Salambo discovering Ethiopia
As we learn to live with power cuts, we also struggle with notoriously bad communications. Ethiopia is known for that. Fixed line phones, mobiles and the internet do not function well. For instance, I can call out to Europe from our landline but for some obscure reasons I cannot receive phone calls. I can get international calls and text messages on my cell phone but I cannot reply to them. Internet connections via a mobile device are painfully slow, making life more complicated in the era of mass communication. I particularly suffer from it, as I am now experiencing the sense of isolation that comes with moving to a new place. Once the novelty of the first few weeks is over, and we realize that we are here to stay long-term, that strange feeling of dislocation kicks in. We are physically in a new location but not mentally. Our mind is sometimes in the place we’ve just left, at other times it is floating in outer space. We have lost our former reference points but we haven’t found new ones yet. So we just hang on to a daily routine, not to feel completely lost. That’s what makes moving to a foreign country difficult, and exciting at the same time. We have to re-create our lives and re-examine who we are and how we think. The process of absorbing a new culture and adjusting to the new reality, takes time.
And now that the novelty of eating out has worn off, I start missing things, food in particular. Strangely, everything international here seems to taste the same, whether it is beef fajitas, fillet steak or stir-fry noodles. The food we eat is not very varied, mainly because we have to reinvent the way we cook. We need to adjust to the produce we find here, and that takes time and imagination. I miss cheese, fresh mozzarella, cured ham, seasonal salads, juicy mandarins, good quality dark chocolate, red wine, and fresh fish. Most of the meat, poultry and fish are sold frozen in supermarkets. I see many butchers in small stalls by the side of the road, with carcasses hanging over the counter, but I don’t feel comfortable buying meat there, partly because of prejudice and partly because I wouldn’t know which one to go to. Meat is very much part of the culinary culture of Ethiopia, where it is eaten raw and very spicy. We find mainly beef, veal, and goat meat, which I was told is very healthy, but I have no idea how to cook it! The meat I have bought so far has been very chewy, so I must be doing something wrong when buying or cooking it! That’s my own personal experience; it doesn’t take away the fact that Ethiopia has a strong food culture, to which our system and tastebuds need to adapt. I was told that it takes about a year to be able to eat anything we want here. So far, I haven’t tried many local dishes, apart from the staple injera, the slightly acidic spongy pancake bread, eaten with meat, and that was strange enough as a taste. I need to prepare myself for a full meal of raw meat and hot spices. In the meantime, I have adjusted very well to the coffee ceremony, which I enjoy several times a day!