TAKE ME TO CHURCH

I wake up. I look around, a little worried. About the time, about dad.

From the way the sunlight is behaving in our room, I can tell it’s still early. It’s about the right time to go to church. I better get up any minute now. I sleep.

I wake up. Once more. Whatsapp message.

Dad had arrived.

He arrived safely. Three hours, two continents, one sea. And he made it.

Thank God.

I often avoid watching the news whenever dad’s on a plane. I had just wanted to sleep through his flight last night. Sleep’s my second most powerful drug (Lack of it being my first).

I get ready. What’s the general dress code in an Ethiopian Orthodoxy church? Any loose skirt/shirt ensemble or dress plus a white netsala. The netsala, a large white cotton shawl/ headscarf, looks like the pre-requisite thing though. The younger ones often wear the half-transparent natsalas with the scarf covering just half their heads. The way some of them wear it, with a high hair bun to keep it from moving, gives them an almost regal look.

That’s for the women, by the way.

The men-who I noticed are so outnumbered by women in the church- often just drape (thick) natsala over whatever they’re wearing.

I recently found out that Ethiopian Protestants don’t wear crosses. And they don’t have dress codes in their churches. Before that, I heard that the relationship between the different churches of Ethiopia isn’t all rainbows and puppies.

I’m a Christian is only half the answer of the question: what religion do you follow?

Most Christians here will want to know: what type of Christian?

I hear the preacher through the speakers. The sermon hadn’t ended yet. The church is pretty near, just a short walk away. The problem is the ground is steep and to go from my house to the church, I have to climb (ok, walk) uphill.

The seller’s souq is closed. She must be in church already. She is one of the main people I practice my Amharic with. I sketched her souq once for my university assignment.

I bet she will still be closed on my way back. Too bad. I will have to walk all the way downhill, on my way back from church, to buy water from the Guragays’ souq. They’re Muslims, They don’t shut down on Sunday mornings. They’re still open during Muslim holidays too. People tell me that the Guragey (actually one of the peoples of Ethiopia) are very hard-working, very cheap people. They have the same reputation, locally, that Jews have internationally. I remember I heard my friends call each other ‘guragey’ on a few occasions when someone was being stingy.

I keep walking uphill.

Gates are closed.

No cars entering or leaving houses.

Most of my neighbours are either Muslims or foreigners. The trees overhead occasionally protect me from the fierce sun. My netsala helps with that too.

I take a turn to the left. The only turn I have to make through-out the journey. There is a part where the ‘proper grey road’ zone ends. An actual border(!) Then the floor goes wild. Holes first. Then rocks, animal poop. Then its calm again, right before the smell strikes. Its this pungent stench that makes me want to run to the church even if it means risking to trip on the rocky road along the way. Oh, the netsala helps with blocking the smell too. But I still need to breath.

In through the nose, out through the mouth.No. In through the mouth, out through the nose. NO!

I keep walking. The road gets rockier and then less rocky. It’s almost like a game: Finding out which path will cause one’s feet the least harm. Finally, I reach the health post. Next to it are the beggars lined up side by side. The sermon is not over yet. Right in front of them is the church.

I enter.