wedding traditions with which I was raised; From the entry of the bridal procession to energetic modern music, to the first dance and cake cutting. Still there is good deal of religion and cultured spattered throughout the banquet. It hits me most unexpectedly standing in line at the buffet. The injera (Ethiopian flat bread) and mix of traditional sauces is standard. I recognize most of them. It is the side of raw beef – with butcher – that catches me off guard. Raw meat is considered some sort of delicacy here, worthy of a special occasion. I quickly decide I am not brave enough to participate….