UPDATE 3 // A Dilemma

I have a big family.  My immediate family is fairly small, but my extended family is rather large.  Especially on my dad’s side of the family.  I love when my family gets together.  Whether it’s for a holiday or a reunion it’s always good to get together.  Food like you would not believe is there.  People are catching up with each other.  Sharing the latest stories.  The men talk about the weather and politics while the women talk about whatever women talk about in the kitchen.

On Sunday, my friend Mebratu called me and asked if I would like to come with him to his fathers house for lunch.  He is the principal of the school I’m documenting.  I jumped at the opportunity to see a little more of Ethiopian culture and tread a little further off the tourist path.  When we arrive little kids run out to greet us.  Women are busy tending to food cooking on the fire and inside people are everywhere.  It turns out Mebratu’s family is having a family reunion.  Now this is something this East Texan knows a little about.

Every year his family gathers together for three days.  They come from all over Ethiopia.  They eat.  They talk.  Catch up on life.  Trade stores.  They also discuss any issues facing the family.  He loves his family and enjoys when they get together.  Cultures may be very different around the world.  But people are still people and it’s amazing how many similarities there are.  I would have never imagined going to a family reunion in northern Ethiopia.

We come inside the main room and find a few empty seats.  The little ones run up and say hello.  A young boy brings a wash bowl to wash our hands.  A lady brings us a plate to eat Injera (staple bread) and red wate (lamb cooked with a burberry spice).  They offer to bring me a bowl of spaghetti as well, thinking this ferengi (white person) probably won’t eat the local food. I know they’ve already prepared pasta for me so at their insistence agree to eat what I can of it as well.  They bring me a pepsi and offer me a local drink made of water, honey and barley.

I’m now faced with a dilemma.  Eating Injera is fairly safe.  I know the meat being served with it is cooked today.  It will be a little spicy, but we we have Tex-Mex back home so the spice doesn’t worry me too much.  But this drink creates a dilemma for this overly cautious and annalytical person.  It’s not bottled water.  It’s not boiled first.  It’s not clean water.  Every travel website and advice says not to drink the water.  Two years ago in Kenya I accidentally drank some local water and had a bacteria for three days.  That experience is on the front of my mind certain I would be reliving that experience.  My mothers voice is inside my head saying don’t do it.  Yet, here I am.  Inside a family’s home during a family reunion.  Twenty Ethiopians are watching my every move.  They’ve opened up their home and their meal to me.  They know I’ve come to learn about their culture and help tell the story of Mebratu’s school to those in the west.  How can I truly learn their culture if I don’t experience it.  How can I say I want to learn their culture when I won’t drink their local drink.  I’m the only one in the room with a pepsi.  What impression am I giving to these incredibly hospitable people.  They don’t understand that us white peoples stomachs can’t handle their water.

I resist.  They insist.  I resist.  They insist again.  “Just a little,” I say.  I try it.  Cringing inside, knowing I will spend the next few days in my restroom.  It’s actually not that bad.  Tastes good.

Nothing happened from that drink.  I’m fine.  Yet, I can’t get that experience out of my mind.  It’s not the last time I will be faced with something like that this year.  It’s a deeper issue than just not accepting a drink someone offers me.  I have a limited time with each people group I encounter.  And in that time I must work as hard as I can to build relationships with these people in order to truly understand their story.  If I create barriers, how much will it impede me learning their story?  One might not think a drink is a big deal and in this instance it might not have been.  But for certain our actions speak loudly and they either confirm or contradict what we say with our mouth.  Health is a concern for sure.  But surely the God who orchestrated this journey is greater than some bacteria.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I take health as a serious matter in this journey.  If I don’t I could jeopardize the rest of the trek.  My point though is that it is not nearly as black and white as one might think.  Each situation must be prayerfully considered.

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Mom Lane, Lane!!!!!! Get a visual of your Mother reading this. Not a safe practice from a nursing or Mother’s point of view. I will be praying even harder for you. Love you!

Cooper Strange Excellent! You have taken an important first step. It really IS more important to be on the inside of the culture as much as possible than to protect yourself from all the scary things you can catch. In one place I lived in China, I got sick whether I ate the dangerous stuff or not. So, playing it safe did nothing but ostracize me from the locals. Whereas eating with them was really a big thing to them.

Of course, I have some stories to tell from the bad side of that…but none of them were after eating anything knowingly questionable.

Eat, drink, and be merry…some wise dude said that.

Brenton Great story Lane. You really are good at writing…

Loving the cultural clashes of your journey so far. Can’t wait to read more. Love you brotha and praying for you.

Kristin Biggs I just love reading all about your experiences! Your writing is so descriptive that I can actually picture it all in my mind.

Praying for you!

Brooke Beautiful writing! Praying for each moment and absolutely love your heart and mindset through each post/journey!

Mike McGuire just imagine that you’re drinking from a brown bottle with a gold label…it’ll go down easier. love you man, miss you!

Alicia Ressmann Beautifully written! You are very talented sir. I looking forward to keeping up with you and all your adventures. And know there’s always a cold coke for you in Korr. Just saying just saying.

Cheryl Barbee (Brooke’s mom) Lane,
Praying for you. You are an amazing writer and photographer. What a difficult yet awesome mission for the Lord. Thank you for sharing. Blessings. Cheryl

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