Dec 2, 2011
The Ethiopian Orthodox religion is the most widely practiced and oldest religion in Ethiopia. The Ark of the Covenant is believed to be held in a church called Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum. Many believe that the Ark was brought to Ethiopia by Menelik I (the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon). The story (as told to me by an Ethiopian) is that the queen of Sheba heard of King Solomon and wanted to ask him how to be a successful ruler. She presented gifts of gold, spices, and precious stones. Solomon agreed to mentor her as long as she paid her way and did not take anything that was not hers. Solomon instructed his cook to prepare a meal of the spiciest dishes and best wines to celebrate the Queen’s arrival. She fell asleep soon after she ate. Solomon then had jugs placed around her as she lay there- items that clearly belonged to him. When she woke up, she readily drank the available water, much needed after a night of wine and spicy food. Since the agreement was broken, Solomon slept with her and she returned to Ethiopia, pregnant with Menelik I. When he came of age he went to Jerusalem and took the Ark of the Covenant. He then returned to Ethiopia and put in in the church. Many Ethiopians are very proud that their first king was the son of King Solomon. Only one priest (he serves for life) is allowed into the building where the Ark is located so no one can confirm that the Ark is truly there. All religious testxs are written in Ge’ez, an ancitent language that Amharic is derived from. Few people can speak Ge’ez, mostly learned prriests, deconds and some studied families. Most church servives are conducted in Ge’ez but those who atend church often usually understand what they are saying.
On Nov 30th there was a big holiday, the St Mary festival. So I woke up early with my host mom and went to church. People from different towns were coming to celebrate. She let me borrow traditional clothing (pics to come). Many of the Orthodox churches have loud speakers outside of the church so people can hear what is going on even if they are not inside the church . Unfortunately, for some of the people who live near the church, when there is a holiday they have the loud speaker on all day and all night. The loud speakers are VERY loud. I can hear them from my house which is quite a few kilometers away from the church. Over the loud speaker, I hear priest chanting, singing, and praying. We woke up at 6am (which is when the sun rises here), got dressed, and walked over to the church. The church is located on top of a hill. While walking up the hill, we saw some of the less fortunate people sitting along the sides of the hill. Many were plagued with illnesses, there was a group of blind men singing religious songs, a man who had lost his legs, and a woman with leprosy. Some were asking for money and others were just trying to get the chance to be around a holy event. Once we reached the church we stood in front of the church and made the sign of the cross over our heart while kneeling (similar to what Catholics do). Anytime an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian is near a church they stop and make the cross over their hearts to show respect. We then walked closer to the church. As we approached the steps that led to the church, we took off our shoes, bowed down in front of the church, and said a prayer. After we prayed, we walked up the steps and kissed the doors of the church(on the left and right side of the door). We then sat on the steps of the church and watched the priest enter the building. We had to leave after about 15 minutes because I had to go to class. I wish I was able to stay because I missed the celebrations. But, Im glad I was able to witness this part.
We have begun studying for our final exam. I am extremely nervous. The format of the test is that someone that has not taught us comes and asks us questions in Amharic. They can ask anything they want, it doesn’t have to be things we covered in class and we have to be able to understand and respond in Amharic. They record the conversation and then two people score the results. The different scores are:
Novice low- basically the person can only say Hi, Goodbye, count to ten, thank you, etc. Supposedly, this level will get you sent home because if after 10 weeks of language classes you can not say more than this your safety will probably be at risk.
Novice Mid- a person can respond to demands and ask questions. If someone scores novice mid they will have to have a mandatory tutor and retake the test in 3 months. If they do not pass they will be sent home.
Novice High- REQUIRED TO PASS. They must be able to make statements about family, daily activities, and clothing.
The other levels are Intermediate Low, Mid, High and Advanced.
Today we had our Mock final exam. It was HARD. The interviewer asked me questions about my family, my host mom, my counterpart, and to describe 3 different towns. Then, I did a role play where I went to a suk (small store) and ordered different items that I wanted. I had to ask her what she said a few times and I honestly don’t even know if I answered her questions correctly. I’m not sure if I truly understood what she asked. I had to keep asking her to repeat what she said and I asked her to say it slowly. I don’t know if I passed that at all. I may have only scored Novice Mid. Sigh! More studying to do!
Side note : My host mom is officially apart of my family! Jus tlike the rest of my family (esp VeLisa and Ashliegh) she will not hesitate to let me know when I need to do my hair. For a couple of days I have been just letting my hair do whatever it wants. I style it a little bit but not like I usually do.The other day she grabbed my hand and told me that she would take me to the beauty shop to do my hair. She even said she’d give me the money and everything! LOL Once when I was sick she said “poor breanna she was so sick she couldn’t even do her hair.” Which was true, but you know as soon as I got better I had to get it together. LOL
That crazy lady that chases us has gone too far! I was walking with another volunteer to class. We were talking about my little brother and how he farted during dinner. My host mom went OFF on him! It was so funny! So I was in a really good mood and laughing about all the times he’s been yelled at. I didn’t even notice that we had passed the crazy lady. Then all of a sudden I feel something hit my leg. I look down and see a big rock and then I see the crazy lady yelling at me. I put two and two together and realize that she threw a rock at me. I need to read my Bible because the first thing I thought about was NOT what would Jesus do. I wanted to scream every curse word in the book. But I didnt want to cause a big seen and have everyone hear me. So I picked up the rock (yes I did) and I threw it back. This was not my proudest moment, the only thing I can say is that I didn’t throw it to hit her, I purposely missed. But, the people in this community do not tolerate that type of foolishness so the men picked up rocks and threw them at her.
I have heard of other volunteers having rocks thrown at them by people (usually kids). I didn’t really think I would have this experience especially since I don’t stand out as much. I had decided that if a kid threw a rock at me I would tell their parents. In this culture, they do not believe in sparing the rod so one talk with the parent would rap it up. BUT A GROWN WOMAN! I was not prepared to handle that situation. It was very frustrating not to have words that I could say in Amharic.
Guess WHAT????? I scored INTERMEDIATE LOW on my mock test!!!!! I not only passed the mock test but I got a level above!!! That definitely boosted my confidence! She told me that I actually answered the questions correctly and the my grammar/production was good. She told me that I just need to ask more questions and give detailed information. I’m so excited!!! Now, I just need to keep studying so that I can get an even higher score for the real test.
Today was family appreciation day! All of our families went to a near by town to celebrate the hospitality of our families. Next Wednesday we leave to stay in Addis for our swearing in ceremony (I will become an official volunteer!!!) and then we go to site! This is the last weekend that we will get to spend with our families. I have really begun to love my family. They have been here for me through all of the difficult, embarrassing, emotional, and funny times. They have welcomed us into their homes, fed us, taught us their language and culture, and made us feel a part of their families. I’m going to miss my host mom telling me to eat when I already have food in my mouth, my host brothers laughing at my attempts to speak Amharic, doing cartwheels with my little brother, debating about why there are few american authors in the lists of the best classical authors with my older brother, and just spending time with them. During the ceremony the families and the volunteers gave speeches that expressed how grateful we are for each other. Each family was presented with a picture of After, I went over to the different host families and introduced myself. For some reason the families were asking their volunteers to introduce me to them . The families told the volunteers that I was “crazy and funny” and that they wanted to meet me. I think because I was laughing a lot.