Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremonies – November 22, 2015

This blog could just as reasonably be titled: “Dancing, Drinking and Other Regrets”, but I figured I’d go with a more wholesome suggestion.

I was really excited to hear that the Great Ethiopian Run would be going on while I was in Addis. Basically any expat/Ethiopian I talked with the day before the run asked me if I was planning on going. It seemed like such a huge event – I obviously enthusiastically replied “YES!” every time I was asked.

Then I woke up at 10am. The race started at 9am. And was in the city. So I didn’t make it.

At first, I blamed the dancing, drinking and other adventures from the night before. Anxious that I only had one weekend night in Addis, I had called Ishy and INSISTED that he take me out dancing. I never think it’s reasonable to say you’ve visited a city if you’ve never gotten drunk with locals – so I saw this as necessary. Ishy was a little surprised by my enthusiasm to go out drinking after arriving at 7am that morning (and sleeping next to none on the plane – I have already submitted a formal complaint to Ethiopian Airlines – I DO NOT understand why they turned the cabin lights off for the first part of the flight and ON for the second part – the flight landed at 7am! We should’ve all been sleeping right up til the landing!) but, as I’ve said, drinking with locals = necessary.

So after a great dinner with Gondar house, complete with Ethiopian coffee ceremony (a true ceremony that includes roasting beans and drinking three rounds of very dark coffee out of tiny little cups, often laden with sugar), Ishy picked me up and off we went to downtown! 

Injera dinner at Gondar house. Fuzzy picture because - yes - I was embarrassed to be #instagramming my food.
We started at a sports pub to watch the Real Madrid – Barcelona match, continued onto a “fancy place” where they had more Tanquery in one place than I’ve ever seen in my life and ended at a dance club/ hookah bar where we pushed through the blackout** and stayed until the wee hours of the morning…where then we really ended the night at a pizza joint. I got home around 3am and was still so energized that a lucky someone got to spend 20 minutes on a combination of Facebook/GroupMe/Whatsapp calls with a very drunk and happy (and sappy) me.

So…needless to say, that 8am alarm got turned off pretty quickly. (Not that I had a way really to get to the GER since Ishy didn’t wake up until around noon…)

I did spend most of today in a haze of confusion however because I have always INSISTED that jet lag doesn’t impact me/ only impacts the weak. I was a bit terrified that in my old age*, I had become weak.

This was up until I was at Menelik House for dinner tonight and, after dinner, we started the coffee ceremony again. Eyob kindly explained to me that it is traditional in Ethiopia to drink three rounds of coffee during the ceremony (the “Abole”, the “Tona” and the “Bereka”). As we were drinking the Abole, he asked me if I would do all three rounds. Eager to please and to accept the hospitality, I said yes. Everybody in the room reacted to my agreement though – with a universal “REALLY?!? How are you going to SLEEP!?!”

And that’s when it hit me: I have a rule of saying yes to anything that I am served in somebody’s house***  – it’s actually the reason I started eating meat before I moved to Rwanda (the reason I continued after Rwanda is bacon). This rule has given me a generous list of foods that I can brag about having tried (generally, once) – but I’ve never thought that I should get credit for drinking something as common as COFFEE.

But for those of you who don’t know me that well…I DO NOT drink caffeine. This little body has enough energy in it that caffeine is not only not necessary – it’s probably a health hazard. I mean – of course, I’d say yes to coffee without a second thought when invited into a family’s house and when it’s so integral to their culture. But in real life…NEVER.

So now I know why I missed the Great Ethiopian Run. It wasn’t because of dancing and drinking and pizza – it was because of the famed Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony!

Roasting the beans as part of the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony! Gondar House and Menelik House were both great hosts for my first two dinners in Ethiopia!
*Note: not that old
**In reviewing this - I feel the need to explain that I mean an ACTUAL blackout. Like...when the electricity goes out. Not a drunk blackout. Although maybe it's a reasonable pun here. 
***Entertainingly, I actually broke that rule at the Menelik house when I was offered tap water. I have seen my system handle tap water before, but given the short duration of my trip this time around, I didn’t want to waste being sick for any of it! So I did say “no” to the tap water. And immediately felt incredibly guilty as Eyob ran out to the market to buy a bottle of water for me. And I didn’t have any birr on me so I couldn’t pay him back. And I’m feeling like the worst person in the world as I’m typing this…trust me.

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