This year, both American Easter and Ethiopian Easter (Fasika) lined up on the same day. Since Ethiopia follows a different calendar, I do know this occasionally happens, however, it is not common. Last year the two holidays were six weeks apart.
Anyway, since both holidays fell on the same date this year, there was no “farengi Easter” celebration since most people were celebrating with their Ethiopian friends and family. My fiance and I went back to his old town for the day to celebrate with his good friend and his wife. Luckily, our day wasn’t filled with too much doro wat, a spicy chicken stew eaten with injera (see this post from Daring Gourmet for more explanation), but here’s how it looked:
Men arrive at church around 3 a.m. (keep in mind this is the day before) where they attend service, pray and fast for a full 24 hours.
Women stay home, clean the home and begin to prepare the ingredients for the meals the following day. Usually this means chopping between 4-5 kilos of onions (about 8.8-11 pounds) into tiny, minuscule pieces for the doro wat.
At midnight, the women begin preparing the doro wat over a charcoal stove (it comes out better if cooked slowly). This year my fiance’s compound prepared four large chickens between the two families that live there. They were cooking from midnight to 3 a.m. when the men get home from church and the entire family breaks their fast together, including young children. Afterwards, everyone gets a couple hours of shut eye.
The family then wakes back up, usually around 10 a.m. but in this case it was 8 a.m. when I was meeting my fiance to go catch a bus. His landlord family invited us into his home and served us breakfast doro wat! We each got 1 scoop of wat and 1 hard-boiled egg, then a second scoop of wat and 1 piece of chicken when we’d finished the first serving. They tried to serve us more but we let them know we had to go to another house and we’d be back for dinner.
We then headed to the bus station to catch a bus which proved fairly easy. We waited less than 10 minutes for a bus that said it was going to Addis Zemen, my fiance’s old site, and luckily, it did! It took us about an hour and a half to get there. We arrived about 10:30 and his friend met us and took us to his home, where we were served doro wat on a huge, traditional platter. The platter had like 3 full injeras and a bazillion scoops. I couldn’t even count. We did however get served 6 hard-boiled eggs and a piece of meat each. Despite the fact the couple doesn’t drink coffee, they set up a traditional coffee ceremony and served me, my fiance, and the woman’s father–a prominent member of the community–a full coffee ceremony. Afterwards we headed to visit fiance’s old compound family. Since his old compound was Muslim, they were not celebrating Fasika, however they offered us shay (tea) and lunch. Since we were still stuffed from the incredible amount of food we’d eaten at the friend’s house, we declined the lunch with promises we’d be back soon for another visit!
It took us about 5-10 minutes to catch a bus going back to Bahir Dar, a surprisingly short amount of time for a holiday, and were back in Bahir Dar within an hour of leaving Addis Zemen! It’s amazing how quickly the trip can take when there is very little traffic and not a lot of stops. Once back in Bahir Dar, we spent a couple hours hiding in the Peace Corps office to avoid being “doro wat-ted” again while we were still full and met a couple of PCVs from Kenya who were travelling through for a couple beers. Then when we were ready, we headed back to my fiance’s compound to have dinner with the other compound family! Luckily, they were all out of eggs by then but we got several scoops of wat and a nice large piece of chicken. I had local wine and Coke and Ryan drank a small glass of vodka. Somehow, we managed to not get offered tella (local beer) the entire day, which is difficult to do on a holiday!
The day also showed the vast differences between the flavors of doro wat one can be served here in Ethiopia. Since berbere is a very personal ingredient and most women make their own with recipes passed down by their mothers, no two berberes taste the same and so no two doro wats taste the same either. The breakfast doro wat was very sweet and not very spicy at all, perfect for first thing in the morning! The lunch one was incredibly smokey and quite spicy. And the evening doro wat was back to being sweet, but it definitely had a kick to it and was the spiciest one of the day.
So there you have it. Since I didn’t get invited to celebrate Fasika last year with my first compound this was my last and only opportunity to celebrate Fasika as a PCV, and it didn’t disappoint! It’s the biggest religious celebration of the year after Timket, although more centered on the home and family then on the church.
Melkam Fasika to all!
I’m sure my loyal readers have noticed my sporadic and overall poor posting lately. It’s not that I forgot about my blog, it’s just that some big things have been happening that I’ve been unwilling to talk about until now.
With less than eight months left in my service, I’m starting over.
Changing sites is a deeply personal decision and one that I don’t believe any PCV makes lightly. That said, when someone does move in the middle of their service there is often a very good reason. That very good reason happened to me, so this past week I packed up my entire house and left Bure.
Unlike the end of service, I didn’t get to say goodbye. My landlord didn’t know the final coffee ceremony was going to be the last. My best friend–who wanted to plan a large party–gave me a shoulder bump and walked away not realizing it was the last time I’d see him for awhile. I guess I’m lucky in that I will be close enough to take a day trip and see the people I care about most, but leaving without goodbyes is always hard.
I’m now settled in Bahir Dar, the regional capital of Amhara and one of my favorite cities in Ethiopia, and I’ll finish out the remaining eight months of my service here on the shores of Lake Tana. I’m sure it’ll go by quickly as I explore and learn more about my new city.