Some of you will remember how I met this guy back in June. It was quite an honor to meet His Excellency. When I met him, he made two promises to me. That he would send me a dictionary in Sidamuaafo (the language of my daughter's people) and that he would put me in touch with other Sidama people living in the U.S.
I had expressed an interest to connect with other Sidamas so I could learn more about the Sidama culture to teach my daughter. I was thinking it would be great to have a Sidama source that I could email with my questions about Sidama culture. Cause my last attempt at belonging in an online group with Sidama people wasn't so successful. Mostly because they thought I was a spy for the Ethiopian government. Don't worry, they were
In August, His Excellency sent me a package that included a Sidama Dictionary and Grammar book, which I am very grateful for. And recently, he sent an email to me, giving me the contact information for two Sidama men living in Seattle. He sent my email to them as well, so they emailed me asking me to call them. I also got a follow up email from His Excellency asking if I had called those men yet.
Here's a little side note: I'm not good at calling people. For some reason I can't drag myself over to the phone to make a phone call. If people call me and I'm home... great. I'd love to talk to them. But for some reason, I never get around to calling people. I've been like this since I've been old enough to want to talk on the phone. My mom recently told me, "I've just realized that you're never going to call me and if I want to talk to you on the phone, I need to call you." I'm not sure what took her so long to realize that, but anyway, that's the way I am. And adding to that little phone-calling aversion of mine... the email I received from one of the Sidama men was very hard to decipher due to the very limited grasp of the English language. And I was thinking if it's that hard to understand the email, it will be even more interesting trying to talk on the phone. So... we had family visiting when we received their email, then I was busy getting ready to start school. Finally last night, I made myself call them.
Apparently I was right about the communication challenges that would be present in the phone conversation. I'd say the conversation comprehension was 0-30% at any given time. Now I will say that the man I spoke to was very, very nice. Here's a bit of our conversation, or at least the part I could understand.
Very Nice Man: "I'm glad you called. We are in Seattle, Washington now, but are going to move to Los Angeles now and live with you for a long time, so we can teach your children."
Very Nice Man: "We have job here but we will get new job in Los Angeles while we live with you."
Me: "Um, I'm not sure my daughter is old enough to learn about Sidamas just yet. She still only two years old."
Very Nice Man: "Shiferaw said there are other Sidama children living there. I can teach them, while we live with you."
Me: "Yeah, uh, I was looking for some Sidamas to be a source of information, that I could email with my questions about Sidama culture, so I can teach my daughter when she is older."
Very Nice Man: "ssoiejrlk woeirj lker woier,smen oihelsken oiejlr oijeorwie oiejr.k eiciemslie owiejxi itkdoek doekdos gnewr theoes toid oiwejl owied soie hidyl owendo qowei oidgh tieso seoisdnir seirhsl igoehs goehwl ghe giemsl woeisl etuw heuks gue otidls t itiehsl theilse."
Me: "Uh-huh?" (wait, did I just agree for them to come straight here on a bus?)
Very Nice Man: "We will live with you at your house, or you pay for an apartment for us to live there in Los Angeles."
Me: "I think there has been a misunderstanding. I'm not in a position to have you live with us or to pay for your apartment."
Very Nice Man: "A misunderstanding? Because Shiferaw said to me there are Sidama children who need to be taught Sidama language and culture and he told us to move to Los Angeles to teach them, and he said that you would take care of us."
Me: "Uh, I just thought he was going to put us in touch with other Sidamas living in the U.S. that I could be in touch with through email."
Very Nice Man: "What is it you are looking for?"
Me: "Friendship with Sidama people, where I can go to them through email and ask questions about their culture and language, to teach my daughter when she is older."
Very Nice Man: "Oh, Ok. A misunderstanding. Is it hard to find job in Los Angeles?"
Me: "I don't know. It's very expensive to live here."
Very Nice Man: "Very expensive?"
Me: "VERY expensive."
And then he offered to be that contact I wanted, where I could email or call him anytime. (though honestly, the language barrier makes it complicated)
And though I was shaking and terrified when I got off the phone, at the idea of two men ready to pack up and move in with us for a "long time"... I have to say, here were two guys, who were told by the President to leave their jobs and move to another city, to teach their culture to Sidama children. And they agreed without hesitation. Their love for their people and their desire to pass along the culture to the Sidama children is huge and admirable.
And I get that it's a cultural misunderstanding between my American culture and their Ethiopian culture. Perhaps if I was Ethiopian, I would have opened my house to two men I didn't know because teaching my daughter Sidama culture would be of utmost importance. And while my daughter's culture is very important to me, I am a selfish American who likes my personal space. The idea of having two men I don't know come to live with us scared the pants off of me.