Waking up at 6 a.m can be difficult, but freshly squeezed papaya juice, the best scrambled eggs you’ve ever had, and coffee make it all possible. Today was the day that we had been preparing for… our first day of real research! We ate second helpings of our favorite foods served at the hotel to fuel up, slathered on our bug repellent, and jumped in the cars to head out to a village to observe (and help!) a local family. After picking up our friends at the university, we drove about 20 minutes, and then stopped in front of a few houses. Sounds easy enough? But here in Ethiopia things don’t really work that way. We needed to hike to our final destinations! Over the river filled with an absurd amount of rocks, up a mountain (where I very surprisingly did NOT fall,) and around many trees and bushes, we were finally there! We all stepped into a house made from mud and wood and awed at everything inside of it. We were invited to sit on the beds, made from hay, and observe the grinding of barley. We then split up into groups with 2 UNL students and a student from Wollo University and went on to go to different houses in the village.
We arrived at our final destination and were immediately invited to sit down in the room where the family sleeps. We were introduced to the woman and mother of the family who we would be spending most of our time with. She is the one who wakes up at 4 a.m. to have coffee ready at 5 a.m. As one of our translators said, “We love our mothers because they do so much for us… if they are sick or not able to work, everything will not work properly.” We were then asked to go into the kitchen (a separate hut) to make enjera and with an enthusiastic “YES,” we went. The process of making enjera is one where years and years of practice are needed. The three ingredients, teff, water, and yeast, are used in the perfect amounts each time and absolutely no recipe card is used. First, she mixed the ground teff with water. The consistency reminded me of runny pancake batter. Then, while letting the teff and water mixture sit, she started to make coffee. She went into the house and brought back about 20 green coffee beans to the kitchen. She then used a small fire to roast the beans on a clay pot. After they had turned a dark brown color, she transferred them to a grinder where we spent about 8 minutes grinding the beans in a device similar to a mortar and pestle. Then, all we needed was the boiling water. While the water was boiling, we returned to making the enjera. You cook the batter on a skillet-like surface with fire underneath. The batter is spread out evenly on the hot surface and allowed to cook for a few minutes. Then it is taken off and placed in a basket to be fermented for 4 days.
We went back into the house where the sleeping takes place. It was now time for coffee! We readily drank 3 small cups of coffee (each with a spoonful of pure cane sugar.) Next, this wonderful family served us a traditional meal of enjera and yogurt with pepper on top. Amazed by the hospitality of these people, we asked many questions regarding health and culture to better understand them. It was almost time to go, but we just had to see what types of animals that they had! Next to the kitchen and house, they had 2 cows, 2 donkeys, and a few chickens. A few feet from the house they had another building that housed an ox and another cow. We walked back up to the house, with all the children following us of course, and asked if we could take their picture, and eventually send it back to them so they could have it in their possession. After giving the woman the traditional Ethiopian handshake, waving to the children, and professing our many thanks, we started walking back to the cars.
The whole way back, my partner and I continually talked about how that whole experience was amazing and how we really couldn’t even believe that it had just happened! It honestly was one of the most amazing experiences to see something like that in real life. Words can’t describe how much this trip is changing all of us for the better. To give our thanks to the Wollow University staff and students, we went to lunch to bond. We couldn’t have had that great experience without their translation. Though each group had a slightly different experience, because we were at different houses, we all gained an insight that most people in the world never get to have. Each day here is completely unpredictable and exciting. Who knows what will happen in the next four weeks!