The bitter cold sent us into the interior spaces of the entrance of the apartment complex. Confused for a moment on how to operate the electronic directory, Emily received the attention of someone inside. The apartment manager had the same perplexed look on her face as we had when we tried to find our recipient refugee family in the listings. A telephone call ended our minor confusions when Gadina and his son came down to greet us in the lobby. Wide smiles, handshakes and hugs were shared. The exchanges of names were shared. New names especially those that are foreign always go over my head. I commented on the scent radiating off Gadina. I asked if he was cooking. He smiled and said something in reply.
Upon entering the small single bedroom apartment were Gadina, his wife and two boys stayed; Emily and I received more warm greetings. Another Ethiopian couple with their small daughter was visiting the newly arrived family. Emily and I settled down on the couch and began scanning the flat. I noticed bits of barley on the floor next to my feet, donated furniture and a pennant on the wall with Ahmaric scripture. The scents radiating from the kitchen where Gadina’s wife occasionally peered out of radiated in the room.
“You have seen more of Ethiopia than I have,” said the visiting taxi driver. I often receive such a statement, as I detailed my recent visit to Ethiopia. Detailing my adventures and experiences of his homeland helped to break the ice and stirred some inner belly laughs, as I asked if it was possible to find Dashen beer in Chicago.
Emily and I conversed with Gadina at the table over a plate of food, wine and delicious coffee poured in a little palm size cup with a print of the Ethiopian flag on its side. Gadina and his boys spoke English well. I was surprised by this revelation, because I had met many Ethiopians who spoke little English during my recent visit. However, Gadina’s wife may have been left out of many of the conversations. I insisted that she will be fluent in a year’s time. She laughed. The many conversations told of stories of Ethiopia, the family’s travel arrangements to the States and Gadina’s travels to Asia. In addition, we spoke of regional politics in East and North Africa. If I could speak on both of Emily and myself, I think we both learned something of Ethiopia.