“These Are a Few of Our FAVORITE (and ‘FERENJI’) Things….”
The word for foreigners here is “ferenji,” an Arabic word meaning “Frankish.” So, to be “frank,” there are plenty of things here that are very foreign to us but many of them are becoming our favorite things. For example, the warm greetings extended to one another can involve not only a hand shake but, for men especially, a further embrace of bumping right shoulder to right shoulder. For woman to woman (and, if a close friend or relative, then also woman to man) there is a cheek to cheek kiss on one side, then another, then back again (three times). It feels as though you are instantly closer to that person and is always accompanied by smiles and warm gestures of friendship.
Interestingly, when we see another white “ferenji” we frequently have the thought, “Hmmm, he (or she) looks out-of-place,” since we can go days without seeing another white person. Then the thought usually settles in rather quickly that, “Hmmm, that means that WE look out-of-place!” We forget about our skin color until, perhaps, one of the little children stares at us, smiles, and then may ask to touch our hair (red DOES look really foreign)! We are truly “ferenji” in appearance, but almost always treated as new “favorite” friends.
Here is just a short list of our “favorite” and “ferenji” things:
- “Age Old Questions”
Ethiopia has a population of 102 million people. In Africa, they are second only to Nigeria which has 187 million. Ethiopia is about the size of California and Texas combined (about 67 million, with California at 39 million and Texas at almost 28 million). Apparently, 50% of its population is under 25 years of age, so we feel rather “ferenji” being WAY older than most people. And, we have also lived beyond their average life expectancy of 65 years. By the way, most of the women will straight up ask me how old I am, which is definitely a “ferenji” inquiry among American women. I usually hear either an audible gasp or witness a definite raised eyebrow when they hear my answer. My mother always said, “A woman who will tell you her age, will tell you anything………except her dress size!” Right, ladies?
- “Ferenji Semester Abroad”
The government is in charge of almost all education with the best universities being government-owned and run. About three weeks ago we had a total shut down of any social media due to an attempt by some students trying to cheat on the high school National Exams. They were posting answers on Facebook and other sites. This happened last year and the renewed attempt this year was met with one week of no service for EVERYONE in the country. The government administers the test and also assigns students not only to a university (which may or may not be according to their choice), but also assigns them their major (which may or may not be their choice, either). So, if your test scores are high and you want to be a lawyer but they think they need more engineers, then you will be assigned to major in engineering. There are also no student loan issues as the government DOES pay for your four years (about $1500 USD or 30,000 BIRR) BUT, you receive a slip of paper that is NOT a diploma upon graduation and you must pay the government back to receive your bona fide diploma. Could this be a solution to OUR student loan issues? Also, if you don’t take your university placement right after you graduate and choose to go on a mission instead, you will most likely lose that spot as there is a one year deferment (usually for medical), but not a two-year deferment. So, many who serve missions must return home to go to private schools which are much more expensive and almost always beyond their family’s budget. One more sacrifice to serve.
- “Just Charge It…Not!”
Speaking of money, there is no credit card debt here since almost no one has a credit card. Ferenjis, and perhaps some wealthy Ethiopians, can use a credit card at places like the big hotels etc., but otherwise most things are cash basis. Sometimes this can create problems, as was the case today, when a young Ethiopian returned missionary, Omot, who served his mission in England, tried to place an online order. He is on stainless steel elbow crutches due to a withered leg which was caused by a snake bite when he was working in the fields as a 10-year-old boy. He would like to order the same crutches he received at the MTC in England four years ago. He brought us cash so we could order it for him online with our Visa. After a slow, two-hour Internet search, the final result was that NO company in the UK would deliver to Ethiopia. He is going to try to contact his former mission president in the hopes that he can personally purchase them and send them here, and then reimburse him. Most things become quite involved like this without any online shopping. I can hear some of you saying, “Now, THAT is just WAY too ferenji for MY shopping habits.”
- “Take me out to the ball game…OR just show me how to throw a baseball!”
7-6-2016-Baseball (baseball video)
Take a look at this video taken on the 4th of July which shows Elder Harline trying to teach a young man about our All-American pastime. I wish I had some apple pie to offer him as well. I took it from our upstairs window at home and it will probably be one of my most favorite 4th of July memories ever. This young man had NEVER thrown a baseball or had a mitt on……very “ferenji” for him. He just loved it! He couldn’t quite understand the throwing motion so he devised his own unique “shot put” style. But, do notice how good his fielding is since he snagged almost every throw. Look out Mike Trout!
- “What’s in a Name?”
It’s difficult to know which category (favorite or ferenji) this next item goes under since it is somewhat ferenji in our culture, but is also one of our most favorite things. It’s the fact that most of the people’s names MEAN something and many of them are Biblical names as well. Thanks to Lara Carlin’s aunt, Joyce Wold, who served here with her husband a couple of years ago, I am learning even more meanings. Here’s a list she shared with me and some I have also discovered:
Asrat – tithing Tigist – patience
Fiker – love Hiwot – life
Tamirat – miracle Berhane – light
Meseret – foundation Fasika – Easter
Ashenafi – winner Tsehaye – sun
Euale – Joel Efrem – Ephriam
Habtu – wealth Abere – united
Addis – new Yodit – Judith
Ababa – flower Getu – the Lord
Besufkad – by His will Tesfaye – hope
Meheret – mercy Yeweinshet – fruitful
Andualem – one world Kalkidan – covenant
Eyob – Job (our District President’s name)
Kefelewenegele – participates in the gospel
Zerubabbel – after second temple built in Jerusalem
The Ethiopians ALSO love that their names mean something and are mystified when I tell them I have NO idea what Nancy means! Also, everyone only goes by their first name, so our District President is President Eyob (Job). And, for the record, he is a very patient man, even though he is only 28 years old!
- Our new mission president and his wife, President Stephen and Sister Tracy Collings are from Grantsville, Utah, and are clearly the right people here at the right time. We are very excited to be serving with them!
- Obviously, our ten amazing elders!
- Our three wonderful office staff who make everything happen here…Habtu, Andualem and Getu.
- Our new District Relief Society President, Sister Yeweinshet (pronounced Wynn-shet), who is totally blind and lives up to her name in every sense of the word (fruitful). She is one of the most “favorite” women I have ever known. She not only runs her own NGO for disabled women, but she is also seeking funding for a Braille School to be held in her modest compound. In her spare time, she collects whatever food essentials or clothing she can for the Sudanese refugees on the border. I spent probably one of the most amazing hours of my life in her home watching her move from room to room in measured steps among familiar surroundings. Once outside, she needs “eyes” to help her and everyone wants a turn at being her “eyes.” She has such a peaceful loving spirit and it simply permeates every room and every person within her sphere of influence. She is a single mom with two young adult daughters who, along with a small staff, help her accomplish so much. I wish I could be around her every day just to feel of her Christ-like love and enjoy her wonderful sense of humor. She speaks softly in very good English and EVERYONE thrives in her presence. How I love and admire her. I would do anything for her!
- Yodit and Kalkidan are two of our favorite darling single adult young women. They are returned missionaries from Ghana who each hold about four callings in their respective branches. Yodit was recently called as the Public Affairs representative for Ethiopia and Kalkidan is her secretary on the PA Council. So, we were able to take them to Hawassa, about five hours away, for a PA assignment. It was really fun to get to know them even better. They both speak perfect English, are incredibly talented, and have remained faithful despite many obstacles.
- A VERY “favorite” discovery is that chicken soaked for three hours in salted water (like 3 Tbs. of salt to about a gallon of water) will tenderize these “tough old birds.” So, no more “chicken little.” We’re out of the “hen house” and enjoying chicken again!
- We met a wonderful young man while touring a museum recently. He saw our missionary badges and told us that he was LDS, too. His name is Jonathan Porter and he is from Toronto, Canada. He has been working as a UN Aid worker for the past five years. He went on his mission to Manchester, England, French-speaking, and loved working with the Congolese people there (as our niece, Kate Harline Andelin did on her mission to France). He was on his way to Chad from Kenya and had to stop in Ethiopia to get his visa since there is no embassy for Chad in Kenya. Ethiopia has an embassy presence for almost every country in the world as it is the African Union seat. Anyway, Kenya is closing down its refugee camps and sending hundreds of thousands back to Somalia after many years. He will be in a remote area in French-speaking Chad and was so glad to spend some time with fellow Latter-day Saints. We went out for a Chinese dinner and had a delightful evening together.
- This is a picture of Muses (Moses) who is Sudanese and who was lacking a white shirt to bless the sacrament. We explained that he would still be welcome to bless it anyway, but he REALLY wanted to wear a white shirt. Luckily, Elder Harline is just about the shirt size of Muses (though a little shorter) so he gave him a new shirt and Muses got up at 6:00am so he could walk to church and be on time to bless the sacrament. He was here an hour early, so happy to participate. He blessed the sacrament with such feeling…it was certainly a “favorite” moment.
- We may have discovered a “favorite” day trip getaway with some new friends from Nairobi who are over
the Public Affairs for five African countries. They are the Fords (Mike and Char) from Orem, Utah, and we had a fun P-Day with them after they completed their training of our new PA Council here in Ethiopia. We have mutual friends through Jim and Sherri MacArthur. Habtu took us to Debre Libanos (Mt. Lebanon) where we saw the Portuguese Bridge (built in the 1600’s by the…. yep, Portuguese) and the waterfalls below it. It is still used for foot traffic and a donkey thoroughfare as well as a convenient path for lots of baboon troops who live in the nearby caves. Really a fun day driving through beautiful green fields and hiking down to the falls.
7-27-2016-Baboons (video of the Baboons – just click)
7-27-2016-Falls (video of the Falls – just click)
- We love the children wherever we go! They are the same all over the world…full of acceptance, unconditional love and
always creative in their play. These little boys were having a great time with their toy inventions…an old tire and a stick poked into an empty water bottle.
- Here are a few of our favorite pictures:
3. This is the Megenagna Chapel which is on the grounds where our office is located. The artist is Daniel Asfaw and it hangs in our office.
4. Lastly, this is a touching painting of the Savior and one of his little ones here in Africa that hangs in our home and is painted by Liz Lemon Swindle. We first saw it in the MTC in Provo and were so happy that it was in our home here as well. It is, perhaps, our most favorite painting.
The longer we’re here the more we learn that there are really only small, cultural “ferenji” differences among God’s children all over the world. We are clearly all the same in His eyes and we all want basically the same things in life. We all have our hopes and dreams, our love of family, trials and challenges, and are in need of forgiveness and repentance in our daily interactions with each other. Our common humanity keeps us from really being “ferenji.” Perhaps the Apostle Paul said it best when he taught the Ephesians so long ago, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19) We couldn’t agree more.