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Justice in Ethiopia

August 16, 2012
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The end of summer is near, which means all of my activities, trips, freebies, and such are USED UP! We are getting a little desperate with each other. Yesterday was empty and the kids vacillated between World War III, TV, and a baby powder war (why do I still have baby powder?)

I’ve also been quizzing them, for fun, and alarmed that my 7th grader’s brain has turned to mush. After several major geography errors I asked, in exasperation, how a child who grew up in another country and stares at a world map at every meal can possibly not know where the Amazon is? “I just stare at the map because of all the colors” he said.

So today I offered them a deal. I would take them out to lunch at one of three restaurants if they agreed to read a book about that culture with me. Their choices were Ethiopian, Afghan, or Cambodian. I happen to have children’s literature for each of those countries AND know of restaurants in town from those places. Food always works and with my kids, thankfully, it doesn’t necessarily matter what kind.

Though my son did briefly plead for Olive Garden and the unlimited pasta bowl. “We are 1/4 Italian after all!”

Ethiopian won because they would get to eat with their fingers. “The Storyteller’s Beads” by Jane Kurtz it was.

We read for awhile, stopping to define words, read about Ethiopian history in the epilogue, and discuss the racism at work in the lives of the two female characters. The girls are fleeing their villages (1980s) due to famine, war, and for the one who is Jewish, the promise of Zion (Israel arranged safe passage via the Sudan for thousands of Ethiopian Jews).

I asked them about ethnic groups here and how it compares and one child said Mormon friends. I suggested Spanish speakers. Then we looked at Pslam 101. It was random. I opened to Psalms knowing I would find something applicable and there it was: “I will sing of your love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will sing praise. I will be careful to lead a blameless life… Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure.”

The Bible is replete with justice, admonishments relevant today. Of course, my 7th grader is now on to me; “I love how everything Mom reads somehow ends up with her opening the Bible.” I don’t think that’s true, but it is good to know I’m back in the game. Caught or not.

I rewarded them with Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine and we had a blast!

At one point I heard “I am LOVING this!” We ate with our fingers, scooping up Chicken Alicha with Inerja while bending over a basket table from tiny carved wooden stools. I love that they love it! The restaurant was full of posters of hidden churches, orthodox priests, and ornate crosses… clues that the owner is, “what, kids?” She talked with us a bit. Wants to start an orphanage in Ethiopia! (I hid my thoughts, but couldn’t escape the irony… she IS Ethiopian!) Shared with us some coffee and showed how they serve it with popcorn or fried barley kernels.

Such fun! Such a worthwhile bribe to jumpstart their brains and talk about injustice!

They saw baklava on the menu. Uh-oh. We all LOVE baklava! But I thought I could find some much cheaper. Three stores later, we finally did, and the thrill came back! Three American kiddos giddy over baklava? Come on! I love these guys!

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