Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Game-Changer

An adventure from the last few weeks...

I was having a rough day.  I was caring for a friend's infant son and I just could not get him to be happy.  So much crying!  So much crying, in fact, that I joined in too.  It was really hard.

My sore ears and perceived failure put me on a short-fuse cycle so that Feven's disobeying put me to just about crazy.  I knew I needed a change of pace, so I decided to go shopping.  Retail therapy?  Maybe.  But it was with a purpose.  I wanted to pick up a few gifts for some friends we were going to be visiting soon.

I headed downtown to my favorite Ethiopian grocery store to start.  And I'm pleased to say, it was all uphill from there.  As I was walking into the store, an older gentleman held the door for me.  Holding a child in one hand and a purse in another made his gesture a very welcomed one!

Once inside, I breathed heavily of the scent of Ethiopian spices and food.  I spied the large bags of injera and listened to the Amharic spoken around me.  I chatted with the owner to see if he had found a sambusa chef yet (no) and we laughed and talked about how much Feven was growing.

My heart was lifted just by this brief visit, but God wasn't through making me smile yet.  I proceeded a few stores down to the "Addis Market."  Traditional Ethiopian dresses hung in the large shop windows; long white material with bands of color for embellishment.  I had to go in.  I tugged on the door, but it was locked!  An old woman sitting inside by a sewing machine smiled at me.  But she didn't get up. 

Confused, I asked a man passing by if he knew the shop's hours.  He looked Ethiopian and somehow I figured he'd know.  Don't ask me why.  He said that he wasn't sure, but I should inquire at the barber shop two doors down.

Normal Amber would be too shy or embarrassed to do this, but for whatever reason I had lost my inhibitions and found myself plopping down in a barber shop seat and chatting with the two women working there.  They told me that I could access the dress shop by going through the deli that was between us and the dress shop.  "Follow me," one said, and I did.

Coatless in the cold Minnesota winter, my new barbershop friend led me next door, through the deli, and into the dress shop where there was also a music store.  Again, somehow this seemed to be a very normal thing.  I asked a little about the dress shop and learned the owner would be back tomorrow.  Meanwhile, a small crowd was gathering around us.  Feven tends to attract attention from a lot of people because she's so darn cute.  However, she attracts the most attention when she's around Ethiopian people because they have all sorts of questions to ask!  Soon we found ourselves conversing with the old woman by the sewing machine, the deli shop man, the barbershop friend, the music stand worker and a random guy off the street. 

It sounds so crazy, but in the moment, it felt completely normal.  I can't emphasize this enough!  I think it reminded me of being in Ethiopia and the relational culture there.

I inquired about some music from the Oromo region of Ethiopia, and the music stand woman played me a CD.  I liked it a lot and asked how much the CD cost.  She tilted her head to the side as if to think on it a moment and then said, "Five dollars."  In my head I was thinking, "Whoa!  That's an amazing deal if it's just 5 dollars!  I totally have to get this for my friends!" 

I put my money on the counter and she didn't present the CD right away.  Instead she said, "It will be a moment.  I have to burn it." 


So the CD I bought for my friends turned out to be a burned copy of the CD I listened to in the store!  I knew my friends wouldn't mind because of the story that I now had to go along with it!  Something about waiting for her to burn the CD and it being a burned copy reminded me of what it was like shopping in the markets while in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

As I waited for the CD, the Ethiopians around me continued conversing with me about Feven.  What town is she from?  What region?  When did you get her?  Does she speak Oromo?  Can I hold her?  They tried to speak both Oromo and Amharic to her to see if she remembered.  Unfortunately, she didn't seem to remember those languages, or maybe she was just very shy around these people, because she didn't respond to them with recognition. 

While I waited, my barbershop friend brought me a cup of coffee from the sewing machine area in a small, white teacup with the Ethiopian flag printed on it.  They must have just had a coffee ceremony together because I noticed a few used cups also sitting on the plate where my coffee was poured.  I received it with two hands, bowed my head slightly and said, "amesege'nallo."  When I looked up she had a surprised smile on her face.  I'm glad I could use one of my few Amharic words in an appropriate situation! 

She then offered Feven some Dabo bread.  It meant so much to me to be welcomed into this little group and be given coffee and Dabo bread.  The kindness of these strangers made me forget the stress of the day and remember the gift I have in Feven and my family's special connection to Ethiopia. 

We walked out shortly thereafter with our new CD in hand, a piece of dabo bread to snack on, and the taste of great coffee on our tongues (yes, even Feven had some too!).  What a great turn-around to a rough day!


  1. Amber! This story is enough to make me want to come to Minnesota!

  2. Awesome. How cool to have a little corner of Ethiopia nearby!

  3. Anne, you are definitely welcome here anytime! :) We would have a blast together, I know it!