By Timothy Landers, RN, PhD
Ohio State College of Nursing
One of the things that has been most impressive in my visit to Gondar is the respect for people and for relationships that is present in every interaction. Every conversation begins with a greeting, ሰላም, “Selam!” Followed by some greeting such as “how are you”, “how is your day going”, or “how are you feeling?” Or more often, all three.
In a typical conversation, each person in the group is acknowledged and receives a handshake. The president of the university greets the department chair, the student, and the housekeeper.
There is a nonverbal conversation among Ethiopian men – what we’ve come to call the “ah-ha.” It is a brief gasp taken with force which is usually uttered when another is speaking. It says, “I am listening, I am interested, I am here.”
When I arrive at my office in the morning, I make it a point to say hello to the co-workers I meet – something I picked up from an airline pilot who told me he ALWAYS greets his flight attendants and co-pilot first thing.
However, it’s not the same kind of recognition and appreciation for the other person that I have seen in our visit to Ethiopia.
In the past two weeks in Ethiopia with each “Selam,” “good morning,” “how are you feeling?” and “how was your day?,” I’ve learned more about my co-workers than I could have in six months in Columbus.
But, I’d like to change.
When I leave Gondar, I am going to be more aware of how I greet those around me – everyone. It’s worth the time to let them know that I am interested in how they are doing. I am hoping to let them know that I value them and am interested in them.
How are you doing today? How are you feeling? Did you have a good night?
After that, I will unlock my door and get to work.
And there is lots of work to do.
By Korbin Smith
Student, Ohio State College of Medicine
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
If there was a competition for the first Ohio State student to get sick during the summer research project, I came out victorious.
I have tried many different types of dishes without getting sick. However, I figured I would give their American equivalent to a cheeseburger a try, and it was a bad decision. Unlike when I feel ill in the U.S., getting ill here is more serious. The majority of our Ethiopian collaborators have reached out to me in one way or another to make sure I am OK. They are all truly compassionate and caring.
Since the rest of our research team changed cities, I am the only one left in Gondar until tomorrow. I immediately noticed people are more willing to practice their English on an individual rather than a group. My waitress for dinner tonight was practicing with me and I could tell she was very excited when I understood and responded.
I understand what it feels like to try to have a conversation in a language you aren’t familiar with. Anytime I can say “Hello” or “Thank you” in Amharic, I do so.
I have also noticed that most conversation stops briefly when I walk into a room. There aren’t a lot of 6’3” blonde, blue-eyed males walking around in athletic shorts and an Ohio State T-shirt.
All-in-all, as we continue our stay here in Gondar, I am constantly impressed with the class and generosity of the people of Ethiopia.